“Once more,” Bastila murmured, holding his still trembling hands. Their meditative position belayed the strain of a now twice-daily routine; stray beads of sweat traversed the topography of his face, trickled down his chin and neck, and soaked into his tunic. Illuminated by the few rays of dawn that managed to break the horizon, his watery eyes reflected all in close proximity – which she, this morning and many more before it, occupied. Frightful weeks marked her visage: loose, darkened skin underlined her eyes, struggled under a weight unexpected for a woman her age. Sallow faced and aching, she longed for the few hours of relief sleep would offer, despite the day having not yet commenced. None of this, however, would she reveal to him; she feigned quietude and repose for his sake, refused to betray any sign of fatigue or frustration. Any slips in this veneer she excused by pointing to stress or insomnia independent of him. Wholly aware of her efforts’ futility – any Jedi would see through them with ease, Revan especially – she persisted, if only for the surface gesture, the hope that it would render him even a modicum of leisure. It was a small offering and, she feared, given their relative lack of progress, the extent of her use to him.
Still reeling, he ambled through leftover emotions, took a moment to remind himself that he was indeed surrounded by the comforts of their apartment, and not the battlegrounds of Malachor V, as he had just been so convinced. The two scenes slowly separated as mangled Jedi corpses and broken down Basilisks faded from the room. Anchoring himself, he looked to Bastila, observed her peaceful determination to empty her mind; her tranquility offered him a fleeting reprieve. Carefully he dug himself out of foretime, let his tense muscles wilt, and grounded himself in reality.
Eyesight normalizing, he remained focused upon Bastila and detected a hurt she still attempted to mask; nearly two months had passed since her mother’s death, the grief consuming the child for many weeks after. Their fraught relationship beset Bastila even into adulthood, and losing her final connection to her life before the Jedi understandably strained her; no amount of Jedi philosophy or religion could cushion such a loss, and yet, the scar gradually healed, as all do. He reproached himself with the knowledge that his present state did little to aid a woman still mending after loss.
Random, violent surges of memory had lately struck him in the night; at first, Bastila’s presence calmed him through the waves. She held him close as he twitched and flailed through the past; she calmed and caressed him back into the present. When the episodes suddenly escalated in brutality, Bastila became their victim – no person should have to shoulder his affliction, he bemoaned. Slicing his lightsaber through the spine of a terentatek seemed, to him, an ideal outlet for this sickness; scheduled, joint rumination – once in the morning, once at night – was Bastila’s prescription, and her unflinching resolve gave him little choice in the matter.
The idea was to find answers. In this endeavor, they had failed; their introspective sessions seemed to provide some release from erratic attacks, but the web of lies and erasure spun by the Council proved difficult to unweave. Further, when he was not thrashing through memory, a sense of foreboding devoured him – yet he could not decipher its nature. The sensation was familiar, having struggled to balance the ‘Revan’ persona with his invented identity since before the destruction of the Star Forge; lately, however, it had grown more malignant, seemed to relate to a greater evil in his past. The mystery engulfed every breath, moment, and memory.
Bastila nudged him, the gesture breaking his musings. “Are you ready?” she asked, less of a question than a warning. Her voice, though hollow from fatigue, retained a sense of sincerity – her loyalty and determination through this strife originated from love and affection, rather than duty or obligation, and for that, he was thankful. Though he felt completely otherwise, he returned a hesitant nod and selected a foggy recollection of his past self. The pair began their plunge into the depths of memory.
Woken in the middle of the night by another episode, he left the bed to feel the window’s cool breeze. A particularly painful remembrance had surfaced in his dreams: his mutilated body floating in kolto as the Jedi deliberated on their next course of action. The presiding Masters were a familiar group, and they continued their traditions of absolutism: a prisoner must not be killed, even a Sith Lord running a civil war against them. Nevertheless they pushed their own precepts, bent their own rules, grasped at a precious opportunity to turn the tides of war. As the group reached consensus, Revan found Bastila’s young face among the assemblage of distinguished Jedi. Scarred and bruised from the explosion on his flagship, she returned to the Council a hero, but there was no bravado in her countenance; her eyes were a sepulchral reflection of her tumultuous thoughts. Through the bleeding, raw bond formed when she preserved his mind, she felt his presence, his power, his pain; this intimacy, unlike anything she had ever experienced, engrossed her, compounded by her survivor’s guilt – her entire strike team had also fallen in Malak’s attack.
Thus distracted, the Council revealed her intended role in discovering the vital information left in his mind, and her face turned a pale white as she woke from her mind’s wanderings. Barely aware of what she was signing on for, she nodded in agreement.
The memory had awoken the sleeping pair; she now sat upright in bed, waiting for his response. His breath was labored; his eyes closed tightly, his fists clenched. He attempted to call upon Jedi techniques to ease the violent turbulence of his mind, to discard anger and all emotion. It was no use; he jerked away from the night sky and spat at her, rage reddening his face.
“You were part of it, Bastila. You supported this, you did this to me.” The vehemence of his reaction shocked her as he bounded in her direction; she cowered, unable to meet his stare; her fear and avoidance only added more fervor to his state. “Look at this! LOOK AT ME!” he shouted, forcing himself to her eye level. “My head is in pieces. I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. I don’t know what I am or who I am,” he fumed. “And it’s your fault!”
“I… I d-didn’t have a choice,” she stammered back, tears forming in their ducts, and she attempted to move away; riveting her body in place with one arm, he grabbed her chin and wrenched it to match his gaze with the other. Fear for her safety overtook her and her mind flew to instinct: his tiredness may let her use the Force to subdue him, but with his anger and physical advantage, she could never take him in hand to hand combat, and her lightsaber was left foolishly in the next room, useless to her – flight, then must be the option, but the door was far, and he could easily beat her there, if she could even escape his hold. Her head continued to swirl, demanded escape, but his chokehold left only one defense: words.
She rummaged within her heart for a penetrating truth that could pacify him, but her vocal chords compressed under the pressure of phrases that could not leave her tongue. Her mouth hung agape, expecting the proper words to form, to no avail; speechless, she receded into herself. Truthfully, what could she have done? – contrary to her own delusions of grandeur, it was not the place of a Padawan to express discomfort with such a momentous decision, if she had even been able to, psychologically, at the time. And was it really wrong? – if placed in the same situation, she was unsure she would act differently. No right solution seemed to exist, then or now. And had she not suffered for it? – the guilt she bore, not only for the initial act of erasing and programming an identity, but for the ensuing lies she constructed in support of the invention, was no easy burden. But his grip did not relent, and she settled for a shaken effusion, some desperate utterance that may communicate the futility of her position. “What was I supposed to do…?”
She watched a shadow fall over his eyes, felt his edge begin to chip away. Allowing herself the brief hope that her words had some effect, she selected her next response with the utmost care, with full awareness that she could draw upon his values regarding life and redemption – after all, he had saved her at her lowest point, at a time when she had no reason to be left alive. A measured raise of her chin sent a forceful, piercing stare back to him. “Should I have just left you to die?”
He froze in place; his hold on her arm slackened and she scrambled to the other side of the room, out of his reach. His anger dissipated, transformed into remorse. He collapsed to the edge of the bed, closed his welling eyes in anguish. His voice shook. “Maybe you should have.”
They morphed further back into the specters of the past; a young Bastila, freshly a Padawan, stood with faceless Jedi. War was upon the Republic, a war the Council chose to overlook – as the corpses of Republic soldiers lined battlefields, as entire societies fell to the Mandalorian threat, factions of Jedi splintered away to join in combat. The resistance’s demagogues, the then uncorrupted Revan and Alek, selected this crowd to gather bodies for their movement.
“Do not heed the words of the Jedi Council. The Republic will fall if we do not act now,” cautioned Alek. His voice was smooth, untainted by the wheezing, mechanical intonation of his final days. In stark contrast to his more agile companion, Alek’s hulking, impressive build offered him a naturally commanding presence; his tone however remained level, slippery, absent of the usual passion and sincerity of an orator – he was part machine, even then. “Already the Mandalorians have taken three systems along the Rim. They will only grow more powerful with time.”
He paused, allowed the fearful realities of war to dissipate through the crowd. “Come stand with me. We will use our might to help the Republic in its time of need. Join Revan and I,” he continued, motioning to the man next to him, “and together, we will battle this menace.”
Bastila scoffed at his speech, in duty to the Council, but her amusement turned to horror as Jedi older and wiser than her, Jedi she had admired and revered, stepped forward defiantly. Eras Jast, only Knighted the day before, pushed Bastila aside in his fervor to join the Revanchists; others waited for a larger group to form behind Revan and Alek, and before long, at least three-fourths of the original group had traded sides.
Bastila glared at the traitors with indignation – to disobey the Council was sacrilege! They would surely be thrown from the Order, provided they managed to survive ten minutes against the Mandalorian war machine! The Council needed more time to survey the threat—where was their patience, their faith, their pacifism?
As she measured the defectors, a creeping sensation bristled the small hairs of her neck; she had the uncanny sensation of a watchful gaze fixed upon her. When her eyes reached the mysterious Revan, she became conscious of his deadlocked stare. She felt him easily infiltrate her mind, staggered as he trampled through her basic memories to locate an exceptional ability, one she had only just begun to realize. As she attempted, in vain, to push him out, she noticed a quick flash in his eyes, even from their distance – had he discovered something more within her? – and his onslaught restarted with new force. Her knees buckled, strained by the immense force of his presence in her mind. The weight of his assault almost grew too much – she felt light-headed, their surroundings began to spin; suddenly he disappeared from her consciousness and her world slowly regained focus.
She opened her eyes to see him take a shocked step back from her, which he quickly masked from his followers. Silently, he joined the group, led by Alek, as they exited the Temple and boarded a transport, but not before taking a bewildered look back at that curious Padawan, and the united future he sensed within her…
Dantooine, in the wake of Taris’s destruction. Sweating through the trainee robes offered by the Jedi, a yellow lightsaber lingered dangerously close to his neck. “Be thankful this is just practice,” Bastila said as she deactivated her blade and haughtily analyzed his shortcomings. Posturing, she persisted, “You quickly mastered Shii-Cho but you’ll never last against the chaos of Juyo if you cannot defend as well as you attack. You need to free yourself from distractions. The next blade you go up against won’t be this forgiving.”
“I understand. I’ll try harder,” he replied formally, spreading the perspiration that lined his upper lip. Having travelled with Bastila for several weeks now, and presently under her tutelage as a prospective Jedi, he had begun to understand her character; therefore aware of her conceit, he knew that such a proper response would stroke her ego. Surely enough, he witnessed the flattery warming her, found humor in her ostentatiousness.
Taking delight in her superiority, she could not resist correcting him again. “You’ll do better, you mean.”
“Right,” he replied, watching as she bowed away from him, indicating that they had finished for the evening. His gaze drifted momentarily to her back; she was bent over, gathering scattered props from the day’s lesson. “But you know…” he began, a cocky grin claiming his face as he took a chance to test still waters. “That’s harsh, Princess,” he mocked, and she snapped upright in irritation at the nickname. “I really can’t help it. You’re awfully distracting.”
She half-turned back to him and, despite vast attempts to the contrary, let slip a flattered, flustered smile; she quickly looked away to hide her blushing delight, resentfully attempted to ignore his advances.
His disappointment was evident. He resigned himself to the truth that, perhaps, her prim defenses could not be broken, that the Jedi had indeed replaced her sensibility with vainglory – that her exterior was unbreakable. A few dejected shuffles threatened to carry him away from the lesson, the training grounds, from her.
In that agonizing span of time – which in reality amounted to little more than a few seconds – she battled between letting him simply depart the scene, and thus freezing their relationship in its present, cordial status, or alternatively, gratifying her innermost daydreams, and throwing away all she had toiled for. Before she could fully comprehend her feelings, the moment swept her away, and the exhilaration of his flirtation swallowed her. She indulged her resounding desire to meet his challenge, took a few strides towards him, and tapped his shoulder. He spun around, surprise coloring his face.
She inhaled deeply for courage and gradually edged forward until she too occupied a perilous proximity to him. His chin hesitated, torn between pushing his luck even further, and he was captivated by the excruciating allure of her slow glance upwards at him, of her parted lips and lowered eyelids. Acting now utterly on instinct and desire, her confidence was tempered by something new – vulnerability, an invitation to further close the gap between their bodies. Neither was certain how long they could resist.
As they both wavered on the verge of action, her eyes blinked slowly and mouth quipped back. “Perhaps you should focus less on my form and more on your own.” She cocked an eyebrow, enjoyed a quick downward peek at his frame, his muscles still tense from the rigor of their battle; she backed away, retaining eye contact for as long as possible before turning to leave. Taking one or two unhurried, jaunty steps, she permitted her cheeks to fill with blood, grew aware of her heart thumping against her breast. His held gaze on her back pierced the air, gilded as it was by the erogenous, ardent appeal of premiere flirtation; she finally departed around a corner and left his eyeshot, but not without exchanging one last amatory glance…
The Hawk’s vacant crew quarters, home now to impassioned, maiden intimacy. She had ultimately relented to her battle between love and obligation, leaving her body and being in his tender possession. Bit by bit, symbols of the Jedi – their lightsabers and robes – were discarded to the metal, grated floor; with great appetite, they parted one another’s underclothes, and he plunged his tongue to her bare-stripped heart.
Low breaths escaped her lips. He explored the place and purpose of her every feature, gently pushing himself into her; her hands trembled and body puckered with fulfilment at his every stimulus, his every nuance of motion. Aimlessly her fingers traveled through his hair, lost as he explored the expanse of her neck. Tension and warmth crashed over her body; she reflexively grabbed his shoulders for support, to hold herself within this blissful relief. For once her timidity – her barriers, her reserve – had absolutely dissolved. She was free.
The scene flashed again, minutes from that cherished moment, and her quiet mind rested on his chest. His hand traced slow, gentle pirouettes on her body, coaxing her to sleep in the impossibly snug crew bed. If only this moment could outlast the cruel temporality of reality! She did not wish to move an inch, unwilling to even slightly upset their beautiful balance; she could spend an eternity in this nook of the galaxy – in his embrace, unshackled by duty and constraint.
Slowly, the gravity of their actions began to intrude, formicating through the deepest recesses of her mind. Despite her training, despite her focus, despite swearing against it just this morning, and so many mornings before, she had given herself to him, to the secret, illicit dream that oft carried her to sleep. She craved this happiness, this love, with every inch of her soul, but it was wrong. It was a selfish, foolish iniquity, one that could only detract from their mission – and her oath! Determination to rise through the ranks of the Order had consumed the last decade of her life, something she now so easily tossed away.
It was wrong and she loved him. She loved him so absolutely, so entirely, so inevitably, that she could not imagine herself before he ebbed into her life, could not comprehend why a feeling so strong could be impermissible. She knew not how to proceed or what to think, only that she was desperately committed to this man, and that she concealed a terrible, terrible secret from him.
Outside durasteel walls, a Sith flagship gained on their comparatively tiny freighter. Alarms sounded and the Hawk’s crew scrambled to escape, but the two Jedi, locked still in their discreet and forbidden embrace, knew there was no hope for evasion. His hand moved to her cheek and she drifted into its caress, her frustrated, inconsolable tears forming still pools on his chest. Together they crashed down to reality, donning their weapons and robes, and joined their comrades in devising an escape plan. Bastila remained close to him, uncaring that someone may have noticed her disheveled hair, his crooked tunic, their coincidentally identical disappearance. Sensing darkness’s approach, he took her hand…
Revan watched with quiet horror as Saul Karath exacted cruel pleasures from the torture of his former solider, stood powerless as Carth – the casualty of his companions’ silence – succumbed to the sparking lightning of his prison and blacked out. The Admiral gave Revan one last chance at information about the Republic’s war effort; he knew the price of continued defiance, knew that their secrets must not be divulged, for the sake of the galaxy, but remained conflicted. The words would not come – he could not separate the emotion, could not bring himself to refuse. He looked to Bastila, obviously the next target of Saul’s twisted sadism, and his voice shook through a clumsy lie, “Alderaan. The Jedi Academy is on Alderaan.”
Karath laughed at the poor attempt at deception, relayed news of Dantooine’s bombing, and a hollow disturbance in the Force rang through the Jedi. Revan gave a feeble, tense glance to Bastila; the burning determination that charred her icy eyes reinforced the obligation he knew he held. “I understand,” she whispered through the Force. “For the Republic.”
He watched as her Force Cage set ablaze, as the spark in her eyes transformed into desperation and then extinguished, as her body crumpled lifelessly to the floor…
“I’ll hold Malak off, you two get out of here!” Bastila shouted, charging forward. She darted past Revan before he could process her plan, met the Dark Lord’s blade before Revan could raise an objection. A thrust of Force energy knocked Malak back several feet, and Bastila raised a weak blast door to temporarily hold the Sith Lord back. She took the opportunity to mobilize her companions; locking eyes with Carth, she instructed him to continue their mission towards the Star Forge, then turned to Revan, still reeling from Malak’s revelation. With only seconds remaining before Malak cut through the durasteel and reengaged the fight, she was at a loss for words – an apology, an explanation, a profession of love, a farewell – nothing seemed adequate to make amends for her now exposed deceit. Instead, he stared at her, expression empty, conflicted between scorning her for her dishonesty and martyring himself in her place. As Malak at last broke through, she sent a second, gentler wave through the Force, pushing Carth and Revan away from danger, and began a hopeless defense.
The sound of a blast door slamming shut between Bastila and himself woke Revan from his stupor, and next he knew his fist was thundering against the many layers of metal. Over his yells he could discern the muffled sound of lightsabers colliding, thought he heard Bastila’s pained screams. His soldier’s resilience in the face of tragedy serving him well, Carth pulled Revan from the door, dragged him down the path to the Hawk.
Revan roared in protest, demanded his release. Undaunted, Carth continued their escape. “We can’t help her! Not here,” he cried back, sympathetic but determined. “We have to get off this ship and find the Star Forge!” Carth watched as Revan opened his mouth to object and dropped him against the floor. “Bastila sacrificed herself to let us get away. We can’t let that sacrifice be in vain!”
Bastila felt the floor of the Leviathan pitch, its mass shifting to pursue the fleeing Hawk. A wave of relief swept over her, knowing that Carth and Revan had reached safety, but she paid deeply for the distraction: Malak’s anger empowered him, and he crashed her already weakened body against the wall. Hearing several of her bones crack, agony ripped through her; from her open mouth silent screams escaped, and her neural receptors shut off – she could not call upon the Force, her mind in throes. Accepting defeat, she blacked out, with little expectation of waking up ever again.
His eyelids beat wildly as he tried to slow the deluge of images, but the agony was too much – he felt as though his insides would burst straight through his body and rip him to shreds. Every pain of his mnemonic figures struck him with double the force – he must stop; he could take no more, but Bastila refused to relent. She pushed him further, despite their vicinity to the still raw and debilitating demons she herself carried.
“Did it make you ache so, leaving me?” she would later ask, cradled in his arms.
“More than anything,” he answered, his voice unsteady in remembrance. Earnestly, the difficulty in abandoning her to Malak on the Leviathan was matched only by seeing her turned to Malak’s servant atop the Rakatan Temple – the black robes draining all life and color from her skin, the red blade an unsettling change from the familiar amber. Yet his suffering was insignificant, he knew, to the burden she carried – the shame and terror surrounding her fall. He had seen it in her mind, the sadistic face of his former apprentice pressed towards Bastila, Malak promising to wear away her allegiance to the light; her resolution slowly caved as the Sith Lord preyed upon her weaknesses, her reservations, her doubts, her fears – her love, even – with a smile, a maniacal laugh…
Machine wore away to reveal the grotesque absence of Malak’s jaw, and it became a cavernous hole; the void devoured the couple, his cackles reverberating as the two at last broke through the echoes of their past. Bastila began to shake and falter, no longer able to sustain the visions; lending her last bout of strength, he felt her presence leave him. He watched through fluttering eyelids as her body collapsed forward, dead weight on his chest, and he was alone in the emptiness of memory.
Shadowy figures trudged along a humid bog, their boots squelching out of mud with each step. Unseen creatures chirped and groaned in the distance, adding to the anxieties of the more reluctant of the pair. Apprehensively did the manifested, phantom Malak look about, questioning his friend’s mission. “Revan, have you been chewing the luna-weed? What the brix are we doing out here?”
“You know as well as I do that the Mandalorians weren’t acting alone, Alek,” the hooded figure replied, using his companion’s abandoned name. “It’s impossible. No one could have raised an army that quickly.” Revan pushed away some branches and vines to exit the bog for more solid land, feeling a faint pull towards a nearby clearing. “I’ve traced it back to this very planet. There’s something here, some force greater than we have ever known…” Distracted, Revan stopped to examine a decaying pillar, the inscription of apparent fascination.
“Of course nobody knows about it, we’re so beyond the kriffing Unknown Regions,” Malak grumbled. “There’s no Sith Empire hiding out here, waiting to attack the Republic.” Taking the chance to lighten the mood, he continued his efforts to coax his friend from this paranoia. “You’re a few starships short of a fleet, friend. What did Malachor do to you? We’re war heroes! Think of the fun we could be having, rather than sloshing around this damned planet. We’re wasting our time—”
Malak’s frustrations cut short as Revan whispered to the pillar and the earth began to shake. Slowly, the ground separated to reveal a crumbling entrance into its depths, lined with grand columns and ancient symbols. Revan looked back to Malak with an accomplished grin, his smug demeanor overtaking the otherwise awe-inspiring sight before them. “What was that you were saying about a hidden empire?”
At last he understood the mysterious form that lingered in and plagued his mind for the past two months, his destined path finally revealing itself – a path which must, he knew, be travelled alone. Impulse and fear asked him to run, to escape his fate, but as one trained in the Force, he sensed the futility – his course was set. He emitted another mangled gasp, the pain ceased, and he returned to their apartment. The last image he held was her faint body, until he too abandoned himself to exhaustion, and crumpled next to her; as their short breaths and battered bodies filled the room, the sun completed its ascent above the horizon.