Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Under the Shadow of the Builders
Part 20- The Sith Lord

From that moment, things moved very rapidly again. They found all of their clothes, weapons, and gear stored rather stupidly just outside of their cell. Juhani cut open the two cells that held the rest of their crew. The entire crew quickly gathered around the nearest security terminal while Mission set to work slicing into the system. In the rush, Carth hardly noticed the bodies of Sith soldiers and technicians that lay strewn around the cell block.

Mission brought up a map of the Leviathan, and pointed to a green dot, “We're here. The docking bay where they have our ship is here, two decks down.”

“And the droids?” Juhani asked, “They are in maintenance.”

Mission examined the screen thoughtfully, “They're here.”

“Good, then let's get out of here,” Jolee said, “I don't want to be around when Malak arrives. That's one powerfully bad man, if you ask me.”

“Are the hangar doors open?” Canderous asked dryly.

Carth nearly hit himself for not thinking of that.

Mission scrolled through screen after screen as fast as her agile fingers would take her. “Ah, nope,” she answered, “And it looks like the only console with the authority to open them is up on the command deck.”

“It seems that we have no choice then,” Bastila concluded, “And this isn't going to be easy.”

“Saul with be there,” Carth said darkly.

“We will split up into two teams,” Bastila devised, “One team will recover the droids and descend to the hangar bay to secure the Ebon Hawk. The other, which I will lead, will go to the command deck and get those doors open. Once the way is clear, we will proceed quickly to the hangar.”

“I'm going with you,” Carth volunteered instantly.

“Ad so am I,” Ev added almost as quickly.

Bastila's steel gray eyes suggested that she wanted to argue, but whatever she was about to say was lost in the urgency of the moment. “Juhani and,” she hesitated, “Canderous, you will lead the rest of the crew to recover our droids and secure the hangar for our departure.”

“Of course,” Juhani with a quiet tone of thanks.

Canderous eagerly slammed his right fist into the palm of his left hand. “Alright,” he said with a smile, “Let's get this ball rolling.”

The crew finished securing their gear. Before Mission switched off the security console, Carth took one last look at the map. They had quite a distance to cover between the cell block and the only lift that would take them to the command deck.

Less than a minute later, the group gathered tensely at the door that would take them out of the cell block and into the open corridors of the Leviathan. It slid up and open. Seeing the immediate area clear, the two groups surged out; Canderous and Juhani's group to the right and Carth's group to the left. All had their weapons ready in their hands.

Dashing around the first corner, they met with a pair of Sith soldiers in their polished silver armor. Ev and Bastila seemed to have sensed the soldiers before they saw them. The unfortunate men didn't even have time to raise their weapons or shout before they fell dead to the floor.

Ev relaxed noticeably. That must have been the only patrol in the immediate area.

Lightsabers still humming, they continued briskly along the corridor. Ev fell into step beside him.

“Please don't do anything stupid up there, Carth,” Ev pleated sternly.

“Ev, I'm not dumb, I have fought in—” Carth started to agree.

“Saul is going to be there,” Ev reminded him dryly.

Carth didn't need reminding. Every moment he spent on the Leviathan, he itched and yearned for revenge. Ideas of what he would finally say to Saul flooded through his brain. “I know,” he replied.

“Just don't let your lust for revenge take over everything else,” Ev urged. She leaned up on the balls of her feet and kissed his cheek. “I'd never forgive you if you got yourself killed,” Ev added seriously.

Carth took a deep breath. “I won't,” he promised, “Until I met you, getting back at Saul was all I had to live for. But now, I want to get out of this alive. With you.”

Ev pointed sternly at him. “I'm going to hold you to that, Lieutenant,” Ev said with playful gravity.

“Please be quiet,” Bastila scolded in a loud whisper, “Do you want them to hear us?”

Carth and Ev fell silent and continued after Bastila, drinking in each other's eyes all the while.

Deep in the belly of the Leviathan, the ship of Carth's nemesis, he felt more secure, more confident, and more warm than he had since the death of his wife. Ev, in all of her stubborn unpredictably, gave him that and more. Every day she surprised or amazed him. More often than not, he felt inadequate beside her, and yet, she continued to look to him. She was utterly unlike any other Jedi he had ever met; unlike any other other woman.

Except Morgan.

He caught himself wishing that the two women could have met. Morgan would have liked Ev.

The trio passed into another block of cells, just as Carth remembered from the map. Four guards stood at attention in the middle of the corridor. They reacted faster than the first pair of Sith soldiers they had encountered, but Ev and Bastila made quick work of them. Carth had only to stop one that tried to run off down the hall. All four guards were down, but Carth still felt uneasy about all of the noise they had just made.

As they stepped around the bodies of the Sith soldiers, Carth noticed a young, though uncommonly tall, blond woman starting intently at them from inside a cell to his left. She was so close to the glowing force barrier that she was almost touching it.

“She looks really familiar,” Ev observed, also having noticed the girl.

Carth nodded. He wracked his brain, then it hit him. “That's the girl from Kashyyyk,” he exclaimed quietly.

“Any chance you could get me out of here?” the girl asked hesitantly. Her voice was muffled by the barrier.

Ev glanced at Bastila, who nodded impatiently, “Make it quick.”

“I'm nowhere near as good at this as Mission is...” Ev mumbled as she set to work on the panel beside the cell.

“What are you doing in here anyway?” Carth asked as Ev worked.

“I tired to take a Sith shipment of kolto for the Republic and got caught,” she admitted ashamedly.

“That is a bad idea on several levels,” Bastila scolded, “What posses you into thinking that you could get away with it?”

“I used to be a blockade runner,” the girl sounded offended.

“But you're so young,” Carth observed.

“I flew for the free planets during the Mandalorian Wars, starting at the siege of Lorrd,” she explained, “I think I was 17 then.”

“Wait, you're that kid?” Carth asked in disbelief. Saul had mentioned a young blockade runner many times, back before he changed sides. The girl before him hardly looked like an ace pilot or a hero. “What's your name?”

“Kionee Rinnh,” she answered simply. Taking a lull in the conversation, “I can't stand just sitting around, like I'm helpless in this war when there's something I could be doing. Especially after Taris,” Kionee shook her head. “I mean, I knew that this run would be a long shot, but I'd been in worse spots before.”

“You're lucky we were here, breaking ourselves out too, then,” Carth said.

“Why are you here, anyway?” Kionee asked. She eyed them all with a look of recognition.

The force barrier came down with a blue flicker. Closing the panel over the controls she had just been manipulating Ev answered, “We're something of wanted individuals with the Sith. Every heard the name Bastila Shawn?”

Kionee's eyes grew wide as she started at Ev.

“That's her,” Ev gestured lazily at Bastila, and Kionee's look of wonder transferred to the younger Jedi. “This is Carth, and I'm Ev,” she finished.

“We don't have time to waste around here any longer,” Bastila said urgently.

“If it's not too much trouble,” Kionee addressed Bastila with hesitant reverence, “They took my droid Emtee some place. Maybe we could find him on our way out to the hangar bay?”

“We're not going to the hangar,” Bastila answered shortly.”

“Then where—?” Kionee stammered nervously.

“We are headed for the command deck,” Bastila said, “That is the only place we can open the hangar doors from. You can find your way back to the hangar on your own?”

“I—” she started uncertainly, then mustered some confidence, “Let me come with you. I can use a blaster.” She reached down and picked up a fallen blaster rifle that had belonged to one of the Sith guards. Despite her height and broad shoulders, towering over even Carth, the weapon looked awkward in Kionee's arms.

“Fine, we can't waste any more time,” Bastila said, “Let's go.”

“My droid...?” she asked somewhat hopelessly.

“There's another way,” Ev said, and pulled out her comlink, “Juhani? We found another captive and she said her droid was taken away. Can you keep an eye out for it when you get HK and T3?”

“Of course,” Came Juhani's voice, “What is it's call signature?”

“MT-412, a protocol droid,” Kionee supplied. She already looked less nervous.

“MT-412,” Ev repeated, “Protocol droid.”

“We will do our best,” Juhani promised.

“Thanks,” Ev said, “See you at the ship.”

Checking only a moment to see that the others were in motion, Bastila turned and continued down the corridor. Carth, Ev, and their new companion followed quickly after her.

The closer they progressed towards the tail of the ship, the more frequently Bastila had the group pause and wait silently in a nook in the wall for a patrol to pass. With every minute, their new companion seemed to grow more and more tense.

Suddenly, red lights flashed a warning siren. “They know we're loose,” Ev observed darkly.

“Secrecy and careful progress will now be wasted,” Bastila surmised, “Let's get to that lift as quickly as we can.”

The Jedi ignited their weapons and Carth held his blasters at the ready. Behind him, Kionee awkwardly hefted the blaster rifle against her shoulder.

“You ever been a fight before?” Carth asked over his shoulder.

“Not really, not like this,” she replied quietly. Her voice quivered.

“If we're moving, stick close to the Jedi. They'll take care of you,” Carth advised, “If we stop to fight, find cover and try to get good even shots off.”

“Thanks,” Kionee nodded and swallowed.

“We're clear for the moment,” Bastila announced, “Let's go.”

The quartet dashed around the corner and down the long hall. Bastila and Ev took the lead, with Kionee doing her best to keep close behind them. Carth brought up the rear, constantly checking over his shoulders for signs of pursuers.

Ev and Bastila suddenly stopped dead in their tracks. Carth and Kionee skidded to a halt behind them just as a petite figure in dark robes strode confidently around the corner ahead of them. With an eager cackle, the Dark Jedi ignited her dual lightsabers and charged.

Carth immediately fell back against the wall, waiting for a good shot. The three Jedi whirled so quickly about, that chance never came. One moment the Dark Jedi was in his sights, and the next instant, Ev or Bastila would replace her. Kionee, meanwhile, gaped at the duel, still rooted to where she stood in the middle of the corridor. Cart was about to reprimand her when the Dark Jedi suddenly crumpled to the floor. The skirmish ended as abruptly as it began, and they hurried down the corridor once again.

They reached the lift at a sprint without any other clashes. Just as Bastila pressed the 'up' button, the doors slid open and a full patrol squad of Sith soldiers poured out.

“Kriff!” Carth cursed.

“It's them!” one of the foremost soldiers exclaimed.

The two Jedi didn't seem to plan or react. They just acted. In an instant they were moving, fighting, and even flowing through the battle. Carth, on the other hand, ducked into the side of the lift alcove and picked off soldiers exiting the lift before they saw him.

Feeling somewhat responsible for the girl, he kept one eye out for Kionee. Confused and firing wildly, she found herself in the middle of the skirmish, trying to keep to Carth's advice. It was impossible to stay close to either Bastila or Ev any more. Carth could see that realization in her eyes.

Carth shot down two soldiers that had her in their spots. She didn't even notice. Finally, the gangly girl realized Carth's strategy. Quickly, almost desperately, she pressed herself against the wall on the other side of the door opposite Carth. By the time she had taken that position, however, the battle was essentially over. Ev leaped in the way of a stray soldier who tried to get away and raise the alarm. She cut him down in one swift swipe of her lightsaber. Bastila cleared out the lift of any stragglers, and Carth made sure everyone lying on the ground really was as dead as they looked with a few extra shots.

In less than a minute, the clash was over. They wordlessly hurried onto the lift, none relaxing their weapons. Ev looked exhilarated, Bastila tried to be as unreadable as ever, and the look on Kionee's face suggested that she was reconsidering her offer. White-lipped and white-knuckled, she said nothing.

The lift whizzed up towards the command deck. Even as they all watched the level numbers escalate, no one spoke. Carth half wished they were using the time to devise some kind of plan, if only to keep his mind off of what—and who would be waiting for him up there. The lift slowed to a stop. Bastila and Ev abandoned their meditative stances and ignited their lightsabers even before the doors slid open. They boldly stepped out, flanked by Carth and Kionee.

The command deck was spacious, with at least two dozen pilots, gunners, and other technicians working at the controls It was just like the deck of any other capital ship, except for the half squad of soldiers and three Dark Jedi standing guard. Saul Karath himself stood at helm, gazing across the room at them, he said, “It seems I have underestimated you.”

“Open the hangar doors,” Ev ordered.

“I couldn't let Lord Malak's prizes go free so easily,” Saul said with a thin smile, “In fact, I can't let you go at all.”

“Care to reconsider?” Ev asked threateningly.

Saul Karath smiled, and the three Dark Jedi around him ignited their lightsabers.

“I guess we'll do this the hard way then,” Ev muttered. She glanced at Bastila, who nodded, then leaped into battle with a yell.

It began in chaos but quickly sorted out into the sort of predictable battle Carth had grown used to. Two Jedi faced off against three Dark Jedi and somehow managed to keep them all occupied. Silver-armored soldiers fired into the fray, hoping to pick off Bastila or Ev. Only a few paid any attention to Kionee or Carth where they held their position by the door. Two or three guns aimed at the pair, however, was enough to keep them on their toes. Almost none of the techs had any sort of weapon on them, so they mostly tried to stay out of the way or duck for cover. Meanwhile, the Admiral oversaw the entire battle from the head of the command deck, arms pensively behind his back.

Carth scowled as he caught sight of Saul at the edge of his vision. He tried to keep his focus on the task at hand. As long as Bastila and Ev were outnumbered three-to-two, the biggest threat was from the Dark Jedi. Carth had to keep and eye on Kionee, get off shots at the Sith, and watch for anyone trying to take a shot at him. Kionee did her best to stay by some sort of cover and keep shooting.

Slowly, inch by inch, Carth and Kionee worked their way closer towards the center of the room. Still, the lightsaber battle in the center of the command deck was a whirl of red, purple, and yellow. No one was losing or gaining ground. The two gunners, however, managed to pick off a handful of the soldiers.

Somehow in the chaos, Kionee managed to get off a lucky shot that caught one of the Dark Jedi in the knee. Bastila took that brief faltering moment to cut him down. Now the odds were even again.

Saul Karath continued to observe the battle passively from his place of command, despite the blaster strapped to his hip. Carth began to watch for his chance.

Suddenly, Kionee screamed and dropped her blaster rifle. He glanced over at her; already a wide red gash laced across her forearm. She gaped down at the widening red stain on her sleeve.

“Put pressure on it to stop the bleeding,” Carth ordered out of the corner of his mouth, his focus still on the Dark Jedi.

“Right, right,” she muttered, then began twisting her shirt sleeve tightly around the injury, “I know.” From how she held her arm, the wound didn't seem deep, but it probably damaged muscle tissue. Kionee would now be useless with a blaster rifle. Carth quickly assessed the situation and edged towards her, putting himself between her and any other gunners.

“See that consul over there?” Carth nodded to his right as he continued shooting.

Kionee nodded weakly.

“Get yourself under it and stay hidden until you can get the bleeding to stop,” Carth advised, “Keep a light blaster with you for defense, if you can.”

“But, I can still—” she started to protest.

“Do it,” ordered firmly. With only another moment of hesitation, she obeyed.

Carth turned his attention back to the battle that raged in the center of the room. While he had been distracted, another of the Dark Jedi fell to Bastila and Ev. Carth picked off one of the last soldiers, who had Ev in his sights. Ev meaningfully caught Carth's eyes and cocked her head towards Saul. Another moment later, the last Dark Jedi fell.

Only a few soldiers still remaining, Saul finally reached for his blaster. Instead of darting straight for the admiral, both Jedi conspicuously went for the last soldiers. Saul was already in Carth's sights. He pulled the triggers once and his old mentor gasped and dropped his weapon. He pulled the triggers a second time. Saul crumpled to the ground.

For one victorious moment, Carth almost felt satisfied. But he wasn't at peace.

At last, all the Sith on the bridge were either dead, stunned, or had fled. Ev hurried for the controls that would open the hangar doors, Bastila warily patrolled the deck, and Kionee slowly extricated herself from her hiding spot. Carth, meanwhile, stood still, gazing over the carnage to where Saul lay. The admiral was still breathing raggedly.

Bastila suddenly gestured to him, “Carth, he's calling for you.”

Grinding his teeth, Carth strode over to Saul. Finally going to apologize or beg for mercy, is he?

“Carth, Carth,” came his raspy whisper, “I have to tell you...” Saul began to cough up blood.

Carth crouched down beside him, listening closely.

“That woman,” he rasped, “her name isn't Ev. She was once Revan.”

“No!” Carth exclaimed, leaping up and stumbling backwards, “That's a lie!”

Saul only laid his head back against the ground and broke into peels of blood-gargled laughter. Seconds later, he was dead.

“Bastila, is it true?” Carth asked sharply, “Tell me.”

“There isn't time now,” Bastila replied with agitated urgency.

“The doors are open,” Ev announced, hurrying back to them. She cast a look of dark suspicion between Carth and Bastila, but let it go without another word. Seeing Kionee sauntering over towards them, she gasped, “Oh Force! You're pale!”

Kionee gave her a weak half-smile and Ev rushed over to her. Ev swung Kionee's bad arm around her own shoulders and grasped the still-bleeding forearm in one hand.

“Let's go,” Ev urged.

They poured into the lift again and punched in the floor code for the hangar level. While supporting the younger girl, Ev worked at a quick healing trance. Carth watched as the bleeding stopped and the wound began to close over. The look of anguish faded from Kionee's face, but Ev's healing did nothing to help her pallid complexion. She had lost too much blood.

Even as Ev healed Kionee, Carth couldn't get Saul's final words out of his head. It wasn't possible. Ev was a Jedi, not some Sith. She was compassionate and kind. She wasn't anything like the Sith lord who had once saved and then sought to destroy the Republic. But, then again, Carth had never met Revan for more than a moment or two in passing during the Mandalorian Wars. With the mask Revan always wore even then, he wouldn't know what she looked like. It just isn't possible!

Bastila, meanwhile, reported on her comlink, “The hangar bay doors are open and we are proceeding to the hangar level. What is the status of the Ebon Hawk?”

“The hangar bay is ours and the ship is revved and ready to go,” came Canderous' abrupt reply.

“Good,” Bastila replied, “We will be there in minutes.”

The lift doors slid open and there was, thankfully, no one there to meet them.

The quartet started off at a jog down the corridors. Carth wordlessly slid under Kionee's arm to support her.

“Thanks,” she breathed quietly as she struggled to keep up.

The entire passage was eerily empty. The advance crew must have taken care of any guards neatly.

As they neared a set of doors at the end of the corridor, Ev and Bastila suddenly stopped, reaching for their weapons. Carth knew by now that this meant they were about to have company of the Dark Jedi sort. That knowledge didn't prepare him for what he saw when the doors slid open. Nor did it seem to prepare Ev. She stumbled back in surprise.

Dark Malak, somehow even taller and paler than he had been during the Mandalorian Wars, loomed before them. He wore imposing red with a black half cape. His natural jaw seemed to have been replaced by a mechanical one. In a tinny voice, he rasped, “Going somewhere?”

“Yes, we're just leaving now,” Ev managed recover her composure.

“Oh no, this reunion is too sweet to let it end so quickly,” Darth Malak replied. All of his attentions were fixed on Ev. “Even now that I see you with my own two eyes, I almost can't believe it.”

“Reunion? What are you talking about?” Ev demanded.

“Ev!” Bastila said sharply.

“What? You don't remember? They never told you?” Malak began to laugh, “Oh, this is too much.”

This is all some kind of awful joke...

“Bastila?” Ev asked warningly.

“You, you who they call, what is it—Evrue Pell?” Malak seemed to relish every moment of it, “You were once Darth Revan, my master.”

Ev stood frozen, entirely unreadable.

Carth couldn't stand it any more. “Bastila, is it true?” he demanded.

“Yes, it's true,” Bastila replied with a sigh, “I was with the strike team that was sent to capture Revan. When the Taninim was bombarded, Revan—you were badly injured, to the edge of death. I found the spark of life still in you and breathed it back to life. We captured you, and the Jedi Council repaired your badly damaged mind.”

Malak laughed triumphantly, “Haha! You see? I always knew that the mantle of the Dark Lord would one day be mine. When those Jedi boarded your ship, I thought it was my chance to eliminate all of my enemies in one glorious swoop. You can imagine my surprise to find you alive in Bastila's company, a reprogrammed loyal slave to the Jedi Order and the Republic.”

“I am no one's slave!” Ev finally exclaimed.

“Then you wanted the Jedi to welcome you with open arms, to fight against your own armies? Did you Revan?” Malak asked.

“No! Well, how should I know? I don't remember a thing!” Ev spat.

“Surely some of your memories have returned to you in dreams,” Malak said, “The Jedi took what you were, dark and powerful, and whittled you down into something weak and useless. But, it is just as well, as I am now the Dark Lord of the Sith.”

“This doesn't make any sense,” Ev said at almost a whisper, pain in her voice, “Bastila, how could—?”

“There are those that would whisper that in destroying your ship from a distance, I acted in cowardice,” Malak continued unhindered, “But here and now I will set it right. None will question my right to Lord of the Sith when I defeat you in single combat as with the ancient Sith tradition; master against apprentice.”

No one could react fast enough. Malak's lightsaber ignited. Bastila, Carth, and Kionee froze, stunned by the force. The corridor door slid shut, cutting off Ev and Malak from the rest of the group. Carth wanted to scream, but his words were caught in his throat. It was like when he and Ev first met Juhani. Not being able to see Ev fight made it far worse. All he could do was listen.

Hissing lightsaber blades clashed. Footsteps danced across the floor in a dangerous duel. As long as it continued, he knew Ev was alive. Ev as Revan? Impossible. Revan destroyed worlds, cities, fleets, families... Revan destroyed my family. Ev saves people... Bastila knew all along and didn't say a thing. Is that really Ev? Does she really not remember anything? Or are we part of the biggest hoax—the biggest disaster of all time? Have we been protecting her, training her, and telling her all our secrets, only to have Darth Revan rise again?

All this time, she was with us. I could have shot her in her sleep and the threat of Revan would gone from this galaxy for all time. But, I love—no, I loved her. How could I possibly love the person responsible for the death of my wife and the destruction of my planet?

The battle beyond the door raged on. Suddenly, Carth had control of his muscles again. Kionee slumped heavily against him before regaining her balance. Bastila rushed for the door panel and did her best to slice it.

“Bastila, what's—?” Carth began.

“There's no time,” Bastila said shortly, “Malak must have become distracted by the duel.”

The doors slid open and Bastila dashed through. In one swift movement, she Force-shoved Ev out through the doors. “Now you know,” she said quickly, “Go, save the Republic.” With a flash of sparks, she slashed at the door's controls. They slid rapidly closed again, with two layers of blast doors over them.

“Bastila!” Ev screamed.

“You heard her,” Carth said angrily, “Let's get out of here.”

Ev and Carth, still supporting Kionee, dashed around via another corridor and finally arrived at the hangar bay. An elegantly curving silver freighter was parked next too the Ebon Hawk. Both ships' engines were white hot and ready to take off.

“That yours?” Carth asked Kionee.

She nodded.

“Now, get out of here and find yourself a hospital,” he ordered and gave her a gentle push in the direction of her ship, then ran after Ev up the Ebon Hawk's entrance ramp. Carth had hardly closed the ramp with the ship lurched into motion. Soon, they were free of the Leviathan's jaws. Carth watched through the view port to see the silver freighter make its escape as well. In moments, the Ebon Hawk jumped to hyperspace and away from the Sith at last.

Knowing who they carried on their ship now, Carth could hardly breathe easier.

 

- Next Part -

 

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