They're putting up the sign that reads: Elkandu Academy of Manaan. It's a nice school. Comfortable. Peaceful. Roomy enough for expansion.
"There's a lot of former Sith here," Bastila says.
I nod. "We can show them another way. How to use their emotions without being consumed by them. This won't be easy. And I'm afraid I've got a few things I need to take care of before I can settle in here, myself."
"What do you intend to do?" Bastila asks.
"Need to pay a visit to Nar Shaddaa," I say. "I don't really care so much about my own lost mask at this point, but I might be able to find out where Mandalore's mask wound up. Also, I should visit Korriban and lay some ground rules, now that Malak is gone."
Gone. A euphemism, in many cases. But in this case? He's not really dead. Just gone. That's somewhat comforting, really. I don't find any comfort in the idea of 'becoming one with the Force', nor in lingering as a Force ghost. I hope that I don't wind up meeting either fate.
"Heh, and I'm going to bogart the title of Dark Lord of the Sith just so that nobody else can use it," I say.
"I don't think I'd really like to visit either place, but I'll go if you want me along," Bastila says.
I kiss her softly. "It's alright," I say. "I'm sure me and Canderous and HK can handle any problems that might arise. It'd be good to get the school up and running, anyhow. Will you be alright with that?"
Bastila nods. "I feel like I'm a little inexperienced still to be much of a teacher, but there's probably things I can share as well as things I can learn."
"That's the idea," I say with a grin. "I'll be back here soon to teach and learn myself. Do you have any idea how abysmal my telepathy and telekinesis are at the moment? I used to be better at these things, I know I must have. Also... I want to learn how to shoot a gun, and to fly a ship."
"You want to be a pilot?" Bastila says, raising an eyebrow.
"I want to be the best pilot I can be," I say. "If Carth's going to be sticking around for a bit, I'll ask him for pointers."
I don't know how long I have to prepare for the Battle of Yavin. Years? Centuries? Millennia? But when it comes, I want to be ready. They're going to need the best pilot they can get.
Maybe I should have taken someone else along, as well as or instead of Canderous and HK-47. They primarily suggest solving every problem with violence, and I generally have no trouble considering solving every problem with violence on my own. Ah, well, they're good at shooting things if I need things shot at.
And in this case, I'm seriously considering it. "I can't just grant an audience with the mighty Vogga the Hutt to just anyone!" says the fool guarding the door.
"Are you stupid?" I ask flatly.
"Well, what would it look like if just anyone could walk in and see him?"
"I'm carrying two lightsabers," I point out. "Behind me is a Mandalorian and a combat droid, both of them brandishing heavy blasters and looking like they're itching for any excuse to use them."
"Um... Well, of course you're not just anyone. I'm sure Vogga would be pleased to meet with someone as esteemed and heavily armed as yourself. I hope you're not intending on using those weapons on Vogga himself, but if you are, please remember that I just work here!"
"Don't worry, I'm not planning on murdering anyone today," I comment dryly.
We head in to see the Hutt. I always found Hutts to be rather disgusting, and I don't mean their appearance. Their penchant for slavery and scummy business practices is rather a turn-off, to say the least, and this praticular Hutt doesn't appear to be any different, if the scantily clad human females about are any indication.
"Hmm?" Vogga says. "A Jedi? What business do you have with me?"
"I'm not a Jedi," I reply in Huttese. "And I'm not a Sith, either. I'm an Elkandu."
"Elkandu?" Vogga repeats, clearly confused.
"A new sect of Force users," I say. "Let's just say that the Elkandu are more open-minded than the Jedi, and less inclined to violently cut into your profits than the Sith."
"Ah," Vogga says. "Well, in that case, I like the Elkandu already. What do you need?"
"I'm looking for a Rodian by the name of Kaka Oop," I say. "I'm tracking down some stolen property of mine, and I was told you might be able to direct me to him."
"Hmm, yes, Kaka Oop is a member of the Exchange," Vogga says. "I'm not fond of them, and I have some grievances against the one you seek myself. He seems to believe that any person or object left unattended for five minutes is his to sell off as he pleases."
"Do you know where I can find him?" I ask.
"He is a slippery one," Vogga says. "Covers his tracks well. Avoids having any solid evidence of wrongdoing, and vanishes before he can take the blame for anything. But I will help you find him, if you'll help locate some of my own goods that he took as well."
"That sounds fair," I say.
In the end, we wind up laying a trap for Kaka Oop in one of Vogga's warehouses. Rare, unattended valuables that Kaka will not be able to pass up. But not so unattended as he might hope. My team is laying in wait to make sure he doesn't get away.
Sure enough, the Rodian takes the bait. Sneaking in by cover of darkness, thinking no one will see him. What a fool, can't he tell that this is an obvious trap? How is it that he hasn't been caught already?
"End of the line, Kaka Oop," I say, drawing my lightsabers and standing between him and the exit.
"Kaka Oop isn't here!" the Rodian replies.
Suddenly, my vision is filled with a cloud of sickening green gas. Crap, note to self, learn breath control. My vision swims, and I collapse in an instant.
"Query: Master, are you damaged?"
I rub my head and sit up. My vision is still blurry, but at least I'm conscious again. "I'm fine, I think. What happened? Where's the Rodian?"
"Proud statement: I have captured the filthy meatbag, Master," HK-47 declares.
"You didn't kill him?" I say. "HK, I'm impressed at your restraint."
"Query: You wished to question this meatbag, did you not?" HK-47 says. "Statement: In order to facilitate interrogation, I only maimed the meatbag instead."
"I hate you!" exclaims the Rodian. I blink for a moment and my vision focuses a bit more. I turn to look at his thoroughly mangled body, missing both arms and both legs. They look like they were removed with a lightsaber.
HK-47 hands my red lightsaber back to me. "Query: Are you pleased with my handiwork, Master?"
I laugh lightly and take the lightsaber back. "Well, he's certainly not going to be running away or pulling out anymore poison gas grenades now."
"Hate hate hate hate hate!" the Rodian cries.
"You," I say, leaning close to him, "are going to answer my questions."
"Why should I do that?"
"Because," I say. "I'm an Elkandu. My Force powers are fueled by emotion. I am capable of great feats of healing, for example. But in order to heal someone, I must be very happy with them. I could even heal the likes of you, for instance. But only if I were very, very happy with you. So, you really want to make me happy, don't you?"
"Y-- yes," the Rodian replies. "I'll tell you whatever you want! Just please don't kill me!"
"First off, tell me your name," I ask. "Are you Kaka Oop?"
He nods. "I'm Kaka Oop."
"Let's start with Mandalore's mask," I say. "Do you know where it is?"
"What?" Kaka says. "No, I never had Mandalore's mask!" He mutters, "I did look for it, though. But I couldn't find it. It must've been hidden pretty well."
"Alright, then," I say. I didn't really expect him to know that one. "Then I'm going to ask you about Revan's mask. Where is it?"
"I don't know!" Kaka says. "I don't have it anymore!"
"So you did take it," I say.
"Um... yeah," Kaka says. "Oh, you have his armor, too? If you had them both, you could do a great impersonation of him..."
"Who did you sell it to?" I demand.
I grow impatient with him, at how slow he is to answer. In a fit of rage, I rip the knowledge from his mind, and leave him there as a drooling husk. It's only after I get back to the Ebon Hawk that I calm down and think I went too far.
It's easy to find my old mask again now that I know where to look, and commit a firm application of violence. I find it in the collection of a fallen Jedi, a would-be Sith who seeks to make up for in knowledge what he lacked in raw power.
"Mercy, mercy please... I meant no harm in it, my lord!" he pleads. "Had I known you still lived, I would have returned it at once!"
I cut him down with a burst of electricity shooting from my fingertips and step over his body to stand before the mask. The old Mandalorian mask that I'd picked up from a fallen warrior who had once tried to do something good. I take it up in my hands... and my mind swims...
I believed in something once. I believed that every life mattered. That everything I did had to count for something.
But now, it's come to this. It seems to me that it no longer matters who lives or dies. Who wins or loses.
I want to find an end to the never-ending cycle. But I cannot die. The only truth death is to forget.
And so... I will forget.
Have I done this before? Will I do this again? How many times has this cycle continued?
And for all this, I have forgotten my original purpose. It seemed, eventually, like it no longer mattered whether I saved my family. Whether I gained god-like power and bested Sardill.
How did it come to this?
Why do I keep giving it all up just when I've started to really accomplish something?
Because I no longer feel like I'm accomplishing anything. Because I lose sight of why I was doing it in the first place.
I wanted it to end. I wanted to rest. But I could not rest. So I chose the next best thing. To start fresh.
And then, not content with that, I managed to get myself to forget every time I died. I don't remember the details anymore. But I know that I wanted it, more than anything.
And yet, not content with forgetting, I later set things up to where I would remember things in dreams. Unfortunately, the things that I remembered came forth with no rhyme or reason, no context and no semblance of how they fit into everything else.
I have been a monumental fool.
So tired. I want to rest.
Have I forgotten what it means to be alive? Have I forgotten the value of existence? The things that I clung to, and held so precious once?
Have I forgotten the rainbow after the storm?
I don't even feel the floor as I hit the ground, and darkness takes me.