What is he doing? Is he going to?? He is. Bastila automatically turns her head. "Stop! Don’t." She’s annoyed. "We're Jedi."
"So what?" Evan breathes against her cheek. “Try it. You’ll like it,” he whispers like some devil on her shoulder urging her on to sin.
He's so close and it is extremely distracting. Unexpectedly tempting, too. Bastila has never been kissed before. She'd be lying if she said she wasn't curious. But Bastila has never acted on that curiosity. She's never allowed herself the opportunity. And, frankly, most guys know better than to make a pass at a Jedi woman.
But not Revan. He probably thinks this is a challenge.
She keeps getting this guy wrong, Bastila realizes. She worried he would kill her, never that he would kiss her. This is a whole new kind of threat. So Bastila steps back and shakes her head. She shows him her palms in a clear rebuff. "It's against the rules and I don't want this. Back off!" she nearly hollers, sounding shrill. But who does this guy think he is?
He persists. Stepping forward to clasp her elbows firmly, Evan announces, "I don't do rules."
Yes, she knows. "No attachments," she whispers as he looms closer again. If he tries to kiss her once more, she might just toss him across the room with the Force. "We are forbidden attachments," Bastila reminds him primly.
"We're not attached," he breathes out his response. "This isn't love. This is just a kiss. This is you giving me my memory back." Then, before Bastila can pull away again, Evan captures her mouth.
And, oh, kissing is nice. Very nice. Who knew a man’s lips could be so soft? And so persistent. Bastila has her hands against Evan’s chest now, but she’s not pushing back. In fact, she might be pulling him closer. Maybe. She’s not sure. It’s hard to think straight in the moment.
This is like playing with fire, Bastila knows. Because what happens when Evan remembers that he is Revan? What happens when he remembers more than just his career as the charismatic Crusader out to save the Republic? What will he do when he recalls that he is on the Dark Side as a conqueror in his own right? A man now at war with the Republic he saved and a sworn enemy of the Jedi Order? She’s a dead woman then, Bastila fears. Between the threat of Revan remembering and the risk of Malak finding her, Bastila is feeling uncharacteristically reckless. And so, she fully indulges her kissing curiosity. She might as well.
“Stop!" Finally, she tears her mouth away just as his hands creep up her torso to touch her— "S-Stop!” she wails just in time before he reaches her breasts.
"It's just a kiss," Evan soothes, looking smugly amused. He cocks his head at her curiously now. "You've never been kissed, have you?"
"Of course not." Flustered Bastila looks down and flushes. She is rattled as much by her reaction as by Evan’s action. What is she thinking?? This is madness. And with this guy of all guys?? She steps back now and raises a trembling hand to her lips. "Don't," she warns as she backs up further, "Don’t ever do that again.”
"You're afraid," he accuses softly. “You’re so afraid of me.”
“Yes.” There is no shame in fearing sin and safeguarding virtue. Bastila worried that this man might kill her or that his radical ideas might sway her to his cause. But she never thought to fear this. The threat is not that Evan will seduce her to the Dark Side, but that he will seduce her into bed. And that she might go willingly into disgrace and dishonor in the arms of a fugitive Dark Lord is humiliating. “Don’t you ever do that again,” Bastila growls emphatically once more for good measure.
Thoroughly flustered, Bastila now does what she always does—she flees the scene. “Page me when that droid is done,” she orders gruffly. “I’ve got work to do.” She glares coldly at Evan as she heads for the door in a huff.
But she never makes her big exit. Bastila stops in her tracks when the ship’s alarm siren abruptly starts blaring. It is loud and incessant. Instantly, that reckless kiss is forgotten. There are bigger things to worry about now. Bastila looks to Evan and they both race down the hall to the bridge.
The news is bad. Very bad. Three enemy cruisers have just emerged from hyperspace in a triangular pattern to box them in. Already a squad of light fighters is pouring out of the lead ship, along with a small, heavily armored transport that surely must contain a boarding party. “It’s Malak,” the Captain confirms her worst fears. And sure enough, the trio of ships filling the bridge windows are repurposed Republic warships painted with the distinctive red and black stripe of the Revan-Malak Sith Empire that currently controls a third of the galaxy.
“Jump!” Bastila orders the Captain. “Jump us anywhere! Now!”
“Too late,” Evan assesses as their cruiser rocks from a barrage of laserfire. “It’s an ambush. And a good one. That ship placement is textbook. We’re going to have to fight.”
Bastila stares out the bridge windows and mutters, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Yeah, me too,” Evan agrees under his breath. “Captain,” he turns to the commanding officer. Evan Chist might be wearing the uniform of a Private, but he automatically and unconsciously takes charge of the situation. And the ship’s captain—who has no idea who Evan is, only that he is a very important passenger—defers to his leadership without question. “Defend the engines. They will disable the ship first before they board. Their first move is always the engines,” Evan advises tersely, not bothering to explain how he knows this. “Get troopers here to secure the bridge. The boarding party will head first to the bridge. Have your sidearm handy, Captain. You’re gonna need it.”
Another blast buffets the ship as an alarmed officer announces that the aft shield is only thirty percent and falling. Correctly reading the Captain’s widening eyes for deep concern, Bastila now decides that it is time for flight, not fight. “Can we get him launched in a fighter?” she asks the Captain of Evan. “We need to get him off this ship. He cannot fall into Sith hands.”
“Negative,” the Captain replies. “We’re scrambling all our fighters as we speak. There will be none left by the time you make it to the hangar bay.”
“Any other options?” anxious Bastila frowns.
“You could get in an escape pod,” the Captain improvises. “We’re in the Taris system. You’re probably close enough to land without assistance.”
“Good plan,” Bastila decides. “Come on,” she orders to Evan. “There’s no time to lose. We have to get you off this ship.”
“Why?” Evan balks and stands his ground. “Come clean, Basty. Why me? What’s really going on?”
This isn’t the time for a full confession. She gets right to the point. “You are the key to remembering where the Star Forge is. Malak is here to finish the job of killing you. And if you die, then the Republic will never be able to locate that factory. It will only be a matter of time before Malak controls the whole galaxy.” Glaring hard at Evan, Bastila orders, “Come!”
As they start for the bridge level escape pods, the cruiser rocks again. Then its lights blink and the low hum of its engines suddenly goes silent. Evan swears. “They’ve got us. They’ll be boarding soon. We’ve got five minutes tops.”
Sure enough, they now hear the whine of a cutting tool close by. The Sith boarding party is slicing through the cruiser’s hull to make a point of entry. It won’t be long before there will be enemy troopers onboard the ship.
“Come on!” Bastila urges. There’s no time to lose.
Around the corner are the six bridge level escape pods. Four are the large variety with life support to sustain twelve occupants. Bastila skips those and heads for the smaller version designed for a maximum of three people. She starts slapping at the control switches to activate and open a pod. Even the smaller pods require a minute or two to charge up before launch.
Bastila now whirls to find Evan down the hall investigating the cutting noise. Stressed and annoyed, she hollers, “What are you doing? Get over here and get in the pod!”
He nods and heads her direction. Satisfied, Bastila takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and attempts to clear her head. She needs to find the Force so she can help. Blocking out the chaos of the space battle around them, the frantic minds of the officers on the bridge nearby, and the imminent threat of the boarding party, Bastila sinks into a Force trance. She folds her feet beneath her and drops to the floor in the classic Jedi mediation pose. Stretching out her feelings, calling to the awesome energy field that binds the universe together, Bastila now attempts to guide it to aide the Light. For the Force might control your actions from time to time, but it also obeys your commands. And today, Bastila needs the Force to cooperate.
“What are you doing?” Evan is confused. “Aren’t you coming??”
No, she’s not. His role is to survive to remember. Her role is to make certain that survival takes place. This makes twice that she has saved him, Bastila understands. Insight flashes up to her courtesy of the Force. This must her role in Revan’s journey, she realizes. She protects the protector of the Republic.
“Launch the pod,” Bastila instructs calmly, her eyes still closed. “It’s the big red button on the control panel. Leave me behind. I’ll be fine.”
“What?? No! Get in! What the Hell are you doing??” he demands.
“It will help. This will slow their boarding party down some. And it might confuse their gunners enough to let your pod slip by. Now launch and stop distracting me!” Bastila snaps.
“Can’t you do that from inside the pod?”
No, not effectively. A battle trance requires Bastila to be in the moment, sensing the chaos of combat, the adrenaline and fear of the troopers, the life and death struggle of war that surrounds them. Connecting it all is the Force and she is connected to the Force. That’s how Bastila manipulates the psyches of the combatants. Confusing and demoralizing the enemy while she sharpens the senses of their defenders and bolsters their determination. Battle meditation requires deep focus and it drains her. There’s no way she could do this hurtling away in space in an escape pod.
Evan shakes his head and digs in. “I'm not leaving you. You are one person who can tell me the truth. I’m not letting you die here so I’m stuck an amnesiac forever. So, get in!”
It’s an argument now, and that’s keeping Bastila from implementing her meditation fully. And that’s not good. It’s a lose-lose situation if she can’t help Evan and he won’t go. So, she hisses “Launch!” as firmly as she can. “Evan, he'll kill you! Malak was the one who injured you. He fired on the bridge of your ship. He's back to kill you!”
That argument holds no weight with Evan. “You’re wrong. He’s my brother. The Sith troopers might shoot me because I’m wearing this uniform but there’s no danger from Malak himself.” Evan sounds completely confident of this assessment.
Bastila starts panicking now. “Go! Stop wasting time! You have the knowledge of the Star Forge. You need to survive to remember so you can save the Republic—“
Evan’s eyes narrow as he deduces, “You don’t want me to meet him, do you? You’re afraid of what he will tell me! You’re protecting your secret!” he accuses.
It’s true. “I’m protecting you so you can protect the Republic!” Bastila retorts. “Darth Malak wants you dead! He’s not here to rescue you! He doesn’t want a reunion! He’s back to kill you.”
“He’s my brother!”
“Don’t be a fool! Get in that pod!”
“I want to see him!”
“But he’s going to kill you!” Bastila wails. Malak will kill them both. And now, the whining noise from cutting tools down the hall ceases. They both know what that means. “Oh, Gods—here they come!” Bastila throws Evan her gun from her holster. “Here! You might need this wherever you land.” Next, she tosses her comlink directly into the open escape pod. “Make contact with the Council as soon as you can. They will help you. May the Force be with you,” she reflexively blesses Evan with the ancient Jedi prayer.
Laserfire sounds from down the hall now. The Sith have breached the bridge. In seconds, they will be discovered. So, Bastila takes a deep breath and tosses Evan into the waiting escape pod with the Force. Then, she drops back into her battle meditation. She can hear the cruiser’s troops engaging the enemy. She concentrates harder now, determined to buy as much time as possible. But why won’t Evan launch that pod??
The problem with doing battle meditation on her own is that there’s no one to cover her. Bastila knows that she’ll be a sitting duck when Malak’s guys arrive. But she will do what she can for as long as she is able. If she cannot complete the Council’s mission to find the weapons factory, she will die trying. Sure enough, seconds later a pair of enemy troopers round the corner and she is spotted. “It’s her!” The men clearly know who they are looking for. “Hands up, Jedi!” they order.
But Bastila does not relent. She remains focused, eyes closed, on the floor in deep concentration.
“What is she doing?” The lead enemy trooper asks his colleague.
Those are his last words. Evan shoots both men dead from the pod’s doorway. Then he darts out to reach a hand down under Bastila’s arm. He yanks her roughly to her feet. “It’s too late for that,” he judges, decreeing her meditation ineffective and the battle lost. “Come on!”
Reinforcements for those first two Sith troopers appear immediately and open fire. Again, Evan takes them down with exquisite aim and reflexes unconsciously aided by the Force. He turns back to Bastila. “In the pod!” he orders in a tone that is pure Darth Revan.
With his back turned to the corridor that leads to the bridge, Evan doesn’t see the arrival of the Sith commander himself. But Bastila freezes at the dramatic sight of Darth Malak, Dark Lord of the Sith, marching forward with his red saber buzzing. Her concentration deserts her and the battle mediation fails. Just the feel of this guy in the Force is intimidating.
For a moment, she despairs. For herself, for Evan, for the Republic, for the Light. All feels lost in this moment of defeat.
This then is what remains of Evan’s sensitive, loyal boyhood friend Bastila had glimpsed in memories. Malak is simply enormous in person. Very tall and imposing with an armor enhanced physique that is nearly twice as wide as the average man. He’s almost a full head taller than Evan, she sees. The little brother completely dwarfs his smaller, slighter elder. Malak’s armor is red and his cape is black. But all Bastila sees is his damaged face. The baby-faced kid with the shock of dark hair is now bald, with bold blue-grey tattoo stripes on his skull and a mechanical collar that covers his lower face completely. Whatever injury that life support remediates, it must have been gruesome, Bastila surmises.
“Get in the pod,” she tells Evan quietly as she slips from his grip and lights her own sword. Following her steady gaze over his shoulder, Evan whirls. He comes face to face with his so-called brother.
“Squint,” Evan breathes out looking stunned.
"Revan,” Malak responds looking equally shocked.
Revan. That single word is a bombshell that explodes the fiction carefully crafted by the Jedi Council. With that name, all the lies are suddenly, irrevocably undone.
Bastila swallows hard.
“Revan,” Evan repeats softly. He’s blinking fast as he raises a hand to his temple and squints. Then his eyes find hers. His hard expression is both a question and an accusation.
Bastila nods. There’s no point in lying now.
Evan’s lips tighten. He looks to Malak with his lit red sword and then to her with her yellow saber buzzing. It’s a standoff between a Sith Lord and a Jedi Knight with Evan literally standing in the middle. “I guess the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he growls, looking between them both.
“Revan . . . Brother . . . You’re alive . . .” Malak looks like he is seeing a ghost. “C-Come,” he invites in a choking voice. It’s a strange sound. Tinny and mechanically amplified like a droid but laced with human emotion nonetheless. The voice is produced by a prosthetic jaw beneath his collar while none of the visible parts of Malak’s face move. The towering Dark Lord now reaches out a gauntleted hand in a gesture of welcome. “Join me. Come home.”
“No!” horrified Bastila interjects.
But Malak ignores her. He holds his brother’s gaze steadily. “Lord Revan, Darth Revan, son of Darkness, hero of the Sith, reclaim your place at my side as my equal in our joint Empire—“ Malak begins.
“No!” Bastila shouts him down again. “No! Don’t trust him! He’ll kill you! He wants to supplant you!”
“Whereas you lie to me,” Evan hisses back.
Bastila has no rejoinder to that truth. Rebuffed, she takes a step back, suddenly realizing that the worst outcome here is not that Malak kills Evan, but that Malak welcomes his brother back. “It wasn’t my idea. You know that,” Bastila defends in a low voice.
Evan searches her features. “How could you be complicit in this? Basty, your ruse was Dark . . . very Dark . . . I can’t believe this of you. You of all people . . . ”
“She is the enemy!” Malak roars as he stares her down and points with his sword. “Don’t believe the lies of the Jedi, Rev. We’re long past that.”
Bastila stays focused on Evan. “I saved you from him! Then the Council saved you from yourself!”
Evan doesn’t hear her. He is livid. Justifiably so, she admits to herself. “You led me to believe I was someone else!” he grinds out.
It’s true. But those lies were well intentioned. “It was so you would stay in the Light,” Bastila explains shrilly. “Darth Revan is dead, but you still live! We gave you a second chance!”
“Why should I trust you?” Evan demands hotly. “Tell me!”
“Because the Republic needs you. Whether you call yourself Dark or Light, the Republic needs you again,” she wails. “You know all the secrets and will remember them in time—“
“I know them now,” Evan informs her. He looks to Malak pointedly. “I remember. I remember everything.”
That ominous comment makes both the Jedi and the Sith in attendance blanche. For the past of the Jedi Revan who became Darth Revan who became Private Evan Chist is complicated at best. And both the Jedi and the Sith have betrayed him in their own way. So where do his loyalties lie now? It’s anyone’s guess.
The towering Dark Lord now responds, “You’re my brother. We were in this together all along. Join me,” he reups his offer. “Together we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy. Just like we planned.”
“Don’t trust him!” Bastila objects. “He will betray you again. He has enslaved entire systems to his cause. See what he has done to Lehon and Dxon and Korriban--”
“Lying Jedi bitch!” Malak accuses. “Rev, you know what she represents. The Council will stop at nothing if you go back to them. Don’t continue to be a pawn of the Jedi Order—“
“Don’t do this,” Bastila pleads with Evan. “Come back to the Light. Please . . . it is the only way. He’s a monster!”
“You said that about me once,” Evan growls back.
Malak takes umbrage at her name calling. In his mind, he is clearly the hero. The Sith doubles down on that point now. “I have brought peace, freedom, justice, and security to my new Empire. We can do the same for the Republic. Rev, we can make things the way we want them to be. They’ll be no one to stop us this time,” Malak proclaims.
“You went too far,” Evan rasps back at her. He’s mostly ignoring Malak. His attention is all for her. “You and the Order went too far.”
“You must choose,” Malak goads with that strangely inscrutable expression of his. Without his lower face showing, his face betrays little in the way of emotion. All Bastila sees is his intense eyes that seem unreadable.
Evan takes a long look at Malak. Then a long look at her. Malak is the Dark. She is the Light. Malak is Sith. She is Jedi.
“You must choose,” Bastila echoes her enemy’s sentiment.
But Evan, the erstwhile Darth Revan, does what he always does. He takes his own path. He eschews the orthodoxies of his day and rejects the binary choice he is presented. With a blur of Force speed that confirms that he has indeed remembered his past, Evan rushes headlong into the escape pod and launches it.
The move leaves quaking Bastila staring down Malak.
Her breath catches in her throat. Bastila suddenly realizes what is coming next. None of the other pods are primed, so there is no escape from this man. At least Evan is saved, even if it’s ambiguous whose side he is on. But maybe that was always the case with Revan—he never fully belonged to the Dark or the Light. He is the enigma that neither Force tradition can rightfully claim. But that is not the case with her. That foolishness with the kiss earlier and her impulse to run away the other night mean nothing. She is Bastila Shan, Jedi Padawan Learner of the Temple Dantooine, and she stands for the Light. And today, she will die for the Light. Paying the ultimate price for her faith and for the Republic as a selfless Jedi should.
“You were the one I sensed before. The one with the battle meditation,” Malak speaks first. He doesn’t sound angry, he sounds almost impressed.
Bastila doesn’t answer. She just drops into classic Jedi ready position.
“Yellow?” Malak raises an eyebrow at her sword from behind his half-mask. “Which Sentinel trade are you? Tell me you are a Temple guard so you at least know how to fight.”
“I’m a criminal investigator,” she answers softly. “I don’t fight with my sword for justice, I fight with the truth.” The Jedi have long disdained violence as a solution for conflicts, and Bastila lives that in her chosen vocation. You can be a hero for the Light and not fight physical battles. You can make a difference in your world with your values and your example. Wars don’t make one great, she knows. In fact, wars represent failure in most circumstances.
Malak is still looking her over with contempt. “You’re a Padawan still, I see. Are you the best they could send against me?”
“I wasn’t sent to kill you. I was sent to save him.” And while Evan might not see the distinction in saving what you love rather than killing what you hate, Bastila does. Compassion is the essence of a Jedi, she learned long ago.
Malak is twirling his sword now and pacing. It’s an intimidating sight. This man is a foot taller than her and he outweighs her by at least a hundred pounds. Seeing how outmatched she is, Bastila struggles to remain calm. She’s not fool enough to believe that her basic lightsaber skills are a match for this man. But she will do her best not to embarrass the Order. She will die with dignity.
“Battle meditation is a rare skill,” Malak observes with interest. “You must be an empath.”
“Y-Yes,” Bastila admits, wondering how soon they can get this over with. She hopes it will be a quick and painless death. It’s not that she fears becoming one with the Force, but that she would rather not suffer greatly on the way to that goal.
“He likes you. Rev likes you,” Malak decides, still considering her. “He was far more interested in you than in me,” the Sith Lord observes, sounding almost jealous and more than a little hurt.
“He left me,” Bastila reminds Malak, unsure where this is going.
“He left to do your bidding. To save his precious Republic. No woman will ever mean more to him than his duty. Haven’t you figured that out?”
Bastila issues an automatic denial: “I am a Jedi. We’re not together.” She frowns at Malak’s implication.
“I know my brother. I know what I saw,” Malak counters. “Yes . . . “ He looks well satisfied. “You’re exactly his type. A loyal do-gooder, too. He’ll come back for you, alright. And when he does, I will be waiting for him.” Darth Malak sounds triumphant. “The circle is now complete. Once, I was but the learner, but now I am the Master.”
Bastila says nothing to this. She cares nothing for the ‘kill and replace’ methods of the Sith.
“What is your name?” Malak demands. “Who are you?”
“I am the Force,” Bastila proudly proclaims, using the opening line of a common Jedi prayer. She continues the words to give herself courage: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows the Jedi will never walk in Darkness but will be the Light of the Force.”
Her pious cheekiness prompts a chuckle from her adversary. “I’m going to enjoy this,” Malak sneers. “Soon you are going to give me all the answers I want.” With those ominous words, he attacks.
END of PART ONE
More to come . . .