Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Under the Shadow of the Builders
Part 21- Truths and Reality

Ev staggered into the Ebon Hawk's main hold and collapsed into the first chair she could find, staring at the floor. The rest of the crew, minus Canderous, was already assembled there. Carth didn't want to follow Ev, but he had little choice if he wanted to be sure that she told the truth. The others deserve to know.

“What happened? Where's Bastila?” Jolee asked quickly.

Ev remained silent, staring at the floor.

“Malak attacked us on our way out, and Bastila sacrificed herself so we could get away, sealing herself in with him,” Carth explained.

“Then... she's dead?” Mission asked, wide-eyed.

“Don't be stupid,”Jolee chided, “Malak wants her alive. If he turned her to the Dark Side and used her battle meditation against the Republic, the Sith would be unbeatable.”

“Then we have to go back for her!” Mission exclaimed.

“After we just escaped that thing, on what odds?” Canderous pointed out, striding in, “No thanks. Until we get to this Star Forge and figure out the source of the Sith's fleet, it wouldn't be smart to go against Malak head-on again.”

“Then Bastila will have to wait for us,” Juhani said slowly, “We must pray and hope that she is strong enough to resist Malak, or that he does not tire of her and kill her. She is too valuable.”

“Oh, I'll know what's going on with her,” Ev said raspily with a weak smile. She tapped her head with one finger, “Force bond, remember?”

“Then she's—?” Mission started.

“Unconscious at the moment,” Ev supplied, “But Malak didn't let her off easy.” She rose and tried to force an encouraging smile, “We have our duty to fulfill to the Republic, and there's one more star map on Korriban. For Bastila's sake, we need to find it as fast as we can.”

Zaalbar rumbled his agreement.

“For now,” Ev heaved a heavy sigh, “I need some time alone to rest.” Shoulders slumped over, she started to turn from the room.

“Hold up,” Carth stopped her, “Are you going to tell them what Malak said to you? Or should I?”

“I—Carth,” she pleaded.

“Well?” Carth demanded.

Looking at the floor again, she admitted, “I'm Darth Revan.”

“Wait, is this some kind of joke?” Mission demanded, “You're kidding, right?”

“No, I'm not,” Ev continued bitterly, still not meeting anyone's eyes, “The Jedi Council captured me, wiped my brain, and reprogrammed me as some loyal puppet to their cause, with the Jedi pulling my strings.” She paused and heaved a heavy sigh, “I'm not who you thought I was. I'm not who I thought I was.”

“But do you remember being the Dark Lord?” Mission asked.

“A little,” Ev admitted, “Nothing more than snatches of dreams and visions, though.”

“Then it shouldn't matter who you were,” Mission said a little more brightly, “That's not who you are now. You've been our friend, and you've been helping out the Republic this whole time.”

Zaalbar chortled his opinion as well.

“Big Z is right, we owe our lives to you,” Mission agreed, “This doesn't change anything for us. Without those memories, you're not Revan, you're just Ev, our friend.”

“Ev, the Jedi's creation...” Ev muttered.

“But what if those memories suddenly come back? What if this woman who we've trusted, who knows all our our plans—what if she turns back into Darth Revan?” Carth demanded.

“You will just have to trust that she won't,” Jolee answered.

“What kind of reassurance is that?” Carth demanded. “Revan destroyed my home and my family! She destroyed my life.”

“Don't be stupid, Carth,” Canderous cut in, “Everyone knows that it was Malak that gave the orders to attack Telos. Don't put that blame on her.”

Sudden realization lit up in Ev's eyes. She stared straight at Jolee. “You knew all long too, didn't you?” she asked.

“Of course I did,” Jolee shrugged, “But it wasn't my place to tell you then. You were a sharp little padawan back in the day. I may be old, but I'd never forget your face, for all the uproar you caused at the Jedi Temple.” He paused, growing more serious again, “I think it's for the best that you know now, in any case.”

“Revan may have done many terrible things,” Juhani started slowly, “But she spoke for the slaughtered Cathar during the Mandalorian wars, and she was—I mean, you were the Jedi that freed me from the slavers on Taris. You were the reason I dreamed of becoming a Jedi, and now you are the reason that I am still among them and not fallen to darkness.” She closed the distance between herself and Ev then placed a hand on her shoulder. “Though this may be hard to take, I will continue to stand by you until the end,” Juhani promised.

“Thanks Juhani,”Ev replied and took a deep breath.

“Observation: Something very strange is happening to my homing system, master,” HK-47 suddenly cut in.

Ev stiffened, “Everyone, be careful! There's no telling what he could do.”

“Reassurance: Do not worry master. I am not receiving any new hostility orders,” the droid continued, “Observation: It seems that this system is part of my assassin protocol that I believed to have been removed. It is retrieving my deleted memory core.”

“You said that was impossible,” Ev protested.

“Observation: so it seemed at the time,” HK-47 continued, “Explanation: it is Sith protocol to erase the memories of an assassin droid before each job and restore them upon returning to its master.”

“So that means that I am—Revan was your master?” Ev asked.

“Answer: Yes, my original master and my maker,” the droid replied.

“Things are falling together now, aren't they,” Ev murmured.

“That's the will of the Force for you,” Jolee added.

“For my part,” Canderous put in, “This makes me all the more willing to follow you to the end. You gave the Mandalorian clans a worthy battle, like none we had ever fought before. Only you could have done it. They Jedi may have taken your memories away, but they can't take away that brilliance. Whatever cause you are fighting for is worthy of my skills.”

“So you'll all see this through with me: finding the Star Forge, rescuing Bastila, and stopping Malak?” she asked hoarsely, gazing around the room but avoiding Carth's direction.

T3-M4 twittered in his opinion as well.

“See, I knew the little guy wouldn't let you down either,” Mission said encouragingly, “Droids don't hold grudges.” She shot a sidelong glare at Carth.

Ev took a deep breath and turned to Carth, “I'll understand if you want nothing more than to get away from me now. We can drop you somewhere before Korriban, if you want.”

Looking around at the hard stares from the rest of the crew, it was Carth's turn to sigh. “I don't really have a choice, do I?” he admitted slowly, “This mission is important, and as long as I can help, I'll stay with it to the end. But,” his voice grew sterner, “I swore an oath of loyalty to the Republic. If you stray from the path we started on, if Revan starts to return, I'll stop you, even if I have to kill you myself. I won't let you betray the Republic again.”

“I would expect nothing less from you, lieutenant,” Ev said evenly. Carth tried not to see the tears at the corner of her eyes. Her posture slumped again. “If you're satisfied now, I really do need some time to myself,” she addressed Carth, almost pleading.

“Fine,” Carth answered curtly.

Without needing any other prompting, she slunk out of the main hold.

A thin silence held the room motionless. Each member of the crew seemed to be lost in their own thoughts. Finally, without a word, Juhani slipped out. Her sudden movement seemed to awaken the rest of the crew once again.

“You know, Carth, you were kinda hard on her,” Mission pointed out.

“Fine, maybe,” Carth replied irritably, “But I still can't believe you guys, acting like this isn't a big deal. That woman could be a time-bomb, just waiting for the right moment to turn Sithy on us. Or maybe she already is, and is just waiting for the right moment to turn on us. Korriban would be the perfect place to do it. She could reclaim her followers and have the army she needs to betray us and the Republic all over again.”

“You like what-ifs, don't you, soldier?” Canderous observed.

“Well, what if she does? We need to be prepared,” Carth snapped.

“She still seems like the same Ev that pulled me and Zaalbar out of Taris to me,” Mission shrugged, “I wanna still treat her like the same old Ev. If she changes, well, I guess we deal with that when it comes.”

“That sort of attitude could destroy this mission!” Carth exclaimed.

“How about this, Carth: you come up with your plan B, C, and whatever, and if it comes to it, tell us about those plans,” Jolee suggested sternly, “But until then, keep your mouth shut about it.”

“What are you—?” Carth started, but Jolee interrupted him.

“With Bastila gone, Ev is at the head of this mission now,” Jolee pointed out, “She's the only one who can see those visions—memories of star maps. I'm guessing she wants us behind her, now that she's gotten this sudden promotion. How do you think she feels?”

“If she really didn't know...” Carth didn't want to think down that path.

“Did it occur to you that you might be the person that she most wanted to hear words of encouragement from?” Jolee asked.

“I...” Carth stammered, “That is none of your business. Just leave me alone, would you?” He spun on his heels and stormed out of the chamber, straight for the bunk room. He passed the ladder to the gun turret on his way. Seeing the hatch hanging open, he knew Ev was sulking up above, but continued on by.

Stripping down into his pajamas, Carth fell forcefully into bed and pulled the covers over him. Although the events of the day had been exhausting on him at every turn, sleep proved elusive. He stared blankly at the ceiling for a long while.

The aim of his life since Morgan died was now complete: he had revenged himself of Saul. The old admiral, at last, was dead. But it wasn't enough. Carth felt empty. The woman who had brought him back to life, given him reason to live on, was Revan.

The woman he loved was the villain he hated more than anything.

There were those that had chided him that he loved the Republic more than he loved his wife and son. To be sure, he wanted to see the Republic survive, but he never for a moment expected the tragedy that would befall Telos.

Maybe I would have been better off leaving my commission and being with Morgan and Dustil in those last few months. But Dustil is still alive. He must be a man already. Sith or no, he's my son. I still can't believe that he would do something like join the Sith... He knew how important the Republic is to the stability of the galaxy.

But now, would Ev even go that far for me? Would she even want to find Dustil for me? Beyond my duty to the Republic and this mission, Dustil is all I've got to live for now.

Carth's mind ran in spirals, remembering the events of the day over and over again. Finally his weariness got the better of his anxiety, and he slept.


~~~


For the rest of the journey, Ev mostly avoided the company of the other crew members. Jolee or Juhani would occasionally work their way into a conversation with her, but Carth never knew what about. He didn't really care to. The rest of the crew continued with their usual pursuits of holovids and pazaak. Carth even followed listlessly along with their entertainment; anything to keep his mind off of what had just happened on the Leviathan, and what was about to happen on Korriban. It was too much Sith for Carth to handle. Not to mention, that they had their very own amnesiac Sith Lord right on the Ebon Hawk. Even after three days in hyperspace, Carth could hardly wrap his mind around it.

Ev, for her part, spent much of her time in the cargo hold, meditating or sparring with the laser-spewing droid remote.

Drawn by the hum of a lightsaber, Carth found himself staring into the cargo hold one night on his way to his bunk. Ev athletically darted around scattered crates and odd-shaped containers, deflecting laser bolts from the remote that zipped around the hold opposite her. Carth watched as Ev vaulted easily over two stacked containers, still deflecting. She whirled around, in time to catch the remote's new angle. The laser fire grew fiercer. From the way the remote darted side-to-side, it was almost as if Ev were facing multiple enemies.

There was a fire in her eyes and determination in her clenched jaw that Carth hadn't seen since before the Jedi turned her into a serene padawan. Even though her enemy was only a single remote, it was probably imagined enemies that drove the powerful strokes of her violet blade.

Suddenly, for only an instant, she fixed her gaze on Carth. Her battle dance continued seamlessly. Finally, she called out, “That's enough Cresh. Time to call it a night.”

The droid remote stopped mid-air, it's lasers ceasing. It bobbed in a human-like nod then whizzed off into the corner where it stored itself.

“Back to our old habits, are we, Onasi?” Ev observed as she extinguished her lightsaber and clipped it to her belt.

“I—” Carth started. He didn't really have and answer.

“Of course. Regression is comfortable,” she answered herself neutrally. As she brushed by him through the doorway, she added, “It's moving forward that takes strength of will.”

Carth watched her saunter away, down the corridor towards the women's bunk room. “Moving forward...” he murmured.


~~~


Carth had a bad feeling as soon as they came out of hyperspace above Korriban. His skin prickled just looking down at the rocky, red-brown planet. There was nothing on Korriban; nothing except Sith. Here they were, perhaps the Republic's last hope, flying straight into the stronghold of the Sith.

Somewhere on the surface was their final star map.

Somewhere on the surface was his son.

Soon enough, the Ebon Hawk soared into Korriban's only settlement: Dreshdae. Even as Carth shut down the engines, his instincts were screaming for him to flee from Sith space as quickly as possible.

Heaving a sigh, he rose and followed Canderous out of the cockpit. The other crew members were already assembled in the main hold of the ship. Carth settled in, leaning against a doorway.

“So this is it: Korriban,” Ev started, “If the assumption Bastila and I have been running on is true, we will find the last pieces of data needed for our star map that will lead us to the Star Forge here. That said, we put this one off for last because it will probably be the hardest yet. All I know about this planet is that it's crawling with Sith.”

“Planetary customs mentioned a Czerka sector headquarters and a training academy,” Canderous offered.

Ev nodded, “We have to be very careful, particularly Juhani, Jolee, and I. Undoubtedly, the Sith will sense the Force is strong with us. Our best cover is to pretend to be interested in the Sith academy here.”

“What about the rest of us? We ain't no fallen Jedi,” Mission pointed out.

“Smugglers,” Canderous suggested before Ev could answer.

Ev nodded in agreement, but let him continue.

“The Hawk is a smuggling ship, and Davik flew her here plenty of times,” Canderous explained, “Outer rim space ports like this are magnets for smugglers.”

“What's our cargo?” Mission asked.

“We don't have any,” Canderous answered, “We're looking for work.”

“And Canderous owns the ship,” Ev added, “He makes the best smuggler among us.”

“So we're a couple of friendly smugglers that gave three disillusioned Jedi a lift to Korriban?” Carth clarified.

“The Sith wouldn't want a wrinkled old hermit like me,” Jolee pointed out with a chuckle, “I'm better off playing smuggler and masking the Force around me as best I can.”

“This is a very fine line to walk, so close to the Dark Side,” Juhani said quietly, “But if you will walk it, I will follow.”

“You had a vision of the star map again?” Carth asked.

Ev nodded, “It's here, and it seems to be in some kind of ruins; a worn-away stone chamber. Our goal for the moment is then to see if anyone knows how anything about some ancient ruins, and how to get to them.

“When do we start?” Mission asked.

“Now,” Ev said gravely. “With Bastila gone and in the hands of Darth Malak, we are quickly running out time. Droids will stay with the ship, and everyone else will take to the streets. We'll regroup tonight and come up with a plan to move forward.”

“Protest: Master, why must my protocols always waste away, simply guarding the ship?” HK-47 complained.

“Because I said so,” Ev shot back impatiently, “And those protocols make you a good guard.”

As the crew filed towards the loading ramp, Carth caught up with Ev. “Ev, how's Bastila?” he asked quietly.

“Alive,” she answered darkly and wouldn't say any more.

 

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