Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 20 - The Road to Rediscovery

Ev's eyes stared out through the tinted slit of a mask that they had countless times before, yet her mind remembered almost none of it. Weighed down by armor, leather, and heavy robes, Ev felt powerful. She felt like more than just herself. She felt, like she had so many times before, that innumerable lost memories were just below the surface, waiting to break out. And still they did not.

Roan'ev, Revan, the Revanchist, Evrue Pell, Ev Onasi, these were all names, and the names were hers. Each meant something different. Each was a different person under the same skin. The duplicity was staggering.

Without those memories, Ev would forever be fragmented within herself, weak. How could she hope to face the task ahead of her with less than her full self? She had to remember. Only with her whole mind as one, unifying four identities into one, would she be complete. And when that happened, who, really, would she be?

Willing herself to remember never succeeded. Seemingly random triggers were often the cause of her waking visions. Ev thought back to Dantooine. That had been different. The wound in the Force that was left there by a terrible loss of life cried out to her. It wanted her to remember a day she had not even been present for.

How much more powerful would it be for a place that I had been there when everything died.

Seeking out old battle grounds from the Mandalorian Wars and Jedi Civil War where she had played a part would be a start. Ev had to hope that her trickle of memories returning would become a deluge once the flood gates to her past were opened.

The more she thought about it, the more Ev was certain that the Sith in her vision in the tomb on Korriban was a part of the threat she feared. More mysteries remained than answers. Who was he? Where was he? What did he want? What was she failing to bring him even now?

The door to Ev's room swung open. It was never locked. Bastila started in greeting as she pushed it open, “Ev, I was wondering how your trip to—”

Bastila hardly managed to contain her gasped shriek before she frantically slammed the door behind her. Her face was ghostly pale and her hands trembled, hovering over the long hilt of her lightsaber that hung from her belt.

The shriek jarred Ev out of her contemplative trance. She quickly brushed back her deep hood and lifted off the mask. “Bastila, it's me,” she reassured quickly.

Although she relaxed her hands away from her lightsaber, Bastila hardly seemed reassured.

“I thought—I thought you...” Bastila started, still shaken. Ev could almost hear her heart racing from across the small bedroom. “What—what is this? Where did you find it?”

“On Dantooine,” Ev admitted warily, pulling off her heavy leather gloves and dropping them on the bed beside her. Even through their bond, thinned as it was, Ev could not sense how Bastila would react. “I found where they kept me prisoner.”

Bastila pursed her lips. She knew about that place, Ev realized. “But why?” Bastila asked in a hoarse whisper.

“This,” she said, spreading her arms wide, “and this mask, they are a key to my past. I need to remember, and this just might help me.”

“Ev, all you will find in your past is pain,” Bastila pleaded, color beginning to come back to her face and strength back to her voice. “You don't need to go there.”

Ev clenched her fist and laid it against her own chest. “Bastila, I have this big hole inside of me where my past should be,” she replied emphatically, “It nags at me. It makes me feel like less than a full person. Every day it gets worse as I realize just how much I don't know about me. I can't bear it any more, pretending that it doesn't matter.”

“Concentrate on building your future from here,” Bastila pleaded, “not reconstructing your past. The life you have built for yourself now is one you should be proud of.”

“That was only for the last, what, two years?” Ev pointed out, “Bastila, I'm thirty-one years old, if the records can be believed. That's twenty-nine years I have lost.”

“Can't you do this another way?” Bastila asked urgently, “I'm afraid for you, Ev.”

“If there's another way, please tell me,” Ev replied helplessly.

Ev's comlink twittered noisily on the bedside table. She reached over and picked it up, seeing Carth's name on the screen. “It's Carth,” she told Bastila, conflicting emotions raging inside of her. Holding it up to her ear, she answered, “Carth!”

“Hey Beautiful,” Carth replied over the comlink, “I know this is short notice, but I just got some leave and I'm back on Coruscant for the next couple of days.”

Ev's heart soared and sank all at once. “Really, that's great,” she replied, trying not to sound forced. “You know, I've still got the Ebon Hawk up here at the Temple. I should bring it back to you. Where are you staying tonight?”

“In the Skylite Hotel, near the Temple district,” Carth replied. “If you're not busy, I was thinking we could meet for dinner at the Skylite's tower restaurant.”

“That sounds great,” Ev replied. “I'll see you there in an hour or so, then?”

“See you then, love,” Carth replied, and hung up.

Bastila still stood with her back against the door, staring warily at Ev, who was still draped in the black robes of a Sith Lord.

“It looks like I have a date tonight,” Ev started awkwardly.

“Ev, please, take care of yourself.”

“Juhani, I know this is sudden, but—” Bastila started, having pulled her Cathar friend out of a meditation session with her Selkath padawan. Juhani left Shasa to meditate alone while Bastila and Juhani stole into another open meditation chamber just down the hall.

“It is about Ev, is it now?” Juhani cut in.

Bastila nodded uneasily.

“I do not have the bond with her that you do,” Juhani said, “But I sense that something has changed, or is about to change.”

“She found all of Darth Revan's things in the ruins of the Dantooine Enclave,” Bastila explained. “She wasn't expecting me, and I when I dropped in to see her, Darth Revan was sitting on her bed. I—I was shocked. I didn't know what to do. Of course it was still the same Ev, but seeing that mask again...”

“It brings you back to the day you lost your master and this whole thing began with you saving Revan,” Juhani nodded gravely. “I doubt I would have reacted any better,” she admitted.

“Carth is back on Coruscant, at least,” Bastila said with a sigh, “Ev is on her way to see him and spend the night. I hope he can talk some sense into her, bring her feet a little closer to the ground.”

“Why didn't you mention that earlier?” Juhani asked, jumping to her feet in alarm, “I have to follow her and keep watch.”

“She's going to be with Carth, Juhani, she should be fine tonight,” Bastila waved her off wearily. Her encounter with Ev had left her feeling drained and empty.

“Ev has been taking too many sudden, unannounced trips to dangerous places,” Juhani said firmly, “This time, she brought back the artifacts of Darth Revan. What if she brings back something worse next time? I fear, as you do, that there may not be a next time, that she may leave without a word. She is losing her grip on who she is and someone need to be there to support her. I will do this when there is no one else.”

“Carth is her biggest supporter, Juhani,” Bastila pointed out, “You know that.”

“And as the one that she loves the most, there will be many things she cannot say to him,” Juhani pointed out.

Bastila sighed and nodded. She knew Ev better than anyone else, and through their bond, she knew all of that to be true.

“Please, give my apologies to Shasa,” Juhani said, heading for the door, “I must shadow Ev tonight. I hope she is too distracted to notice me. Where is she meeting Carth?”

“The Skylite Tower Restaurant,” Bastila answered. “May the Force be with you, Juhani.”

“And you with,” Juhani said from the door, “And Ev as well.”

“Juhani, I hope we're wrong about all this,” Bastila replied.

“I do too,” Juhani said softly, and she was gone.

The Mon Calamari waiter led Ev on a winding path to the window-side table where Carth waited. Carth cracked a smile as he saw her approach, hips swaying with each step. She smiled slyly back at him. She knew that she was dressed to kill. Carth had not seen her bare so much skin—in public—since they infiltrated the Sith party back on Taris. Come to think of it, the slinky bias-cut plum halter dress with a glittering gemstone neckline looked to be exactly the same dress. Her dark skin seemed radiant against the shimmering two-tone silk, and her short hair was intentionally styled to compliment the sharp angles of her face.

Carth grinned, knowing how un-Jedi-like it all was and that she had done it just for him.

“Right this way, ma'am,” the waiter pronounced, pulling out the chair across from Carth for her.

“Thank you,” Ev nodded politely and took her seat.

The Mon Cal took the artfully folded linen napkin from atop her plate and shook it out sharply, then laid it across her lap. Ev again nodded her thanks. “Your server will be with you momentarily,” he announced, and strode off.

“Is that the dress you got on Taris?” Carth asked immediately, “You look beautiful tonight.”

Ev smiled. “So you remember,” she replied playfully.

“I'm not the amnesiac here,” Carth teased. Ev's pleasant expression flickered for just a moment, but she swiftly recovered. He quickly added, “I didn't know that you still had that.”

“I didn't either,” Ev laughed, “Until I found it rummaging around in the Ebon Hawk on the way back from Korriban with Dustil.”

“Bastila had said that you went to Korriban with him,” Carth said, hoping that Ev would take the bait and explain. He had begun to see how much she resisted being asked about her personal Jedi business by anyone, even him. Pressing her would only result in silence and avoiding the subject entirely.

Ev nodded and took a sip of the wine spritzer that Carth had already ordered before her arrival. “Dustil has been improving immensely,” she explained, “And I wanted to test his limits to see just how far he has come since the Sith Academy there.” Carth waited apprehensively, unsure whether she would continue, as she took another long sip. She did elaborate, “He passed Korriban's test. I'm really proud of him. You should be too.”

Carth relaxed into a smile. “I really am,” he admitted, “I wish I could see him more, but, Ev, thank you for all you are doing for him.”

“I'll never be his mother,” She replied, “But I will always be his master. It's good, in a way, that I will never have to fill the same shoes as Morgan. He really is a good kid.”

“I'm glad,” Carth said, “This isn't the future I imagined for him when I held him as an infant in my arms, but I am really proud of him and where he is today.”

“He really gets it,” Ev continued in her praise of Dustil, “For a kid raised through his adolescence by the Sith, he understands what it really means to be a Jedi and he embraces it. Now that he sees and understands the differences between the Sith and the Jedi and knows the choices he is making, he always makes the right choices. You and Morgan really must have done something right in his childhood. His roots go deep.”

Carth tried to push aside the pang of regret he felt in his gut; regret at not being there for Dustil more during his youth and regret at the loss of Morgan. “I hope he'll make a great Jedi one day,” Carth replied.

“I'm sure he will become a better Jedi than me,” Ev's smile was touched with mourning. If Carth did not know her so well, he would not have noticed it.

He tried to brush off the desperate feeling of concern that suddenly gripped his heart. This was neither the time nor the place for that.

Their server appeared and took their orders, leaving them with a complimentary bread basket.

“Are you still working through that list of war victims?” Carth did his best to make his question seem casual. The though that Ev's war guilt was keeping her awake at night had given Carth too many sleepless nights himself.

Ev nodded, chewing at the bread. “I'm not quite a quarter of the way through reading them all,” she replied. It had been almost five months since she downloaded those classified flies off of his computer. “Dustil has been joining me in my condolence visits, which usually go pretty well.”

“You know you don't have to do that,” Carth pointed out, “We always send one of our people to inform families of the death of a soldier on the field.”

“And yet I still feel like I must,” Ev said with a sigh, “Every mother wife or brother who gives me her forgiveness, even if she really doesn't understand who I am or why I am there, it lifts a little weight off of my shoulders. It's a long road to forgiving myself—and don't you try to tell me that it wasn't me that committed those crimes.”

“You're beginning to remember more, aren't you?” Carth asked quietly.

Though she did not reply, the long, calculating stare she gave Carth told him that she was.

“Ah, so, how are things at the Jedi Temple these days?” Carth fished for a new topic.

“The same as it's been,” Ev replied, “Which is not so great, as far as I'm concerned. There's just so few Jedi; not enough to train all the kids we have coming up through our ranks. If anything were to hit us now, the Jedi order could be completely lost.” The dark, determined look in her eyes clenched at Carth's nerves again.

“It's a good thing this war ended when it did,” Carth replied.

“I think it went on too long as it is,” Ev shook her head, “The losses were too heavy that I am worried whether the Jedi will be able to bounce back at all. We lost hundreds—no thousands, Carth, over the last two wars.”

“I feel the same about the navy, though we were bigger to begin with,” Carth nodded in agreement, “Much longer, many more losses, and the Sith would have won. We don't have much left to fight back with either.”

“How is the Telos Restoration Project going these days?” Ev asked.

“Well enough that they could spare me for a weekend,” Carth replied with a smile. The longer he sat with Ev, the more glad he was of that. “The first two residential modules of Citadel Station were brought in from the shipyards last week and should be stabilized and livable by the end of this week. The ground crew already has the beginnings of a shield network and a tidal power plant up. The Ithorians are using some tiny containment zones to start experimenting with imported flora and fauna.”

“I'm glad it's going so well,” Ev replied, smiling, “For your sake. You needed a bit of healing in your life.”

“Ev, you have healed me in more ways than you know,” Carth reached over the table and grasped her hand, squeezing it. “I will always look back at that day we crashed onto Taris together as a good day, no matter what it was then. It was the beginning of my new life, a life with meaning again.”

Ev pulled her hand away and twirled it through a lock of her short hair. “So it's escape pod rides you like for your first date?” Ev started mischievously, “Though it will be awfully hard to find a Sith-controlled metropolis these days to repeat that on our anniversary.”

“I was being serious, Ev,” Carth rolled his eyes.

“I know,” she laughed.

“I love you, Ev,” he said emphatically.

“I know,” Ev replied, “I love you too.”

Juhani took the next lift down from the restaurant after Ev and Carth. She had overheard Carth charging the restaurant bill to their room as they left, so Juhani had no fear of them sneaking off without her. Throughout the dinner, Ev had shown no sign of sensing Juhani near by or seeing through her Force Camouflage. Ever since returning from Dantooine, Ev had never once seemed to notice Juhani as her shadow around the Jedi Temple, or even when she left to wander Coruscant. She did not even notice Juhani steal aboard the Ebon Hawk with her tonight.

The lift slowed to a stop and the doors slid open. Juhani stepped out. To anyone watching on the cameras, it looked like a mistaken stop with no one aboard the lift. She did not need to recall the room number, now that she was on the correct floor. Ev's overwhelming presence in the Force was like a beacon down the hall to those who know what to look for.

She found the room with no problems. Pressing her ear against the door, she confirmed her senses with the sound of Carth and Ev's voices inside. She relaxed and leaned against the wall beside the door. Tonight, she would keep sentinel.

When Ev came, she flew the Ebon Hawk to the hotel hangar with her. That act alone struck a chord with Juhani's uneasiness. Ev liked to walk, and the Skylite Hotel and Suites was well within her usual range of comfortable walking distances. Even if she were returning it to Carth, he had no need of it to return to the navy headquarters to take his transport back to Telos. If Ev wanted to return it to Carth, she could have just as easily left it in his storage hangar on another day.

Juhani had no fear of falling asleep on watch. It would be an uneasy night.

Ev lay on her side beneath the sheets, watching Carth sleep as the minutes ticked away into hours. She could not sleep.

She resisted the urge to reach out and trace the outlines of the muscles on his bare chest with her finger. He looked so peaceful, so happy in his sleep. She did not want to wake him to reality.

Carth's even breathing, his presence in itself, brought calm to her harried spirit. For one evening, Ev had almost been able to forget herself, her worries, and the task ahead of her.

Laying here with Carth, Ev could not imagine leaving him. His love and support gave her the energy and stability she needed. To leave that behind, now that she had it, was almost inconceivable.

But the danger she knew she had to face was too much. She could never ask anyone to enter into that darkness with her, much less someone she loved, and never Carth. He was too precious to lose. Ev knew she could give herself up for the sake of the galaxy if she knew that Carth was there to live in it.

As her mind ran in circles over and over again, Ev tossed and turned fitfully through a sleepless night. She knew what she had to do, but she could not bear to do it.

As Ev lay staring at the ceiling and counting nerf in her head to distract her thoughts, she felt a twinge in her bladder. With a sigh, Ev slipped from beneath the sheets and rolled out of bed. She slung a robe over her bare shoulders and padded to the refresher. Carth murmured and stirred in his sleep.

When she finished, Ev lingered in the doorway, the flush of water whispering behind her. She gazed at Carth sleeping alone on the queen-sized bed. Frozen where she stood, she felt a rush of emotions flood through her: love and pity for Carth, regret and pride, hope and longing, and the driving sense of duty that she knew would take her away from him.

Now that she was on her feet, Ev could not get back into bed with Carth or she would stay there forever with him. Ev crossed the carpeted floor to her small duffel with a sigh. She shrugged off the cotton hotel robe and found her undergarments where she had discarded them that night. She pulled out the long, white robe from the Star Forge and slipped it on over her head, the strapped on the leather vest over it and hung her lightsabers at her hips.

Ev was not one for superstition, but she did believe in symbolism. When she started something, she was going to start it right.

She collected the last of her things, including the slinky dress that lay in an unceremonious heap on the floor, and stuffed them into her bag. “It's now or never,” she whispered. She pulled on her socks and boots, then walked to the door.

With one last, painful glance at Carth, Ev turned the knob on the door and pushed it quietly open. “I love you Carth,” she whispered with a heavy heart, “Don't forget me.” Then she slipped away.

Carth woke suddenly, his heart pounding. A feeling of foreboding overwhelmed him. He sat bolt upright in bed and looked around.

Ev was gone. He leaped out of bed, nearly tripping on tangled sheets and rushed to the refresher. It was empty. He hurried to the balcony door and looked outside even though he already knew in his heart that it was empty. Where Ev's travel duffel had been lay a wrinkled, yellow hotel robe. Unthinking, Carth picked it up and threw it over his shoulders, tying the belt around his waist. It was a woman's robe and far too small, but he did not care.

Snatching up the room key Carth dashed out of the room and down the hall, his bare feet slapping against the polished marble floor. He hardly knew what he was doing. He punched the lighted lift button repeatedly until it arrived, doors opening before him. Lunging inside, he jabbed the button for the hangar level then paced the lift box as it rose. The doors had hardly opened into the hangar lobby as Carth squeezed through them, running across the duracrete.

He skidded into hangar seven to see the Ebon Hawk’s blue engines blazing through the dark hangar. It repulsed off the hangar floor and glided out of the building into the night.

Carth heart nearly stopped. Mouth hanging open in shock and horror, he darted forward again, chasing the ship though he knew it to be pointless. “Ev! Wait! Where are you going?” he yelled after her, but the Ebon Hawk did not stop. It soared off the landing and into the night. Dashing to the edge of the hangar, Carth watched as it joined the traffic patterns of Coruscant and was lost among the other ships. He watched long after it was out of sight. “Take me with you,” he pleaded at a whisper.

Emptiness overwhelmed every part of his being. Ev was not coming back. He staggered to the hangar door controls. Slumping against the console for support, Carth cried like he had the day he lost his first wife.

- Next Part -

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