When I came to, my whole body ached, the deep wound in my gut burning as if the lightsaber were still there. But someone had healed me. I could still feel the faint cooling tingle of kolto, though I wasn't in a tank – I was lying down on a very soft infirmary bed. I tried to sit up, but found I couldn't move – my body was restrained, tied down to the bed, and my arm prickled where IV needles broke the skin.
Had someone rescued me from Revan's flagship after all? I thought I was lost...
My eyes fluttered open to see an array of medical gear above me, with bright blinking lights and readouts I had no hope of deciphering. And then I realized there was someone standing above me, hiding in the shadows between the gadgets, and I flinched.
She was a girl still, probably a little younger than me – an untidy mop of pure white curls framed sparkling blue eyes, a cute little snub nose, and ink-black skin. She wore simple robes – black, but not ostentatious like Sith robes. Instead, they were soft and tight-looking, not even leather or heavy wool like most Jedi robes, but something lighter, maybe cotton. They weren't a fighter's robes – they were a healer's, even though two lightsabers hung at her belt.
And if she was a healer, then I had been rescued. I was safe.
"You're awake," she said, a slight smile on her face. "Good to see you up, Bastila. When I brought you in, the doctors said you wouldn't wake up for weeks, maybe ever, but I knew they were wrong. They don't know the power of the Force."
"W-where am I?" I asked. "Dantooine? A Republic ship? And... how long have I been out?"
"You've been out for two days, most of it spent in a kolto tank," she said. Her voice was remarkably calm. She had a very distinct accent – probably a noble one, going by the precise diction, but definitely not Alderaan or Coruscant standard. I kind of liked it, actually. "You're in the medical bay of the Imperial flagship Infinite."
"Then we need to get out of here! I-if Revan finds us... we have to go!"
Her eyes widened with surprise, and she tilted her head, thinking for a moment. "Well, you are on Revan's flagship," she said slowly. "She's rarely far away." I flinched, finally realizing that she was a Sith, and she smirked, her eyes sparkling. "What, you thought I was a Jedi? Nope! Sorry, Bastila. So, what do you remember about how you got your injury?"
I only glared at her in response. Why didn't I realize? I mean, she did look like a healer, which Sith usually weren't, but still, it wasn't totally hidden. Her face bore the distinctive signs of corruption, though she'd escaped the worst of it – ashy grey veins were just barely visible against her black skin, and her eyes looked faintly milky, a slight haze over their vibrant blue.
"Go on, talk," she said. "If nothing else, we want to make sure you didn't suffer any brain damage. Revan saw the whole thing, anyway, and a secret isn't really secret when the Dark Lord knows it."
I sighed. She was right – there was no point to staying silent. "I... I was fighting Revan when the whole bridge exploded. I was blown across the room – I landed on Revan's lightsaber!" I started to tremble, even remembering it – that black-and-red masked face the last thing I saw, as the life faded from my body. "What happened? Why am I even alive?"
"The explosion that nearly killed you was Revan's apprentice firing on his master. Malak thought he could stab Revan in the back while she was distracted with you Jedi." She smiled, letting that hang in the air for a few seconds. "Malak is now dead."
"S-so... Revan captured me?" I closed my eyes, letting the pain wash over me for a second. It was bad – but I could tell that I was going to survive. "I should be dead too, then. Even if the explosion didn't kill me... she would."
She snorted and rolled her eyes. "Why do Jedi always assume we Sith are all baby-eating maniacs? I mean, you were on the mission to capture Revan – someone must have told you about her, right? Zhar or Vrook would have to know better. No, Revan and I have no love of indiscriminate bloodshed."
"I don't need to understand her to stop her!"
"Or they thought knowing might pose a temptation," she said, her wicked smirk returning to her face. She leaned over me, looking into my eyes. "You're the powerful young Padawan who went to war, the savior of the Republic. Who do you think you remind the Masters of?"
"I... I am not like Revan!" But I had heard the whispers. I felt my face burning. She was right, somehow. The Masters had talked about Revan, but they told me not to show up for the briefing, that I was there for my battle meditation and dueling skill, but knowledge like that was not for any Padawan's ears, and... Ugh. She was right, and that burned.
"How can you be sure you're not like Revan?" she said, clearly amused by my turmoil. "You wouldn't even know her face without the mask on, would you? So whenever you meet her... you won't have a clue."
"Enough of the damn mind games!" I yelled. "Who healed me? Who saved me? Why?"
"Sorry, Bastila, I know I'm getting a bit intense..." She sighed. "I healed you with the Force. You would have died without me. Darth Malak was my husband, so... I had to reconsider some things, after he died. I didn't want any more death, even of a stubborn Jedi like you." She smiled again, a little bit wanly. "Which, apparently, was enough to let me heal again. It's been a while. Don't know if I can hold onto that... but I'll try."
I blinked. So... she actually wants to regain her grasp of the Light Side? Interesting. And if I could redeem her completely — would she let me escape? "I can help with that," I said. "Healing isn't exactly my specialty, but I've done a good bit of it. I know the kind of mindset—"
"Healing is one of my specialties," she said. "I was very surprised when I lost it – with a clearer head, I think that was probably because of the side effects of an artifact I use. I'll meditate on how to avoid that next time."
"The Dark Side will always take that away from you. And after what Revan did... what the Dark Side did... to your husband... is this really who you want to be? You can always turn ba—"
"Absolutely not," she said, her voice icy. "When Malak betrayed Revan, he betrayed me. I will not regret what we had to do." Then she sighed, and I could see her face relax. "Though I'm proud to see that you're already trying to sow discord. I was right – the Dark Side is strong with you."
"What? I'm not—" I gritted my teeth, sucked in a breath. She was just trying to get to me. There is no passion, there is serenity, I reminded myself, trying to calm down. I am not Dark, and she won't change me. "I have no idea what you're taking about."
"Right, like you weren't just struggling for control in front of me." She rolled her eyes. "Well, that is a darn shame, because you've got an opportunity that most of the galaxy would kill for. Now that my husband is dead, Darth Revan is short an apprentice. And with you being the most famous Jedi of the Republic, she thinks you're worth a shot."
I gasped. The Sith really wanted me that badly? Revan really... respected me... that much? It was almost overwhelming. The Dark Lord herself...
Then an oily suspicion spread across my mind, and I mentally kicked myself for my moment of weakness – for listening to the Sith, even for a moment.
"So, where's Revan? Why are you here instead?" I glared at the woman in front of me. "If she really wanted me as her apprentice, surely she'd tell me herself. This is some kind of Sith trick, isn't it?"
She shrugged and rolled her eyes. "Revan... wants to ease you into things. Her in her full regalia – the mask and the robes and the boots and the cloak are meant to intimidate, and that's not the way to tempt you to the Dark Side. So instead you get me." She motioned to herself. "See, I'm five foot one and I look like a teenager. You'd better not be scared of me. And Revan is perfectly content to just wait til you're ready for her. Besides, you've got a lot of basics to brush up on. No point breaking out the Dark Lord for that."
Then she blinked, long and slow, and stared directly at me, her perfect eye contact practically an engraved invitation for me to look into them and see the truth of her words.
"But make no mistake: you are her apprentice, and she will be watching your progress very closely. Every word we say, she will know."
I frowned. She had told the truth, sure as the Force. But I was certain that she was hiding something... I frowned. I wasn't sure, but there was no harm in guessing. "Basics. Right. So y-you'll be the one to break me for Revan, then?"
She sighed. "You've been listening to too many stories, Bastila. Let me clear a few things up: I'm not going to torture you, I'm not even going to touch you. I won't tell you about how everyone in your life was just using you, or holding you back, or anything like that. You won't have to feel hate, at all. Your Jedi Masters tell you not to feel any emotion because the Dark Side can be rooted in any emotion – mine, for a very long time, came from my unwillingness to accept evil in the galaxy. It's why I fought the Mandalorians. And... lately, it seems that it does once more." I raised a skeptical eyebrow, and she rolled her eyes. "We're going to talk. I'm going to show you a better way, and you're going to accept it." She held up a hand as I started to open my mouth. "Don't tell me you won't. I have experience with these things."
"I... I'm sure you won't corrupt me," I whispered.
"Of course I don't want to corrupt you, Bastila," she said with a slight smile. "I want to heal you. I want you to grow strong and willful, and be all that you can be." She reached down, and laid her palm on my forehead, and I could feel the faint tingle of healing. "But you're a bit weak to start learning now. Once you've recovered, we can begin. I'll put you back to sleep, for now..."
"Wait!" I said. "Who... who are you?"
"Good question," she said with a frown. "I... actually expected you to recognize me, but since you don't... for now, call me Raga."
Then the tingles on my forehead overtook me, and I fell asleep.
I sat on my bed, wondering why Raga was so late. She'd remained my healer – she was almost as good as Master Vrook, much to my surprise – and under her care, I had gotten a lot stronger. Most of the medical equipment was dormant now – I had just one IV line left, and a few sensors. I could even walk around the room – though, prisoner that I was, I couldn't leave it. At least, not until I was ready to escape.
The door slid open, and I spun around – just in time to see HK-47 walking through it, a tray piled high with food in his arms. Raga's droid, he'd been assigned as my fake nurse so he could act as a subtle bodyguard – with so many medical droids around, one more would be unobtrusive. And since he, Raga, and a few particularly trusted doctors were the only people allowed in my room, he actually was doing most of the nursing duties.
"Advisement: Lunch is served," he said, handing me the tray where I sat. Flapflim breasts with juberry sauce, chopped redroot, whipped tubers and dripping sauce. Galactic-standard comfort food. I took a bite – it was every bit as delicious as it smelled.
"Thanks, HK," I said, before digging in. The food on the Infinite was consistently great. Real ingredients too, I was pretty sure. Republic ships tended to serve synthesizer slop, or canteen food that tasted little better. Then again, this was the Imperial flagship – perhaps there were a few Republic command ships with the same kind of service. "Do you know where Raga is?" she asked. "She was supposed to be here this morning."
"Apology: Indeed, the master is quite late. She had business on another ship. Reminder: don't forget to take your medicine."
"Said like a real nurse droid." I smirked at him – he really was being oddly docile this morning – and downed the cupful of pills, washing it down with my glass of Rim milk.
"Objection: My databanks contain full nursing protocols!" he said. "Many bodyguards do not verify the identity of nursing droids nor the specific medications used, making this occupation the perfect cover for a highly skilled assassin droid."
"So you're designed to kill your patients, is what you're saying."
"Affirmation: I am designed to kill all target meatbags. However, you are only a patient, and not a target. Therefore, I will make no attempt to kill you."
"Huh. So you really are turning into a nurse droid, then." I smiled, as a very Raga-ish joke came to mind. "Next you'll show up in a real nurse uniform – white cap, short skirt, and everything!"
"Admission: The Master really wanted me to." I started to laugh. Force, why was everyone on this ship so funny? "She only desisted when I pointed out that no other medical droids wore them." He paused for a second, sizing me up. "Observation: She's rubbing off on you. I like that."
I blinked. "I..." The appropriate response flashed into my head: Of course not! I am a Jedi. People don't rub off on us. Not angry or offended – because Jedi weren't – but serene in a way that non-Jedi tended to interpret as dismissiveness or condescension. But the truth was, HK was right. I hadn't learned anything of the Sith from Raga – she hadn't even tried to teach me any of that yet. But her humor, her liveliness, her energy – that, yes, I had learned from. I felt guilty, but I actually kind of liked it. Maybe the Republic soldiers wouldn't think I was such a stick in the mud when I got back. "That's just Stockholm Syndrome talking."
"A worthy excuse," HK said. "Suggestion: Sith mind control?"
"I'll keep it in mind," I punned, and right then I heard the metallic sound of the door sliding open.
My head swung around just in time to see Raga finally walk in, looking exhausted – at least, I was pretty sure that was regular exhaustion, and not just the Dark Side. She wore the tight, pleated leather suit that many Sith wore under their robes, her cloak lying folded in her arms. She wore big, almost knee-high combat boots that had to have three or four inches of lifts in them – she was almost as tall as me with them on. It probably would have made her more intimidating if I didn't know how short she really was, but the thought of the big bad Sith wearing lifts was more funny than anything.
"Hi, Bastila!" she said. "Sorry I'm late, cleaning up after this whole failed coup thing has been such a mess. She handed her cloak to HK. "Put that back in my room for me, will you?" Raga said.
"Resignation: Yes, Master." He slunk out the door, head down.
"Huh. You know, I actually think HK likes you," Raga said, grinning at me. "Usually he'd be overjoyed to get away from the meatbags."
"You're his master," I said, rolling my eyes. "He likes everyone you like."
"Hah, no way! He hated Mako, and I married the man!" She smiled widely at me, before stopping to think for a second. She often seemed discomforted by memories of Malak. But in the end, she shrugged and kept talking. "So I was held up interrogating this admiral – Saul Karath, I served alongside him in the Mandalorian War, very well-respected, very straight-laced, we were so glad when he signed on with the Sith. He went to Mako's side."
"The Butcher of Telos," I said grimly.
"Yup, that's him," Raga said, sitting down on the bed next to me. "I was angry with him after that. So anyway, he tried to cut and run when Mako died, but he didn't get very far – the crew was loyal, so when they realized he was a traitor they turned on him and brought the ship back to port. And I was interrogating him, and the moment I stepped into the room he started rambling about the power of the Dark Side and stuff. Which was weird, since Revan never talked like that. Not even Mako ever talked like that. I was baffled for the longest time, until he said something about the apprentice must defeat the master, and I suddenly realized." She pulled a face of exaggerated shock and horror. "My god. How many Sith movies have you watched?!"
I burst into laughter, just barely undercut by a twinge of guilt: what would Master Vrook think of you, sitting there and joking with a Sith? The voice had been getting softer every day. "He didn't!" I said, gasping for breath as surely as if she'd choked me.
"He did! Like, he just sat there and stared. He didn't say anything for like thirty seconds. And then he started making these pitiful excuses. It was ridiculous." She smiled, shook her head. "You get the weirdest people in the Sith, I'm telling you. Republic wasn't half this bad." She looked back to me. "You ever watch any Sith movies, Bastila?"
"They were banned at the Enclave," I said automatically. Then I thought back further. "But... my mother used to watch these potboiler Sith romance holos. They were always the same: terrifying Sith abducts beautiful Jedi, tortures her a little, she teaches him how not to be so evil, and they marry."
"Oh, really?" Raga said, grinning like she'd just caught a shooting star.
It took me a second to realize what I'd just said, and then I blushed, my face heating up like I was a thirteen year old again.
"Gosh, Bastila, I'm so sorry! I thought I was being nice, putting you in a quiet room in the medical bay like this, but now I realize I'm depriving you of your deepest fantasies!" I started laughing, more out of disbelief than anything, my head buried in my hands. "We've totally got dungeons! I can chain you up right now if you want!"
"No!" I barely managed to say through the laughter.
"You sure? You're missing out..." Raga managed to keep a straight face for almost three seconds, whereupon she dissolved into giggles of her own. "Don't worry about it," she said when she finally recovered. "The romance films are a guilty pleasure for, like, half of us. Mako and I watched them all the time."
I raised an eyebrow. "Really? I mean, the Sith in those movies are so ridiculous – why would a real Sith want to watch those?"
Raga rolled her eyes. "Spoken like a Jedi who's never tried being one," she said with a smirk. "Trust me, it can be lots of fun. Just don't take it too seriously."
"You and Mako... you really... Huh? Why?" I just couldn't process it. "Real Sith... pretending to be Sith-movie Sith... in bed... Why?"
"I told you, it's fun!" She leaned back onto the bed. "We all grew up watching Sith movies. Of course we're not really that kind of Sith, but it's fun hamming it up every now and then, you know?"
"But... but you..." A question had burned through my confusion, one I desperately wanted to ask, but it wasn't really proper for a Jedi... not that it mattered, it wasn't like Raga was going to tell the Masters... oh, fuck it. "Which one of you was the Sith?" I finally blurted out.
"Depended on our moods," Raga said, sitting back up with a wink. "Mako definitely looked the part, but he was always a big softie at heart. But I... I sometimes..." She trailed off, sniffing a little, and wiped her eyes. "Sorry, just... bad memory."
"I didn't mean to remind you," I said. Sometimes this just happened, talking about her husband – I supposed it wasn't so surprising, after how their relationship had ended.
"Not your fault," Raga said. "But let's chase that away with a good memory. You know how Sith lightning isn't really lightning? It's just hate given form? Well, Mako and I experimented with using other emotions to cast it, and, uh..." She raised her hands, and a neon purple bolt arced between her fingers, its glow filling the whole room. There was something oddly alluring about the light, and I gasped a little just seeing it. "So... if you ever do want to try the whole captive-Jedi-tied-to-a-wall-and-zapped-with-lightning thing, it could be pretty fun?" She grinned cheekily.
I didn't say anything, just rolled my eyes and groaned. Raga started to giggle, the sound so high and clear and utterly innocent that I still couldn't believe it was coming from a Sith. She sounded like the civilian girls at the Dantooine arcade, untroubled by the war and death and destruction that I knew had to hang low over her. And she flirted like a Republic soldier, bold and self-possessed and utterly ridiculous. Sometimes she had flashes of melancholy or guilt, and at times I could see the anger I expected of a Sith bubbling beneath the surface, but she seemed so natural and so happy like this. It was hard to believe that it was all a facade.
I will definitely miss her, I thought, after I escape.
I renamed the deuteragonist here to Raga, where in previous versions of the story she was called Mira. There's no story reason for it, but the name is the same as a KotOR 2 character, and I don't want them to get confused by mistake.
I leaned back in my medical bed and planned my escape.
My treatment was almost finished – my last IV was out, and they didn't even have any sensors on me now. Which meant that there was no device that would notice if I escaped. I might not be totally recovered yet, but I was more than strong enough to get out of here.
Some of my captors were powerful enough that I didn't want to fight them – Raga and HK-47 topped that list – but they weren't always around, and many of the others were weak. I wouldn't try to escape from the doctors – they feared me, and came guarded. Instead, the Dark Jedi seemed like my best chance. They were fresh from their Academy, with shiny new lightsabers and swollen heads. Some of them seethed at the indignity of having to bring me food or medicine or stand guard at my door. They imagined it beneath them, which was perhaps the biggest mistake I had ever seen a Sith make.
Maybe I was just a padawan, but I was the most famous Jedi in the galaxy for a reason. Sure, I was in a medical bed, but these twits were so far beneath me that I could defeat them from the grave. It wasn't very Jedi of me, but I would enjoy beating the crap out of them.
So I lay there in wait, reaching out with the Force, just waiting for one of them to fall into my trap. It was interesting, refocusing my battle meditation – a technique I usually used against whole fleets – to just the Infinite. I was hoping to use my influence as part of my escape. My imprisonment had made it easy – lots of time to get to know the ship and its crew. Equally interesting were the effects of lying in wait: my body fell into a kind of trance, building up my reserves of strength and Force so that I could spring into action when the time came.
About two hours later, it did.
The door slammed open, and a Sith kid even younger than I was barged into the room, haphazardly spinning a tray of food on his hand. He took one look at me and rolled his eyes. "Hey, Bastila, wake up! Time to eat!" He pounded his fist on the table, and it rattled loudly.
Then I sprang from the bed, the Force at my back, and knocked into him, slamming him against the wall. As his lightsaber and his comm sprung to my hand, I stole the breath from his lungs with the Force, his lips working uselessly as he tried to call for help for the long moments until finally he fell limp and collapsed to the floor, unconscious.
I smiled. Just as planned.
I walked right out of the still-open door, reaching out with the Force to distract the doctors and patients: a pen rolling under a desk, a particularly engrossing book chapter, an easy chance to slack off. No one noticed me, not even as I stole a long lab coat off a chair. It'd cover my hospital gown, make me a little more presentable. Not obviously an escaping prisoner. I strode through the halls, into an elevator, up to the hangar level, everyone who ran across me unaccountably distracted, dropping things, running for the bathroom, or just not looking up. Through it all, I just kept walking, casually and steadily.
The Republic shuttle I'd flown in on was still here in one of the hangars, and I could feel that the Empire hadn't sabotaged it or bugged it. They hadn't even locked the door. I walked in, and then rang up the hangar control on my stolen communicator. On the other end was a nineteen-year-old ensign, a guttering flame in the Force, easy to manipulate. He really shouldn't just open the forcefields, he knew that. He was supposed to get authorization codes, check with the board operator, make sure the ship was cleared for launch. But he was so tired. It had been a long day. His buddy died in the fighting last week, and he just wanted to get off shift and get wasted. The codes would check out. They always did. Who gave a shit, really?
"Roger that," came the utterly apathetic voice over the comms, and the shimmering blue field flickered out, the black expanse of space yawning before me.
"Thanks, Ensign," I said, before gently easing the shuttle out of the hangar and into the eternal night outside. I flicked the switch to turn the shuttle's prototype stealth system, and then almost collapsed into the soft padding of the chair.
I'd done it. I'd escaped.
Then Raga leaned across the console and grinned. "Congratulations, Bastila," she said. "Impressively done."
I jumped up, nearly tripping as I scrambled out of the pilot's chair, my stolen lightsaber leaping into my hand. Raga hadn't even been three feet away, just waiting there in the copilot's seat – she must have been using the Force to camouflage herself, I hadn't even noticed her!
"Hey," she said, showing me her empty hands. "Relax. I won't fight unless you start it. Just here to keep an eye on you. Wouldn't want you getting lost, after all."
"You..." I just stared at her for a moment, gave myself room to breathe, to figure out what was going on. My saber still lay in my hands, but I hadn't turned it on. "You knew I was escaping?"
"Of course I did!" Raga rolled her eyes. "What, you thought I really trusted those bozos to guard you? I would never think so little of you... though even I was impressed by your escape. I was watching through the cameras. And the Force. I've never seen a better display of sensitivity and manipulation. You'll make a wonderful First Apprentice, Bastila."
"Sensitivity and manipulation?" I glared at her. "That was battle meditation!"
"Right. Of course." She snorted, rolled her eyes. "Well, whatever you want to call it, you did a great job. I could hardly do better."
Despite myself, I smiled for a split second. Was it weird that I still wasn't used to praise? I mean, the Republic had been effusive, but my actual fellow Jedi... less so. It was different, hearing it from someone who might actually understand what I was doing.
"However, you still have a lot to learn in your other disciplines. Your choice of escape vehicle meant that your plan was doomed from the start."
"What? This is exactly what the Republic's mission briefing said to do!" I glared at her, feeling irrationally as though I'd been betrayed. "This ship is built for making stealthy escapes!"
"If we were still on the front lines, it would be perfect," Raga said. "But we're deep in Sith territory now. This is a light shuttle, so it barely has enough range to make it out of the system. Unless you want to turn around and head back to the Infinite, the only place we'll be able to land is the planet down below. That means Revan would find you long before the Republic could get here."
"That's... a good point." I shifted in my seat. "But what other options did I have?"
"If you'd stolen one of the fighters, you could have made it into hyperspace before Revan or I noticed. You couldn't get all the way back to the Republic in one of those, but you certainly could make yourself very hard to find, then contact the Republic and wait for extraction. You'd have to shut your power off so we couldn't track you, and that wouldn't be fun, but at least you'd make it out."
I nodded. "Why didn't the Republic mention that? In the briefing."
"Well, they didn't figure anyone would make it off the ship a week later. Still, you could have realized that little problem yourself. You certainly had time to think this through, after all."
"Fair," I said with a sigh. My eyes flicked to the control panel, checking my fuel, my range. She was right. The shuttle just wasn't built for distance flights. With my amateur piloting, even getting out of the system would be a stretch. And we were deep in Imperial territory, much too deep. There was no point to fighting Raga – no matter whether I won or lost, I wasn't going home.
My thoughts ran back over the escape, looking for mistakes, missing opportunities, things I could do better next time. Then I thought about Raga, and my eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Wait a second. How the hell did you find me? No one else in the whole ship noticed I was escaping! What did you do?"
"Now that's more like it," Raga said with a nod and a grin. "Good. I knew you were escaping because we're Force bonded."
"What? How? I've never met you before in my life, and I would have noticed a Force Bond with—"
Then I gasped as her shields fell away, and I could feel her presence within me. It was crazy, but somehow, she was telling the truth. We were bonded. Her very soul was in contact with mine. Slowly, I reached out through the Force, and touched it.
Raga had incredible depths of darkness, and stains on her soul that could only have come from extreme acts of evil. And yet she hadn't given herself over to it the way someone like Malak or Revan had – a bright starburst of empathy and compassion shone at her core, Raga's driving force, and her soul was vibrantly colored with love and joy and care. She could clearly never be a proper Jedi – her soul almost hummed with an intensity of feeling that would make even her good emotions incredibly dangerous, an irrepressible spirit I was certain no Master could calm. But neither was she devoted to the anger and hate that usually drove a Sith.
Raga had always seemed sane. Balanced, in a way that I had always learned Sith never could be. I'd expected it to be a facade, but clearly I was wrong – she really was who she claimed to be, down to the bottom of her soul.
"I see. A Force bond." I tried to steady myself. Just because she wasn't dripping with corruption, didn't mean she wasn't a Sith. "So this is how you plan to keep me in line. What kind of Dark Side tricks did you make this with?"
"I didn't use the Dark Side," Raga said. "It's a healer's bond. I saved your life, remember?"
"What? I... I remember, sure... but I thought healers' bonds only formed in the worst situations, and..." I swallowed. "Just how bad were my injuries?"
"I said you were dying. You didn't believe me?" She closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. "When I started to heal you, your body was broken, and your mind was on the verge of slipping away."
I fell silent as I listened to her. Raga was usually flippant, but I could tell this was serious.
"You fell just as the battle with Malak's forces began. There were assassins and saboteurs inside the ship, Malak and his traitors were firing on us from the outside, and the Republic fleet was attacking both sides amidst the chaos. There was no time to move you to the medical bay, and no guarantee it would be safe if we could, so you stayed with me as we fought for control. After Malak was defeated and the Republic fled, we moved you to a kolto tank. But for two long hours, I alone kept you alive."
I could feel the truth of her words, and it sent me into solemn contemplation. No wonder we'd bonded. After all that, it'd be more surprising if we hadn't.
I truly owed her a debt – Jedi tradition demanded it, even if my own conscience didn't. But with her being a Sith – well, Sith weren't supposed to heal at all. I didn't think I'd ever heard of anything like this. I desperately wished I could talk to Master Vrook or Master Vandar, ask them to explain it, to tell me what I should do. But they weren't here. I had to make my own choices.
"You'll find it very difficult to conceal things from me, at least until you improve your mental shielding. Try learning from mine." She smiled, and most of my awareness was lost. I could still feel her presence – it was hard to miss, now that I knew – but I couldn't even get a good read on her soul any longer, let alone her mental state or her thoughts.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked weakly.
"You have a Force bond with a Sith Master," she said. "I know that's a big deal. I wanted to wait until you knew me a little better, break the news gently." She smirked in that ridiculous way she sometimes had. "Maybe after the second date?"
I sighed. Even when she was talking about our bond, Raga just couldn't stay serious for long. "I... if the bond formed like you say, then you more than earned it. Though... how am I supposed to escape like this?"
"You're not going to escape. Not from me."
I shivered as a feeling of deep dark power touched me through my bond. As fun as Raga usually was, and as vague as she'd been about her past, I couldn't forget that she was a high-ranking Sith. I had been losing badly to Revan even before Malak nearly killed me, and I had survived only because of Raga's unexpected kindness. In that moment, I was certain that Raga could kill me too.
Then she smiled, and the dark feeling vanished almost instantly. "Don't worry about it, Bastila! It's okay if you're having a little cabin fever. Everyone has to stretch their legs now and then, and after what's happened to you, no wonder you're uncomfortable. I really didn't think we could keep you cooped up in that medbay for much longer anyway. I came up with something special for your first escape..."
I raised an eyebrow. Huh?
"Down below is a Sith resort world, popular for shore leaves. The food is amazing. So I'm thinking we spend the day having fun, and then head back up to the Infinite?"
I blinked. "You're joking!" I said. "I escape, and you take that as a chance for a date with a pretty Jedi?!" I realized only after I said it that I probably shouldn't have. Not that I was wrong, exactly, but it would only encourage her. Besides, it was undignified.
"Pretty Sith, you mean?" Raga grinned at me, and I rolled my eyes. A lot of the Jedi I knew would have been deeply offended at something like that. I probably would have been, a week ago. I really had gotten used to Raga and her nonsense. "Nope, I'm not joking at all! I get to enjoy myself, and you don't get arrested. In my book, that's a good deal. You are going to play along, aren't you?"
She reached out toward the console, her fingers brushing the stealth-cancel button.
"If you're going to stop me," she said, "now would be the time."
I stared, my gaze flickering between her finger over the button and the lightsaber in my hand. A part of me was screaming to do it. To put everything I had into escaping. Even if I'd get caught. Even if Revan would torture me. To never submit.
But I couldn't get away this time. I knew that. There was no point. If I agreed – if I kept Raga and Revan happy – perhaps they would give me the chance I needed to escape another day.
"Fine," I spat. "I'll go."
Raga smiled and pushed the button, and the stealth field's greenish cast faded from the windshield. "Thank you, Bastila. You made the right choice." She plonked a duffel bag onto the console. "You'll need this."
I opened the bag, looked inside – and stared. "These are Sith robes!" I said.
"What, you expected Jedi?" Raga smiled at me, looking smugger than ever. "You're Revan's new apprentice. That gives you a lot of pull, if you look the part. If you don't... things might not go so well. Besides, that lab coat doesn't exactly flatter you." She turned back to the consoles, slipping the headset on as she pushed some buttons. "You get dressed, I'll land."
I sighed, before picking up the bag and stepping into the bathroom. Sith robes or not, they would be better than a lab coat thrown over a hospital gown.
Besides, I'd already surrendered. It was too late to turn back now.
Resignedly, I took the robes out of the bag. They were a lot like Jedi dress robes – I had no trouble putting them on – but they were a lot fancier. They were made of black silk that felt weirdly soft against skin used to scratchy Jedi wool. A design was embroidered into them in silver thread that sparkled just a little under the low lighting of the shuttle. They were also tight and low-cut, which made me roll my eyes a little. Shouldn't have expected anything else from Raga.
Finally, I slipped my stolen lightsaber onto my belt. A Sith lightsaber, with a deep red crystal. Just what I needed to complete the image.
There was something in me that withered at the sight in the mirror: a Sith, complete with black robes, red lightsaber, and a sickbed pallor that could pass for corruption. It hadn't really sunk in before that I would look like a Sith – it had seemed almost ridiculous, my Jedi head stuck on a Sith body as if someone had been playing with dolls. But I looked like I belonged this way. I couldn't stop worrying about what the Masters would think. Master Vrook would take it hard, I knew he would. His own Padawan falling to the Dark Side... he'd be crushed. And Master Vandar would be quietly disappointed, sorrowful in that way Jedi sometimes were when they wouldn't let themselves be sad.
I leaned down over the sink and splashed some water on my face. Snap out of it, Bastila. I might look like a Sith, but I wasn't. I hadn't fallen. I wouldn't. Someday I'd escape. I'd return to the Jedi. And... hopefully, I could explain all that to the Masters when I got back.
The bathroom door clicked open, and I stepped out into the main room. I could see a deep blue sky through the cockpit windows. The shuttle was descending through the atmosphere, and Raga was arguing on the comms.
"Skarys Control, you saw my authorization. I don't need to tell you jack." She waited for a few seconds, then sighed. "Fine! Fine. Meet us at the pad then. Slash Nine out." She shut the comms off, then tossed the headset back onto the console as she stood up. "Bastila! You look wonderful. I guessed the size right, then?"
"It fits fine, but..." I motioned to the robe. "Really? We Jedi aren't so vain as this..."
"So you're saying you never modified your robes? Really? I've seen your propaganda posters, Bastila. I bet you half the Republic's teenage boys have them pinned on their walls." She giggled. "I would have too, but Mako didn't like it."
My mouth fell open. "Hey! I... I didn't... I mean, I tweaked my outfit a little, but who hasn't? And—"
"Exactly!" She winked at me. "Everyone tweaks their robes. What we Sith do isn't so different. We just don't pretend we're not doing it." She shrugged. "Well, most of us do it. We've still got a few holdouts. Like, Revan in her getup could be a nun!"
"But these are even fancier than yours!" Raga was wearing dress robes, too, but they weren't nearly as ornate – just plain silk, her mirror-polished copper lightsabers the only hint of ornamentation.
"Of course yours are nicer... Master." She sank into a Sith curtsy, bowing her head and holding her robes out as she lowered herself almost to the floor. If it weren't for the big smirk on her face, I might have thought she was sincere. Well, and if she weren't Raga. "You didn't think I was going to get you completely off the hook, did you? You'll have to be the big Sith in the room, starting with explaining to the spaceport officials why you're landing in a Republic ship with no flight plan."
"What? It's not enough that I have to dress up like a Sith? Now I have to pretend to be one?"
Raga shrugged. "Would you rather get arrested? Because that path ends with Revan tying you up and zapping you with lightning in a not-intentionally-sexy way."
"This deal just keeps getting worse," I muttered. "Fine. I'll do it. But you're going to have to help me, because I don't know how to act like a Sith and I don't want to get shot for screwing up."
"I thought you'd never ask!" she said with a smile, and the air of someone whose trap had just sprung. "I'm always here to teach. Sit down, we can act this out..."