PROLOGUE - PERAGUS AND BEYOND
Three Years Ago (3956)
To say that you would die for a person was a strange thing. It was the type of sentiment that was frequently uttered but never meant to be taken literally. A promise that nobody ever intended to carry out.
But Meetra meant it with every fiber of her being when she swore to die for Revan and his beliefs at the beginning of the Mandalorian War, back when their motives were still naïve and untainted by the horrors of what was to come. Yet, she made the same promise moments before she received her final orders while overlooking Malachor V, a planet that she fully expected to become her grave. In many ways it did.
Even though Meetra was willing to die for Revan, she ultimately lived long enough to become a ghost. He was the hero who defeated Mandalore the Ultimate in single combat. She was the secret soldier who won the rest of the war, only for her face and name to be buried amongst classified documents that even the best slicers failed to crack. But that was alright, she never went to war to become a luminary. She only went to save innocent lives and to help Revan craft his dreams for the Republic into a reality.
Unlike everyone else, Meetra always recognized that the hero of the Republic was mortal and fallible, capable of being wrong and made of flesh that could bleed and break. And yet, she was more surprised than anyone when he died, shot down over some unimportant planet along the Outer Rim. Part of her soul may have died at Malachor but the rest of it perished a year later, the moment that she learned Revan was dead.
And what was she now? According to the Republic she was still a ghost, the woman who won the war in such an unspeakable way that her existence had to be purged from public records. Within the Force she was nothing more than a lifeless wound in time and space. She had died for Revan, and because of him, all while somehow outliving him.
Except that he wasn't dead. He was alive.
Meetra was sitting in a dingy little Cantina on Rattatak when she learned that Revan somehow survived the crash that supposedly claimed his life three years prior. At the time none of the other patrons were paying much attention to the grainy holonet stream, all of the news a few months out of date and the images hard to discern through the static. So, nobody realized what made her drop the glass in her hand, spilling the contents across the battered durasteel table as a scream caught in her throat. She doubted that anyone even noticed she was upset.
Covering her mouth she bit back a sob, nobody else in the cantina aware that her reality was crumbling apart as her hands shook uncontrollably and her heart pounded in her chest. When her exile started, a self-imposed sentence because the Jedi Council didn't have the power to do anything more than turn their backs on a murderer who hadn't truly been part of their Order in years, Revan and Alek (never Malak, never the creature with black-veined skin and dead gray eyes) were still recognizable. While the war had changed them, bringing out a darkness that was frightening and awe-inspiring, her heart still knew them.
One year later, Revan was dead. Two years later, Alek had gone from hero to conqueror.
But now Meetra was staring at the blurry image of a dead man, the footage obviously new based on the buildings that graced Coruscant's constantly-changing skyline. Even with his face obscured by his mask, Revan was recognizable by the cadence of his voice, which was unchanged by time and the distorted holo-feed. Even more familiar was the set of his shoulders and the way that he moved his hands, small gestures that most wouldn't notice but that she couldn't stop watching. Despite his hidden countenance, she could read his mood in every motion that he made, his nervousness revealed by the constant twitch of his fingers and his uncertainty obvious in the tilt of his head.
Meetra felt impossibly numb, as though her entire being was frozen solid and unable to function. Yet, her lungs kept breathing and her heart continued beating, sharply contrasting the void where her thoughts should be. But then, that was how she'd been existing for the past four years, with part of her soul dead and buried amongst the ruins of Malachor even as her body continued to drag itself between the planets that sat at the edges of known space. She kept living despite everything that she had lost, and one of her greatest losses had always been Revan.
But now he was alive again and her mind still couldn't process seeing him so talkative and vibrant on the static-y screen.
Time passed and Meetra watched as her spilled drink (it was juice and not liquor because she didn't trust herself to consume alcohol in places where smiles were as common as vibroknives to the back) slowly dripped into a sticky pool on the floor. Nobody noticed. Eventually, the tearless sobs that wracked her chest dwindled to watery hiccups and her heartbeat slowed to a less frantic thud between her ribs. Only when her hands stopped shaking did she get to her feet and slide a few credits to the bartender before slinking out of the cantina, all without realizing that she was even moving. The return to her rented room was uneventful and the galaxy left her alone as she slipped under the rough blankets with her boots still on. The tears came hours later, when her mind finally caught up to her body.
The next morning Meetra wiped her eyes, packed her few belongings, and arranged work in return for passage to anywhere else. Preferably closer to Wild Space or the Unknown Region. Revan may be alive again, but she still felt dead inside.
It all started on Telos.
Actually, if Meetra really sat and thought about it, everything started at a small refueling station on Thalassia where she was approached by an old woman traveling in a battered freighter piloted by an astromech droid. The woman's name was Kreia and she claimed that their meeting was the will of the Force. Despite being nearly blinded by cataracts, her eyes saw the truth that lay in Meetra's soul, looking past the faded spacer clothing and her simple, sandy-blonde braid.
"I know who you are, Meetra Surik."
Kreia smiled secretively. "Some call you the Jedi Exile, though you haven't been a Jedi in a long time. Others call you the woman who won the war."
Clenching her jaw at the mention of her past Meetra wondered, "And what do you call me?"
"A void in the Force that contains endless potential."
"I haven't felt the Force in years."
"Because you cut yourself off. Or perhaps Malachor cut you off. It doesn't matter." Kreia folded her hands into the sleeves of her cloak. "What matters is that you are reawakening. Surely you've felt it."
Meetra didn't respond, which she knew was damning in its own way. Yes, she had felt it. The first time was a month ago while sitting alone by the seaside on Serenno, surrounded by opulence that she didn't notice because she was too busy reading the datapad in her hand and trying to ignore the buzzing that gnawed at the back of her consciousness.
The satisfaction that settled on Kreia's weathered features was knowing without being smug. "Even if you're not ready to admit it, the Force is returning to you. And that is why you are returning to the Republic."
"I don't know where I'm going yet." Meetra honestly didn't know, but she was still fairly certain the old woman would eventually be proven correct.
"Whether or not you realize it, you're allowing the Force to guide you. It is a small step, but an important one." Inclining her head towards a freighter that had seen better days but that still seemed too nice for someone who dressed like an ascetic, Kreia added, "Either way, you need transport and I've recently come into possession of a vessel that can provide exactly that."
There were a thousand more questions that Meetra should have asked. Who was Kreia, beyond a disciple of the Force? How had she acquired her ship, the Ebon Hawk? Why did she think that someone who hadn't felt the Force in seven years could be a source of endless potential? But in the end, Meetra didn't ask any of those things because the older woman seemed the type to respond in riddles rather than duracrete answers, and she wasn't prepared to handle that type of frustration. She ultimately decided to go with Kreia because it was the choice that she would have made seven years ago, back when she felt like a living part of the galaxy and not a wound in time and space.
Two days into the journey the Ebon Hawk found itself in the shadow of a Hammerhead-class cruiser bearing the call sign Harbinger. Despite its immense size, the ship exuded an aura of cold, gaping emptiness like nothing Meetra had ever experienced. She and T3-M4, the little astromech that Kreia used to do just about everything aboard the freighter, tried to hail the approaching ship but received no response.
Instead, the Hammerhead-class opened fire.
"Try to get us into hyperspace, Tee-Three!" Meetra was sitting in the pilot's seat despite not being much of a pilot. "I'll see if I can get us around those cannons while the engine warms up."
"Boo-beep-boop-whoop!" The droid was more than happy to try and outrun the Harbinger, but he also knew that despite its modified engines, the Ebon Hawk was no match for a Republic warship.
"Well, try anyway!" Jerking the ship's controls to the side, Meetra banked the Hawk into a hard left as the red flare of cannon fire went whizzing past the viewport. Biting her lip, she sucked in a breath as she forced the freighter into a desperate dive to avoid the accompanying turbolasers.
T3-M4 screeched as he rolled across the cockpit. "Bee-beep-boop! Whoop-beep!"
"Then you drive!"
The entire ship rocked as one of the cannons managed to blast past the shielding, causing warning lights and alarms to fill the cockpit with a cacophony of color and sound. The damage reports scrolled down multiple monitors, but Meetra was too preoccupied to check. Instead, she switched off the nearest readout and then shifted power between the engines so that she could steer the Hawk into a sharp right, bringing it directly beneath the Harbinger just as the various armaments began to glow once more.
"Well, does the hyperdrive still work?"
Meetra heaved a sigh of relief as the freighter continued to speed along the bottom of the Hammerhead-class before shooting past its bow and into open space. "Then punch it!"
A moment later the stars elongated into broad streaks of white as the Ebon Hawk lurched into hyperspace, the engines sputtering dangerously as warnings continued to blare. Several of the readouts reported power malfunctions throughout the ship and a severe leak in the fuel line. As a result, the fuel was running dangerously low. Another monitor blinked ominously as it cautioned that all of the ship's star charts had been wiped by the previous owner, something that was only remedied after T3-M3 plugged himself into the navigation system and manually plotted a route using his astrogation software. Meetra said a silent prayer to the Force that he was properly calibrated for this sector.
As T3-M4 was setting a course for the Peragus Mining Facility, all while politely beeping that it was a reliable location for fuel and repairs, a hooded figure appeared in the doorway. It seemed that the crisis had roused Kreia from her meditation in the crew quarters.
"I'm… I'm so sorry about that." Meetra's knuckles were still white around the Hawk's controls. "That was a Republic ship, but something was wrong with it. We tried to hail it, but…"
"That ship wasn't controlled by the Republic. Not anymore."
Sitting back in her seat, Meetra peered at the older woman. "How do you know?"
"You must have felt it as well. The overwhelming touch of the dark side." Kreia bowed her head beneath her hood. "I know because that ship was commanded by a former student."
"…Your former student is touched by the dark side?"
"Not merely touched. He is one with the darkness, held together by his anger and rage. He calls himself Sion."
Meetra arched a brow. "That sounds like a Sith name."
"It does, doesn't it?" Somehow, it was unsurprising that Kreia didn't seem particularly ashamed by this fact.
"Forgive me if this doesn't sound like a vote of confidence, but is your former student… A Sith?"
"Hmm, yes. He is. Much like your former friend Malak."
Clenching her jaw, Meetra merely nodded for lack of a better response, wanting to say something more but also mildly terrified of what might come out of her mouth. What Kreia said was completely true, which somehow made it worse. Malak, the stranger that he was, had fallen and was now the prisoner of the same Republic that Alek had sworn his life to protect. She still wasn't sure if Revan had been merciful or cruel in letting him live.
Stuck on that thought, Meetra sat awkwardly in the pilot's seat as she steered the Hawk through the blue and white tunnel of hyperspace, only paying marginal attention as Kreia strolled about and checked the ship's readings. She knew that most sentients loathed the tedium of faster-than-light travel but she never minded it, finding that the blankness soothed her mind. In this case, watching the streaks of light and shadow helped her to banish the last of her fugue, bringing her back to reality just in time to overhear an inane argument between Kreia and T3-M4. It seemed that despite depending on the droid to run almost every function on the ship, the older woman didn't trust his decision-making skills.
Meetra let them bicker, not stepping back from the controls until the Ebon Hawk limped back into realspace just outside of Peragus II's orbit. Their appearance caused the security team to flood the ship's comm unit with harried questions, all of which Kreia brushed aside with a snort as she muttered, "Fools." Luckily, T3-M4 managed to explain enough of the situation to acquire permission to land in their maintenance hangar.
The deal they struck was simple – Kreia would pay for half of the necessary repairs while Meetra would work off the other half doing basic maintenance throughout the mine. It was the type of agreement that had enabled her to keep moving for the past seven years, and she had acquired some decent repair skills in the process. There was nothing unusual about their arrangement and the pair shouldn't have attracted much extra attention.
But despite looking the part of a spacer who regularly traded labor for basic necessities, Meetra knew that she had some habits that occasionally unsettled others. For one thing, she tended to meditate when she performed repetitive tasks, losing track of her surroundings even though her hands kept working on with whatever job she'd been assigned. Sometimes she found herself giving others softly worded advice about patience or serenity, things that she hadn't believed in for years but that she still recited out of ingrained habit. And on very rare occasions she'd reach for a tool only to try and summon it with the Force, her hand hovering in the air for just for a moment longer than anyone would consider normal. While the technique never worked, the muscle memory was hard to ignore.
But during one of her shifts in Peragus's maintenance bay, it did work. A small wrench not even the size of her palm lifted from the table and flew to Meetra's fingertips before she even realized that she had called it. Nobody saw, at least from what she could tell, but she knew that there were security cameras all over the mine and that the administrators checked the feeds daily in search of rule breakers amongst the rough-and-tumble crews.
"Don't apologize for what comes naturally to you," Kreia scolded that night when Meetra lamented her mistake. "Others fear what they do not understand because it is easier for their minds to live in ignorance. But you are so much more than them, and they need not worry you."
But Meetra did worry, especially when the inevitable inquiries started.
"That's some scar you have there," a mechanic commented, pointing to the old blaster wound revealed when Meetra rolled up her sleeves.
"I was in the war." Honesty seemed like the best policy for now.
No more questions came until lunch when one of the miners sat just a little too close, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "I heard you served in the war. So did my sister. What unit?"
"I was moved a few times, but I mostly served with the Fifty-First and the Seven-Twelve." Meetra chuckled at the surprised look that passed over the man's face. "I saw a lot of action."
"The Seven-Twelve… They were on Dxun, weren't they?"
"That moon is quite a jungle."
It wasn't until the next evening that the foreman for Meetra's shift finally asked the question that everyone was clearly wondering. "Were you… One of them?"
"One of what?" She already knew the answer, but she was unwilling to say it first.
"Does it matter?"
"After Malak? After half of the damn Order went crazy and started killing civilians for their so-called Supreme Commander? After so many of 'em got away and are still on the run?" The foreman leveled his gaze, his eyes rimmed with red from lack of sleep. "Yeah. It matters."
"I wasn't part of that."
"I bet that's what all of you say." It sounded like the foreman had already made up his mind.
Meetra met the man's eyes with the durasteel of a soldier who had seen death and made enough hard decisions to last two lifetimes. "I left the Order after Malachor. Before Revan died and everything changed."
"And how do I know you're telling the truth?"
Blinking once, Meetra shrugged. "You don't."
The foreman's hand twitched towards the stun baton at his hip, his finger obviously itching to grab it even as he plastered a thin smile on his face. "Look, we don't want or need any trouble around here. So how about you come with me to the security station and we can talk all of this out. I don't want there to be any, you know… Misunderstandings."
This entire trip suddenly seemed like one huge misunderstanding to Meetra and she mentally ran through her options as her own fingers ached for the lightsaber that she had surrendered to the Council seven years prior. Even unarmed she was probably a more proficient fighter than the foreman and she could definitely disarm him without too much trouble. But that wouldn't do much to convince him that she wasn't a threat. She could also offer to pay whatever credits were owed, take the ship, and leave Peragus. But to the best of her knowledge, the Ebon Hawk was still damaged and they wouldn't get very far with a leaking fuel line and a faulty engine. No, the best option was to play nice and try to negotiate some type of temporary peace. She was pretty sure that she still remembered how to do that.
And if all else failed, Meetra could always disarm the foreman and knock him unconscious with his own damned baton.
"Sure, let's go." She ignored the surprised expression that flitted over the man's features. "Let's sit down and talk this out. I don't have anything to hide."
Obviously expecting at least some resistance, the Foreman sputtered as he nodded in agreement and quickly pointed towards the hallway, gesturing for Meetra to follow him. "Well uh, thank you for being reasonable about this. With so many of Malak's followers still at large, we can't be too careful. I'm just going to run your info through one of the Republic's databases and if it all checks out you can keep on doing work for us." Clearly filling the time with nervous chatter, he added, "You've done good work so far just so you know."
Meetra wondered if she should mention that her name was most likely still listed as one of Alek and Revan's most loyal followers. Probably not. As she walked she watched the foreman and tried to determine if he'd treat her differently once he learned that she was the one who ended the war. That Malachor was her doing. Would he thank her? Condemn her? Or would he simply ask the question that everyone always wanted to know, "Do you regret it?"
The pair marched into the security station in awkward silence, their boots shuffling uncomfortably against the scuffed floor. "Have a seat," the foreman offered, gesturing to a rickety chair that sat in front of the room's computer console. "This will only take a few minutes and…"
The rest of his words were muffled by a loud boom that sounded far too close for comfort, especially considering the explosive nature of Peragus's fuel. A second, more violent explosion reverberated through the building, vibrating the floor and making the thick walls shake with enough force to rattle the monitors. Meetra sucked in a breath as she crouched down defensively, a chill slowly creeping down to the base of her spine.
"What the hells was that?!" A klaxon of warnings was already blaring through the facility, alerts flashing on several screens. The foreman's commlink only added to the noise as multiple administrators tried to contact him simultaneously.
"Something bad," Meetra cautioned as a cold wave of dark energy sucked the breath from her lungs.
"It sure kriffing is! Can you just stay here while I… handle this?" the foreman stuttered, his expression verging on panic as he raced to the door.
"Sure. But if this is as bad as it seems, I would start evacuating this facility before things get any worse."
With a dismissive wave, the foreman dashed into the main hallway, frantically shouting obscenities into his comm that were answered with an equal amount of colorful language. The alarms continued to flash, shades of red and yellow illuminating the security office as the various monitors displayed multiple views of the miners evacuating critical areas, the doors sealing behind them in an effort to keep the fuel far away from any fires. Meetra peered at the screens, tentatively reaching for the controls and shifting through the camera feeds until she found one focused on the outside of the facility.
The Harbinger was there, taking up almost the entire image.
"Hey, uh, if this whole place is about to go up in flames, would you mind maybe letting me out of here?"
Whirling around, Meetra touched her hip to retrieve a weapon that she wasn't carrying, silently cursing herself for not noticing that there was someone else in the room. But it was easy to see how she'd missed the man, his form obscured by the shimmering blue walls of the force cage furthest from the door. She frowned.
"This might not be the right question, but why are you in there in the first place?"
The man sighed. "I was put in here earlier today for a security violation. It was nothing, really." He pointed to the monitor. "And if that ship is the cause of the explosion I just felt, I'm betting that my minor infractions are going to be the least of your problems. Now, are you going to let me out or what?"
Whoever the man was, he was currently trapped in what was probably a doomed building and Meetra didn't take the time to consider the wisdom of her actions as she quickly selected the command to power down the cage. "So, what's your name?"
"Aren't you going to ask mine?"
"Nah, I'm just enjoying the moment." Smiling coyly, Atton smoothly added, "It's not often that a beautiful woman comes along and rescues a guy like me, you know?"
"That's a terrible line."
Atton laughed, his dark eyes shining with mirth. "Hey, I just got out of prison! Can you blame a guy for trying?"
"Yes. And my name's Meetra, by the way." She chuckled despite herself, taking a moment to really study the man she just rescued. He didn't look as rough as a lot of the miners, but like herself, he could have been doing any number of odd jobs around the facility to earn some credits. Either way, there was a certain undeniable handsomeness and charm about him. He was probably trouble.
"Well Meetra, it's a pleasure."
"Good to meet you, Atton." Ducking her head, she quickly strode across the room towards the door. "Now if you'll excuse me, I should be going…"
Of course, trouble followed. "Getting away from the warship firing on a facility that mines highly explosive fuel? Good idea. Mind if I come with you?"
"Look, even if this place doesn't explode in the next few minutes I'm pretty sure that my time here is done." A hint of desperation colored Atton's words. "I'm a good pilot and an excellent shot, so if you have a way off of this death-trap I'm ready to earn my keep."
Meetra paused halfway down the hall. "You're a pilot?"
"That's what I said."
With a sigh, Meetra gestured for Atton to follow her as she turned towards the maintenance bay. "Alright, fine. If you can fly us out of this place, we'll drop you off at wherever we end up."
"Yes, we. Me and… Kreia." The name caught in Meetra's throat as pain shot through her body, bringing a sense of panic so urgent that it nearly doubled her in half.
Atton rushed to her side. "Whoa, shit! Are you okay?"
"No… I mean, yes. I am. But Kreia's in trouble." Still struggling to push past the sensation, Meetra continued her march to the area where the Hawk was docked. "Don't ask me how I know. Just hurry!"
To his credit, Atton didn't ask a thing as the pair raced down the last few meters of the hallway and through the large set of double doors that lead to the maintenance sector of the facility. Meetra was thankful for his silence, mostly because she didn't know why she was so sure that Kreia was the source of her discomfort. Obviously, she realized that the pain coursing through her system wasn't from any external stimuli that she was currently experiencing. But the Force made it possible for a user to empathetically experience sensations from the individuals around them, and in a facility currently under attack, potential sources of pain were nearly endless. But somehow, she was absolutely certain that it was Kreia who was in trouble.
'It is the Force. It has linked us, bonded us together. And it will only get stronger with time.' As the thought drifted through Meetra's mind it was Kreia's voice that spoke the words.
Shaking her head to clear it, Meetra urged Atton to run faster as they sped through the depot where the spare mining droids and other smaller gear was stored before rounding a corner and bursting through a second set of doors. These lead into the large hangar where shuttles and other vehicles were repaired, the Ebon Hawk sitting proudly amidst a clutter of refueling lines and spare ship parts.
A few meters away from the freighter's landing ramp lay Kreia, who was currently being threatened by a hulking figure wielding a glowing red blade. He was a man in the general sense of the word, though his body was a cracked and bloodied landscape of pain that no mere Human could ever survive. Something about his scarred form reminded Meetra of Malachor, or at least its appearance after the Mass Shadow Generator.
"I don't think you can help her," Atton argued, grabbing Meetra by the arm and dragging her towards the ship. "And if that's your ride, we better go!"
"We can't leave her!"
Atton sighed, still pulling Meetra forward. "Then get in the damn ship and man the turrets, 'cause I don't think your fists are going to do much good against that guy!"
"My old master, I've finally found you…" Sion taunted Kreia as Meetra was tugged inside of the Ebon Hawk.
The hum of a lightsaber was a painfully familiar sound, even when muffled by the walls of the freighter. Less familiar was the burning, searing pain that shot through Meetra's left wrist as she sprinted towards the weapons system. Falling to one knee she let out a cry, crawling across the floor as she cradled her arm against her body. It took twice her as long as it should have to reach the turrets. As she climbed into the seat the pain finally began to ebb, her mind clearing as the empathic sensations sent through the Force bond temporarily faded away. Gritting her teeth she grasped the controls, lined up her shot, and then fired.
Sion's scream was animalistic as he was battered by cannon fire, the red streaks of light and heat carving into his broken body and smashing him to the floor. It would have ended a lesser creature, but it only took seconds for him to rise again with a howl that sent a wave of frigid terror through Meetra's body. Still brandishing his lightsaber, Scion ignited the bright red blade and began to deflect the rest of the shots aimed at him. But the distraction was enough. Faster than a woman her age should have been able to move, Kreia leaped up and dashed to the Hawk's ramp, ascending it with a grunt as she staggered aboard just as the engines began to roar.
"All right, we're out of here!" Atton's voice announced as the ramp lifted, the Hawk hovering in the air for an instant before shooting out of the automatic doors of Peragus's repair hangar and into the blackness of space.
Sliding out of the turret seat, Meetra sprinted towards the ship's entrance to check on Kreia. She was expecting the older woman to be splayed across the floor in agony, battered and bruised as her blood stained the metal grate. Instead, she found someone who was standing tall despite a now-missing left hand, shoulders back and chin up as she surveyed the ship.
"Kreia, your hand!"
Looking down at the burnt stump as though only realizing what was missing, the older woman shook her head. "A trifling wound for one like myself. It will heal."
"At least come into the medical bay with me so that I can bandage it."
Ignoring the offer, Kreia marched towards the cockpit. "It seems that you've filled this ship's empty seat with a fool."
"He's a pilot," Meetra corrected.
"Ladies," Atton greeted as the pair appeared behind him. "Sorry for the abrupt take-off, but we really need to get into hyperspace before that warship decides to either chase us or open fire again. 'Cause those asteroids all around us? They're full of highly explosive fuel."
Meetra could already see the Harbinger's turbolasers igniting up as the Hammerhead-class banked right to face them. Luckily, Atton actually was a good pilot and he easily took evasive maneuvers, guiding the freighter into a smooth climb upward that brought it out of the larger ship's direct range.
"And we're getting out of here in three, two…"
Just as the white streaks of hyperspace washed over the Ebon Hawk's viewport, Meetra heard the shattering boom of a huge chain of explosions, all of it joined by another overwhelming wave of cold power. She sucked in a breath, not needing to check the monitors to know that the Peragus Mining Facility had just been destroyed by a Sith.
"So, why does this Lieutenant Grenn want to talk to us, anyway?"
Meetra shrugged at Atton's question as the pair quickly made their way through Citadel Station's bustling walkways. "Maybe he has questions about Peragus. After all, that's the last location that was in the Ebon Hawk's navigation system."
"That little trashcan ratted us out!"
"Who, Tee-Three?" Shaking her head, Meetra chuckled at her companion's inordinate distrust of droids. "I doubt it. Whoever's doing the repairs on the ship probably noticed the location and date, and put things together."
The Ebon Hawk and her crew had been on Telos for almost a week now, the ship docked in a less-than-reputable hangar as the Humans tried to lay low and avoid any mention of Peragus's destruction. So far it had worked, though it seemed like their luck had run out. While getting repairs done on the black market was cheap, it seemed that they couldn't trust the mechanics who did the work.
"Well, shit." Atton sighed and threw his head back in frustration. "I'm not looking to get thrown in jail again."
"If this lieutenant asks about Peragus, we can tell him the truth. None of us had anything to do with the explosion… Or the resulting deaths."
By now the pair had reached the Telos Security Force office. They were alone since Kreia elected to stay in their room and wait for a call if there was any trouble. Meetra suspected that the loss of her hand was affecting the older woman more than she'd admit.
Pausing outside of the main office doors, Meetra drew a slow breath as she smoothed her hands over her hair to brush a few errant strands out of her face. "Alright, let's go speak with Grenn."
"Don't worry, you look amazing as always," Atton assured her. He had a way of throwing flirty little comments into nearly all of their conversations, always joined by a sweet half-smile to remind everyone that he wasn't joking. Combined with those big, dark eyes it was dangerously effective.
Snorting off the compliment but grinning all the same, Meetra strolled calmly into the TSF office even as her heart hammered frantically in her chest. She expected to be questioned, perhaps even detained and interrogated by whoever was at the front desk. What she didn't expect was to be ushered towards Grenn's private office without so much as a fingerprint scan.
When they reached the door, they could hear two men arguing.
"I'm sorry it wasn't him. But you told me to alert you if the Ebon Hawk showed up on my radar, and that's what I did."
There was a heavy sigh and then, "It's fine Dol. I appreciate all of your help, I really do. I just… I can't help it if I'm a little disappointed."
"Look, I know you don't want to talk about it, but I'm here if you need an ear."
Meetra frowned as she peeked into the room, spotting an older man in a Telosian uniform who must be the lieutenant. However, the second figure was a mystery to her. He was wearing civilian clothing but there was something distinctly military about his stance, even as his shoulders hunched beneath his worn jacket and a few locks of brown hair fell carelessly over his eyes. If she stared long enough there was something vaguely familiar about him, perhaps in the broad set of his build or his scruff of facial hair.
Not wanting to eavesdrop any longer, Meetra knocked loudly on the doorframe as she cleared her throat, instantly causing both men to look up in alarm.
"Yes, what? Can I help you?" Grenn demanded.
Rolling his eyes, Atton shot back, "How should I know? You're the one who called us here."
That got both men's attention.
"Oh, um. My apologies." Dusting invisible specks off his uniform, Grenn straightened. "Are you General Surik and Mister uh… Mister Rand?"
The former general winced at the title. "Please just call me Meetra. I have to admit, we're both a bit confused about why we're here."
"Well then come in and let me explain. And close the door!" As the pair did what was requested, Grenn nodded to the stranger standing beside him. "Carth, these are two of the people who came in with the ship you're looking for. The Ebon Hawk?"
The stranger, Carth apparently, didn't seem to hear. He was too busy staring at Meetra, a mixture of wonder and sorrow painted across his features as he desperately searched for something to say. "General Meetra Surik? Of the Revanchists?"
Atton bristled. "She just told you to call her Meetra."
"I… I'm sorry. I just didn't expect…" Carth shook his head, unrestrained sadness still radiating off of him. "I apologize. I'm…"
"Meetra, Rand? This is Captain Carth Onasi with the Republic Navy." Grenn said the title like it carried all of the weight in the galaxy.
"No! I mean yes, that is who I am. But that's not why I'm here."
"Then why are you here, Captain Onasi?" Meetra wondered aloud.
"Just Carth." Shaking his head, the captain drew a shaky breath. "And I'm here about your ship, the Hawk. Can I… Can you take me to see it? Please?"
There was something so pained and raw about the man, his voice nearly cracking as he made his odd request, that Meetra found herself nodding despite Atton's immediate protests.
Maybe it really did start on Telos, the day that Meetra Surik met Carth Onasi.