As soon as Malak was sure of her allegiance, he presented her with a great feast and allowed her to eat as much as she wanted. Bastila was cautious at first, wary of a trap, but finally relaxed enough to fill her plate and devour the food. She ate slowly, not wanting to become sick at the presence of real food, and Malak seemed impressed at her restraint.
Eager to find his weaknesses, Bastila flung herself into her training, gleaning everything she could from her new Master. When he brought her apprentices to spar with, she disarmed and disposed of them with ease, somewhat proud of herself for how powerful she was compared to her opponents. The draining of their energies was like a drug to her; Bastila couldn't get enough of the overwhelming power she felt after drinking in the people she defeated.
Malak took her to the Star Forge a few weeks into her training, coaching her to feel the Force swirling in the station and to learn to use it as her own power. The strength the station gave her was more than she could comprehend and Bastila was suddenly furious with the Council for hiding so much from her. Their view on what was proper was only a small fraction of what was possible, and Bastila was sure that if they tapped into the pure power of the Force, they could have stopped the Sith millennia ago.
Much to her delight, Bastila found herself growing stronger and more skilled with the Force and her lightsaber. The power she held was enough for her to best all the Dark Jedi Malak pitted her against. She became feared and respected on the station, and for the first time in her life, allowed herself to be proud of the strength she possessed.
Keeping Malak happy was a struggle, but Bastila knew that to defeat him, she'd have to stay in his good graces so she could learn from him. When Malak said to destroy something, she demolished it, and when Malak ordered her to kill a misbehaving officer, she did so with relish.
It was an honor to be given a task Malak needed completed, and Bastila did everything in her power to be the most efficient at anything her Master needed done. The more she did for him, the more she learned, and the more she learned about Malak, the clearer her plan to overthrow him became.
When Malak sent for her, Bastila went to his factory room as quickly as she could.
The Sith was staring out of the window of the factory when she arrived, gazing at the large fleet and the blue planet rotating slowly beneath them. "I have a mission for you, Bastila."
Bastila clasped her hands behind her back and stood waiting for her assignment. "What is it you desire, Master?"
Malak was quiet for a moment and Bastila could feel his mind scanning her own before his attention went to the planet below them. "It seems this ancient world has attracted a visitor. Return to the temple and destroy them."
The brunette bowed deeply. "Yes, Master. Will I be provided a ship?"
Darth Malak nodded once. "The hangar on Deck One is waiting for you. Go now, before our uninvited guest becomes... a problem."
Bastila bowed once more and left the room, unable to keep from holding her head a little higher. Malak had chosen her, rather than go down and take care of the intruder himself. If he considered her that strong, then maybe her opportunity to take him down was closer than she thought.
The G-wing the Sith had provided for her was light and fast, with incredibly sensitive controls. It reminded Bastila of the swoop bike she and Jade had ridden on Tatooine, and she brushed away the longing she felt. Her mission was to destroy the intruders and then to return to the Star Forge to kill Malak. There would be time to reunite with Jade later.
Bastila returned to the temple that had been her prison, laying in wait on the roof. The Force was strong on this planet and she meditated quietly, keeping her senses open for any sign of an intruder.
She wasn't disappointed; soon after she'd arrived, she heard the far off scrape of a stone door and the echoes of footsteps from inside the temple. Bastila smiled to herself and got to her feet, walking toward the temple door. She barely made it halfway across the roof before Jade stepped out into the sunlight, Jolee right behind her.
The soldier paused, seeming stunned, and Bastila did her best to ignore the way her heart leapt at the sight of Jade.
"Revan," she called, the soldier's old name falling from her lips due to Malak's constant use of it. "I don't know why I didn't expect the intruder to be you."
Jade took a few reluctant steps toward her, leaving Jolee behind her. "Bastila?" she managed, her voice hesitant and shaking.
The brunette dipped her head in a nod. "Yes, Jade, it's me."
The soldier looked dumbfounded and agonized all at the same time. Her disbelief trickled through their bond, which seemed to be active once again thanks to their proximity. "Bas... I-you're..."
Bastila chuckled. "Much has changed since we last saw each other," she informed Jade, holding her arms out and clenching her fists, crushing two of the ancient statues adorning the roof into dust. She saw Jolee start toward them and quickly erected a barrier with the Force, blocking the old man inside the temple.
"You fell." Jade's voice was almost completely numb, but the accusation in her tone was sharp and clear.
"I opened my mind," Bastila countered hotly, immediately on the defensive. A scowl grew on her face and she all but snarled at the soldier. "My Master had to... convince me to see more clearly, but now I am more powerful than I ever was."
"Convince you?" Jade echoed, frowning and moving closer to the younger woman. Her eyes roamed over Bastila's face and flashed with anger when she spotted fading bruises and scars. "What the hell, Bastila?! What did he do to you?"
Bastila scoffed and stepped away, giving the soldier a furious look. Jade supposedly loved her; why wasn't she congratulating her and being pleased with how strong Bastila had become? Betrayal flared up in Bastila's chest and she allowed Jade a glimpse of the hurt in her mind. "He taught me to be strong! He taught me to survive, Revan. I've opened my mind to the full power of the Force, not just the stunted views of the Jedi! I would have died if Malak hadn't shown me how to survive," Bastila snapped, pleased to see and feel the ache that passed through Jade. "And now I am stronger than I ever was as a Jedi! Strong enough to kill Malak and rid the Sith of him forever."
"He'll kill you first," Jade retorted, looking sick at the thought. "Force, Bastila, he's going to... He'll kill you."
Bastila scoffed. "Malak will never see it coming. I'm his loyal apprentice, and he trusts me enough to send me to defend this temple. I have the element of surprise and I can destroy the Sith from the inside!"
The soldier seemed on the verge of tears. "He knows already, Bastila. I know he does. You're playing right into his hand."
Her plan was a secret that only she knew; there was no way that Malak could know. "Malak trusts me," she repeated. "If he didn't, he wouldn't have sent me to kill you."
Jade didn't seem as stunned as Bastila had hoped, and simply shook her head. "He's using you, Bastila. Can't you see that? He's using you to get to me."
The brunette wondered when Jade had gotten so stubborn, though a vague doubt had been raised in her mind. She pushed it away and pulled out her lightsaber, igniting the blade and sneering at Jade. "Once I defeat you, I'll be ready to overthrow Malak. I wanted to help our mission," she added, gesturing between herself and Jade with her glowing blade, "but I see that you're not willing to listen to reason. My plan will move forward with or without you, even if I actually regret having to strike you down."
Jade looked heartbroken as she pulled out her lightsaber to defend herself. "I'm going to save you, Bastila," she promised, echoing her own words from what felt like a lifetime ago. "I love you too much to let you do this to yourself."
Bastila scoffed again. "You talk of love, but you refuse to listen and understand. How you can be so convinced that Malak is 'using' me when I've told you it's all part of my plan is beyond me. If you won't listen, there's no point in talking." She flashed Jade a cold smile. "Let's make this quick."
The soldier didn't have time to respond before Bastila was jumping at her with her lightsaber blade swinging toward her. Jade barely blocked the attack in time, and Bastila sent a flurry of blows toward the older woman, determined to land a damaging strike.
Jade seemed disturbed at first, but fell into a defensive stance and managed to hold her ground. Every attack Bastila tried to throw at her, Jade deflected neatly. Bastila cursed herself for spending so much time sparring with the soldier; Jade knew her fighting style and could counter it easily.
Jade watched Bastila while they fought, her face growing sadder with each blow. "I'm sorry, Bastila," she said, cringing away from a shower of sparks as their blades clashed. "I didn't want-I should have fought harder. I let you down."
Bastila laughed. "Let me down? No, Revan, you gave me an opportunity."
"For what?!" Jade shot back angrily. "To be some coward's puppet? To be pushed so far you lose sight of everything you used to be?" Her eyes flashed and she sent Bastila stumbling backward with a rush of the Force. "How much pain and suffering did he put you through?" she asked darkly, "because I know you, Bas. You're strong and intelligent, and stubborn enough that you won't give up on anything. Whatever Malak did to you..."
"What I felt is irrelevant now," Bastila retorted, scowling at the simple Force attack that had knocked her off balance. It was one more thing to work on before she overthrew Malak and she filed the thought away for later. "It was only a chance to introduce me to the power I was refusing to use."
"This isn't you, Bastila." Jade shook her head and hurt flickered through their bond. "I don't know what Malak did to you, but I'm going to save you."
"I do not need saving!" Bastila snarled as she jumped back toward Jade. Their blades met with a crash and Bastila threw all her best attacks at the soldier, trying to find a hole in her defenses. Jade continued to deflect the blows, ducking away from attacks that she couldn't block with her lightsaber, and Bastila found herself growing more and more frustrated. After all the training she had done, she was going to be bested by the weakened shell of Revan.
Bastila leapt high into the air, flipping over Jade's head and landing behind her, trying for a quick strike from behind, but her red blade clashed with Jade's blue one once more, and she let out a yell of aggravation. Bastila lashed out with the Force and pulled loose stones out of the temple walls, sending them hurtling toward the soldier.
Jade swore and ducked, catching the blocks with her own Force energy and flinging them over the temple walls where they crashed into the ocean. "I don't want to hurt you, Bastila," she pleaded, wiping sweat off her brow. "Come with me, away from here. Away from Malak and all this dark energy, somewhere where I can help you. It kills me seeing you like this, Bas," the soldier admitted. "I love you and I'll do whatever it takes to help you and save you, I promise."
Bastila cursed herself for pausing for the briefest moment, snarling instead to cover the doubt in her mind. Fighting Jade was hopeless; they knew each other's attacks too well. Her plan needed to change, and after a moment of thinking, a new solution presented itself. She would wait and let Jade's attack weaken Malak before destroying her Master.
"Please, Bastila. I just... I want to make up for letting you down."
The gentle tone of the soldier's voice nudged at something deep inside Bastila's mind, and she wondered idly if Jade would ever be able to hold her close again after everything she had been through and everything she had done. The thoughts were disconcerting and Bastila shook her head sharply. "You aren't worth my time," she snapped, well aware of the ache that the words brought the soldier. "My Master will deal with you, and then I with him!" She scowled at Jade once more and ran back to her ship, starting it up and taking off for the Star Forge. She wasn't sure what she was going to tell Malak, only knowing that she had much more training to cram into the last few hours before Jade arrived on the Star Forge.
Malak had not been pleased to find out that Jade was still alive, but seemed to have expected the outcome and didn't punish Bastila. Instead, he ordered her to stay in the command center, watching the map for the first signs of Republic warships. As soon as she spotted something, Bastila was to start using her Battle Meditation to bolster the Sith forces so they could easily destroy the entire Republic fleet.
The waiting was tedious, and Bastila found herself distracted by thoughts of her encounter with Jade. Ever since she'd returned to the Star Forge, the soldier's words had lingered in her mind. It was true, Malak had tortured her, but the end result was better, wasn't it? Malak wouldn't have trained her to be so strong if he was using her as a puppet.
She gave the map another glance, frowning to herself. The command center was the only way to get to Malak's lair, and it was obvious that Jade would be passing through the room to get to Malak. The soldier's comment about Malak using Bastila to get to her rang in Bastila's ears once again and she paused to consider the words.
Malak was perfectly capable of going down to the temple himself. If he hadn't been using Bastila's encounter with Jade as a test for Bastila, there weren't many other options. Either Malak had been afraid to go himself and was trying to get Bastila killed to she wouldn't overthrow him, or Jade was right. The first thought infuriated the brunette and she had half a mind to charge into Malak's factory room and attack him. But Jade had mentioned that, too, she remembered, and Bastila huffed with frustration.
It was altogether possible that Malak had sculpted Bastila into the apprentice she was now simply to affect Jade; part of what he'd taught Bastila included striking at the will of an opponent. A way to guarantee victory was to cripple the things nearest to the opponent, breaking their resolve and causing mental anguish. Malak had said that that was the most dangerous weapon; not even the best lightsaber duelist would be able to withstand an attack on what they held dear.
The thought was stunning to the fallen Knight. By turning Bastila to his side, Malak had attempted to break Jade, and the memories of Jade's anguish during their duel came back to her. Malak's plan had been enacted the moment Bastila left to defend the temple.
Bastila stared at the map without really seeing it. Malak was afraid, she realized slowly. The thought that Jade was coming for him had the Sith worried, and he'd sent Bastila as a diversion. He was still using her as a plaything, twisting her around to attack his own enemy. Fury burst in her brain and she wanted nothing more than to exact her revenge slowly and painfully, making Malak suffer all that he had put her through and more.
A small dot zipping toward the Star Forge caught her attention and Bastila watched it approach, letting her anger pulse through her. There was no doubt in her mind that the speck was the Ebon Hawk, and she knew it wouldn't be long until Jade arrived in the command center.
On the edges of the map new shapes took form, moving steadily toward the Star Forge. The Republic was on their way. Bastila turned away from the map and started pacing, refusing to use her power to aid the Sith. Two could play at Malak's game. The Star Forge would be destroyed under a flurry of blaster fire, taking away Malak's most treasured possession and destroying him at the same time.
It was beautifully simple and Bastila allowed herself a dark smile. There was only one loose end: Jade.
Bastila was still furious, partially at Jade for being right, and partially at herself for being so blind to what Malak was planning. She had thought she was being strong and planning a brilliant upheaval, only to have herself fall into the trap that had been set for her. If she had only held out longer...
Pathetic, she groused, hating herself for giving in so easily. The Sith would never accept her as one of their own, not that she felt any allegiance to them. The Jedi, however, could react very differently. Thoughts of a trial and sentences of execution filled her mind and Bastila felt something in her chest constrict.
She had failed everyone. Jade, the Jedi, her friends on the Ebon Hawk, and even her mother. All those people had wanted the best for her, and she had let them down.
Her emotions were running at a fever-pitch, and she turned back to the screen and flung her lightsaber toward it. The glass pane sparked and shattered, and Bastila threw her hands into the air and wrenched the Force energy in the room toward herself. The command center shook and the metal walls groaned under the strain, and Bastila let out a yell as she released the energy in a rush.
She was only vaguely aware of tears streaming down her cheeks as she lay waste to the room around her, lashing out with the Force and channeling more energy than she knew her body could withstand. She needed to feel something other than defeat and self-loathing, even if that something was strong enough to destroy her.
Behind her, the door hissed open. Bastila wheeled around and saw an alarmed Jade, choking out a snarl between sobs as she pulled her lightsaber into her hand. She sealed the door behind Jade with a wave of her hand, blocking Carth and Canderous from entering the room. Without even thinking, Bastila launched herself at the soldier, her red blade shooting out of the lightsaber hilt as she raised it to strike.
Jade sidestepped the attack and pulled her lightsaber out, blocking Bastila's next blow and pressing her blade against the brunette's. Her eyes searched Bastila's face and she seemed about to say something when Bastila nicked her arm with the tip of her lightsaber. The soldier grunted and twisted away, stopping to survey the wound for a moment.
Bastila prowled around the older woman, her mind spinning and her chest tight with self-loathing. If anyone could break through her defenses and put her out of her misery, it was Jade, and while Bastila didn't want to die, she knew she wouldn't mind it as much if she died by Jade's hand. The soldier loved her and wouldn't let her suffer. The moment Jade's eyes returned to her, Bastila pounced again, recklessly swinging her lightsaber and waiting for a strike to kill her.
Jade deflected the blows masterfully, making no move to return the attacks. Her eyes were concerned and Bastila hated the pity she saw in them.
The brunette raised her lightsaber to bring down toward Jade's head, but was stopped when Jade's fingers closed around her wrist. Jade stared at Bastila, panting slightly in the sudden quiet. "Bas..."
Bastila ripped her arm out of the soldier's grasp, backing away. "You are wasting your time," she spat. "Strike me down and go find Malak."
Jade frowned slightly. "It feels like you're about to come apart," she retorted. "Do you seriously expect me to ignore that?"
Bastila dried her eyes on her sleeve, becoming aware of her hands shaking.
"What's going on in your head?" Jade prodded gently, lowering her lightsaber.
The fallen Knight could sense the solid, calming aura of the soldier and wanted desperately to reach out and let it envelop her, but resisted. She was not worth Jade's time and energy. Bastila pointed her lightsaber at the soldier and tried her best to ignore her riotous emotions. When that didn't work, she picked the strongest one and let that fuel her.
"You were right," Bastila hissed, motioning toward Malak's chamber with a broad sweep of her hand. Debris from her earlier rampage went flying into the wall and Jade frowned. "Malak must have known all along. I was a thing to be used, and now that I've failed him, I'm not worth anything. I can't-"
"You're worth everything," Jade cut in, her face angry. "Don't even think that you're not."
"Am I?" Bastila laughed bitterly. "You promised to save me, and you never came. I lay there every night waiting for you to arrive, but you didn't."
Shame flickered on Jade's face but her frown stayed firmly in place. "Did you think I'd abandon you? I did everything I could to find you, Bastila. Just ask Carth or Mission or anyone else back on the Hawk." She stopped and wet her lips before speaking again. "Bastila, I love you. I'm not going to abandon you or give up on you, and I'm sure as hell not gonna kill you."
Bastila felt somewhat like crying, knowing that Jade could never understand. "You have to. Malak's waiting, and I… I can't. I've failed everyone, Jade, can't you see that?"
"I only see you, Bastila," the soldier returned gently. "You're lost and hurting, but I still… I can feel you." She stepped closer, Bastila's lightsaber blade inches from her chest. Jade's eyes locked with Bastila's and she raised her eyebrows slightly. "Let me in, Bas," she murmured, "let me help."
Bastila paused, her hands shaking. Everything rushing through her head was trying to drown out the warmth of the soldier's presence, but Jade's presence was still there, faint but caring. All her own worthlessness came crashing down on Bastila's shoulders and she was tempted to fall on her own lightsaber.
"Don't," Jade said quickly, pulling Bastila out of her thoughts. There was slight panic in her eyes, enough to show that she'd been able to sense the urge that had run through Bastila's mind. "Bastila, that's the dark side. You don't have to listen to it. You're stronger than it is, I know you are."
Bastila considered the words, wondering how strong she really was if she'd given in to the dark side in the first place. "I had to," she mumbled, trying to justify her fall to both herself and the soldier in front of her. "I couldn't…"
Jade nodded and extinguished her own lightsaber, raising her empty hands slowly. "It's okay, I understand. You're past it now. You don't need it anymore, Bas. Let it go."
The brunette looked at Jade's empty hands. "I could kill you," she pointed out, lifting her lightsaber slowly and watching the red blade burn near Jade's throat.
"You won't." Jade sounded sure of her words, and she offered Bastila a gentle smile.
"You're a fool." Bastila studied her own lightsaber, well aware of how easy it would be to kill her. She could just barely twitch her wrist, and Jade would be no more. Malak would be pleased and she might be spared any punishment for her earlier failure. Part of her scoffed; Jade was right, and Malak would simply kill her. With the fateful battle between Jade and Malak fast approaching, Bastila had served her purpose. She was of no use to anyone anymore.
"I don't believe that same woman that sacrificed herself to save me is going to kill me." The corner of Jade's mouth lifted in a smile. "I trust you, Bastila."
Bastila wanted to retort and tell the soldier just how unworthy of her trust she was, but she took one look at the affection in Jade's eyes and something in her chest crumpled. She backed away from the soldier, her emotions threatening to swallow her up once again. Her anger and hurt swelled up inside her, almost suffocating in their intensity.
Bastila nearly slipped on the shards of glass on the floor, barely managing to catch herself before Jade's hands were on her arms to steady her. Bastila tried to pull away and the soldier released her instantly, giving the younger woman space.
"Let it go," Jade urged quietly. "It's okay."
Bastila shook her head, wishing everything inside her would stop whirling. She ached to be calm and feel at peace, but the only escape from the darkness felt like death. "I can't go back. Not after this."
Jade blinked before understanding appeared in her eyes. "The Jedi know how to forgive, Bastila. They forgave me, didn't they?"
"You can't remember the dark side," the brunette protested weakly. "I can. How can I possibly go back knowing what I've done?"
Jade regarded the woman before her for a moment. "You can, and you'll be so much stronger for it. You won't let it happen again, I know you won't. And I'll be with you every step of the way, if you want me there. Just like always, Bastila. I promise."
Bastila desperately wanted to believe her, but the ideas sounded too good to be true. She didn't deserve forgiveness, much less the soldier's love and support. "Why?" she croaked. "You're being so… Why are you trying so hard to save me when I'm beyond help?"
"Because I don't believe you are," Jade returned instantly, extending a hand to the fallen Knight. "I love you, Bastila. You're worth everything to me." She offered the younger woman a tentative smile. "I know you feel like you're about to fall apart, but I won't let you. Just let it go, Bas. I'll protect you."
Distress burned in Bastila's chest, and she focused on the affectionate, familiar presence of the soldier. With Jade there in front of her, redemption seemed almost within reach. "Jade, I…" The turbulent emotions in her brain seemed to intensify, as though the dark side realized it was about to lose control of her and was making a final attempt to maintain its hold on Bastila.
"Come on, Bas," Jade coaxed, "be strong."
There was trust and hope in Jade's green eyes, and Bastila inhaled slowly before closing her eyes. All the despair and hatred she felt swelled up in her chest, nearly breaking her, but Bastila exhaled and forced them away, focusing on the warm aura of the soldier. A split second later, everything seemed to come pouring out of her, leaving a strange numbness behind. It wasn't bad, and after a moment Bastila placed it as the peace she'd been craving.
Her shoulders sagged and her knees went weak, and Bastila nearly collapsed to the floor. It took her a moment to realize Jade had caught her and was cradling Bastila against her chest, and the strength of the embrace was overwhelming. Bastila dropped her lightsaber to the floor and wrapped her arms around the soldier, clinging to Jade's tunic and burying her face in Jade's shoulder. Jade was real and there, protecting her once again. She could sense the love rolling off the soldier and relished it, letting it soothe her and surround her. She was safe and the dark side had no control over her any more.
Jade hushed her, rocking the brunette gently and holding her close. Bastila could sense the smile on her face and let out a shuddering breath before realizing she was crying.
"You're safe," the soldier murmured, pressing her cheek against Bastila's head.
"I know," Bastila sniffled, unwilling to pull away for fear of waking up from a dream to find herself back in her cell wishing for Jade's embrace. "You're here, and nothing makes me feel safer than to be loved by you."
Jade looked down at the brunette in her arms, grinning when Bastila made eye contact. "Really?"
Bastila nodded and tried to smile, the expression feeling strange on her face after all the weeks of scowling. "I love you."
Jade dipped her head and kissed Bastila soundly. When they broke apart, the soldier's eyes were dancing. She beamed at Bastila before looking around the room. "You really did a number on this place."
Bastila followed Jade's gaze, nodding once and resting her head on Jade's shoulder once again. The destruction around them was the last thing she wanted to think about.
"Between you and me, I think we oughta leave the interior design to Jolee," Jade teased lightly. "His little cabin on Kashyyyk was adorable."
A chuckle escaped Bastila in spite of herself and she felt Jade's arms tighten around her again. "Malak," she remembered a moment later, dreading the battle she knew Jade would be fighting.
"He can wait a few more minutes," Jade retorted. "I'm busy holding you."
"But the Republic-"
The Star Forge rumbled with a distant explosion, and Jade's jaw tensed. "Or not." The soldier reluctantly released Bastila, holding onto her shoulders for a moment. Jade's eyes lingered on Bastila's, seeming to drink in every detail of the brunette that she could.
"Get back to the Hawk," the older woman said. "Once you're there, the Republic could really use your Battle Meditation. I'll try and get there, but if it's time to leave and I'm not there…" She swallowed and tried to smile.
Bastila knew exactly what it was Jade left unsaid and shook her head emphatically. "No! Jade, the Republic is coming. Let them finish him. We can escape now and-"
"He'd know," Jade interrupted with a grimace. "He'd know and he'd find a way to destroy us and ruin everything. I have to go fight him, Bastila. It's not like we weren't expecting it." She sighed and shook herself slightly. "Just... Go. Make sure you're off this thing when it blows."
Bastila pursed her lips and studied the older woman. "No," she decided finally, ignoring the sharp look Jade shot her. "I'm going with you."
The soldier's face twisted with fear. "Bas, no-"
The brunette raised an eyebrow and shook her head slightly. "I know what Malak's capable of, and I don't want you to face it alone." She pulled her lightsaber into her hand and gave Jade a stubborn look. "I spent my time looking for his weaknesses, Jade. I can help."
"But what if he hurts you? Bastila, I don't..." Jade looked helpless at the thought.
"He already has." The hollowness of Bastila's tone surprised both of them and Jade's brow furrowed. "The only way he could hurt me more is by taking you away," Bastila continued, "and I refuse to abandon you to him and allow anything to happen."
The soldier studied Bastila for a moment and sighed. "I'm not going to be able to talk you out of this, am I?"
Bastila shook her head. "You saved me, Jade. I'm going to help save you."
The Star Forge shook again, and Jade finally gave her a relenting smile. "God, you're stubborn. It's a good thing you're so cute." She reached out and cupped Bastila's cheek in her hand, taking in the sight of her before leaning down and kissing Bastila tenderly. "Okay, Princess, let's do this."
Bastila smiled and led the way to Malak's factory chamber. To get there, they walked through a room that Bastila had only ever seen empty, but as soon as the door shut behind them, droids started being built at remarkable speeds. The women ignited their lightsabers and started defending themselves against the robotic onslaught.
Despite their best efforts, Bastila and Jade were quickly overwhelmed, and their Force attacks did little to thin the army attacking them.
"Now what?" Jade yelled over the sound of another droid coming to life.
"I don't know! This room was never active!" Bastila plunged her lightsaber into a droid's core, ducking away as it exploded in a shower of sparks. "There has to be a way to deactivate them."
Jade was distracted for a moment, then fought her way over to Bastila. "Let's jump over them. If we can destroy whatever's making them, we can finish off the rest of the droids and be fine."
"Over them?" Bastila echoed, neatly separating a droid's blaster from its body.
Jade shot her an amused look. "We can use the Force," she reminded the brunette, laughing at little at the embarrassment on Bastila's face. "On three, ready?" Jade counted down and the moment the third number let her mouth, Jade leapt over the droids and into an open area of the factory floor.
Bastila sprang up on her toes, using the Force to fling herself into the air. Time seemed to slow as she felt for a place to land, and then her feet hit the metal floor and she spun to defend herself.
The droids turned and ran at the Jedi, their spider-like legs scuttling across the floor. Jade caught Bastila by the elbow, dragging the brunette to the side of the room. Bastila glanced over her shoulder and saw Jade studying one of the droid assembly machines.
"You okay to cover me for a minute?" the soldier asked.
Bastila nodded, eyeing the wave of droids coming at her. She raised her lightsaber and took out the nearest droid with a quick swing, watching the red blade cut the ancient droid in two. The other droids were unfazed, crawling over the fallen machine and moving toward the Knight.
As Bastila fought them off, Jade swore behind her. A flicker of pain came through their bond and Bastila swallowed panic. "Jade?"
"I'm okay," the soldier returned instantly. "Just, uh, smashed my hand. You still okay?"
"For now." Bastila cut down a few more of the droids, surprised to hear a fizzling noise from behind her. Jade's excitement flowed through both of them and Bastila couldn't contain a grin as Jade stepped forward and joined her in the battle once again.
"One down," Jade announced, glancing out over the factory room. "A few more to go." The soldier stepped out in front of Bastila and flung her arm out, sending out a burst of the Force that sent the front row of droids toppling over. "C'mon."
The duo ran across the room to the next assembly station, and Bastila studied what Jade was doing so she could help. Jade moved quickly, cutting through part of the metal casing and plunging her blade deep into the machine. It sputtered and came to a halt with a shower of sparks, and Jade threw Bastila a grin.
The droids came scurrying up behind them again, and Bastila was caught off guard. One of the droids lifted a spidery leg and jabbed at her, ripping through her dark tunic and down into her skin. Bastila gasped and jerked away, the wound on her back already on fire.
Jade swore and wasted no time and igniting her blade and stepping between Bastila and the droids. The blue beam of her lightsaber cut through countless cores and the soldier stepped forward and slammed her foot into the metal floor, sending out a shockwave of energy that knocked the droid army back.
Bastila grabbed her lightsaber and did her best to help, but the pain and location of the wound made it hard for her to move around. She looked up and saw Jade turn to her, waving the concern away and pointing at a droid moving up behind the older woman. "Watch out!"
Jade wheeled and plunged her blade into the machine's core, frying the droid's circuitry. "How bad did it get you?"
"I'll be fine," Bastila replied, looking to the next assembly system. There were only four more, and she had an opening to get to one. She sprang up with the help of the Force, soaring through the air and landing lightly beside the assembler. Following Jade's example, she shoved her lightsaber deep into the machine and was rewarded with a small explosion and sparks flying.
The droid army seemed smaller when she turned back around, and Jade had just gotten to another assembly machine and was destroying it. With their numbers thinning out, it was taking longer for the swarm to redirect themselves and get to the Jedi.
Two more, she murmured to the soldier, I'll take the one on the left.
Jade nodded and the pair moved to the last two assembly machines, making quick work of the ancient parts. With the miniature factories destroyed, Bastila turned her attention back on the droid army. Jade was already hacking away at the nearest droids, and Bastila used her energy to numb the pain in her back before jumping into the fray.
A few minutes later, the droids were no more, and the women exchanged a breathless look across the factory floor. Jade started for Bastila immediately, and the Knight relaxed her protection against the pain. Jade was already at her side when she cringed again, and the soldier immediately found the wound and rested her fingers against it. Warm tingles replaced the pain as Jade healed the wound, and Bastila sighed with relief, allowing Jade to pull her close. She wished for a moment she could spend the rest of her life wrapped up in Jade's arms, but the Star Forge rumbled around them and knocked the thought out of Bastila's mind.
The Knight pulled away from Jade and held out her hand. "Come on," she coaxed. "Let me see it."
Jade gave her a bemused look, showing Bastila her injured hand when the shorter woman clarified. "It's not that bad."
Bastila had to agree that it probably looked worse than it was; despite the blood and gashes on Jade's hand, the soldier didn't seem to be in much pain. Even so, she focused her energy and healed the tissue, wanting Jade to be at her best when she went up against Malak.
Jade grinned down at her and caught her chin, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. "Thanks, Princess."
Bastila looked up at the woman before her, thinking back on all their travels together and the way the soldier had captured her heart. That they were only guaranteed these last few minutes together before their battle with Malak seemed horribly unfair. The brunette wanted a chance to explore their relationship and to be with Jade more than anything she'd ever wanted before, and the odds that she would be denied that chance...
"Are you sure about this?" Jade asked quietly, her eyebrows raised.
The thought of facing Malak was daunting, but with the Republic fleet in position to attack and destiny rising up to meet them, Bastila knew they had little choice in the matter. She nodded at the soldier before the sudden image of herself falling back to the dark side and draining Jade occurred to her. Fear came to life in the pit of her stomach and she could feel the dark side trying to pull her back into its clutches.
Jade reached out for her, grabbing her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. The expression on her face told Bastila she'd seen the vision, and the soldier shook her head. "That won't happen," she promised. "We'll keep each other strong."
The Knight exhaled slowly, focusing on the sensation of Jade's fingers laced through hers. After a moment she looked up at Jade and nodded once. The soldier glanced toward the elevator to Malak's lair, shrugging to herself.
"Almost," Bastila murmured, reaching up and capturing Jade's mouth in a kiss. "I have to... Before we go up there... Jade, I love you." Her tone was nearly anguished, but she knew that if she didn't get the words out now, she'd never forgive herself.
The soldier almost looked surprised, but smiled and returned the kiss. "I can't wait to get old hearing you say that," she joked, the promise of a future clear in her words.
Bastila smiled in spite of the situation and gave her soldier's hand a squeeze. "Let's go."
They walked into the elevator together, bolstered by each other's presence. The doors slid shut behind them and the elevator started rising with a low hum.