Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tales of a Former Dark Lord, Chapter 5: The Scouring of the Sith Base

Big Fat Disclaimer: I do not own Knights of the Old Republic or Star Wars.  That honor belongs to BioWare and George Lucas.  The only part of this story that’s mine is the character of Brinna Warrim.  All other characters are the creations of the genius developers of BioWare, as is some of the dialogue in this story, which I lifted word from word from the game.  I lay the blame for my obsession squarely at their feet.  :)  

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            Brinna awoke the next morning to a truly evil sound.  It struck fear into the core of her very heart in a way that no rakghoul or Sith soldier could ever hope to achieve.
            “Wake up,” a voice said, brusquely.  “We have little time to waste in lying about, despite what you seem to think.”
            “Whaaaa?” Brinna asked, opening her eyes and peering blearily at the form that was standing at the side of her bed.  Arms crossed, lips pursed, and foot tapping impatiently, Bastila was glaring down at Brinna.
            Evil.  She’s pure evil.  She’s pure, unadulterated evil! Brinna thought, as she continued to stare at Bastila, unable to quite comprehend that the Jedi was waking her up in a scolding manner that would have been better suited to a two-year-old.
            Feeling her hackles rising, Brinna did her best to blink the sleep out of her eyes.  She gazed across the apartment and saw Carth sitting by the door, apparently doing his best to pretend he was not aware of what was happening no more than twenty feet away from him. 
            “Carth and I have been up for hours waiting on you,” Bastila said, in her best schoolmarm tone.
            Brinna’s eyes were still on Carth and she could see quite clearly from the expression on his face that he wished Bastila had left him out of it.
            “Big Z, tell your girlfriend to shut up,” Mission murmured in her sleep.
            Bastila’s mouth fell open and her outrage was plain on her face.  Carth snickered but did his best to hide it behind his hand, which made Brinna snicker in turn.  He turned his head and noticed Brinna’s gaze and gave her a covert wink.
            “Rauugggh,” Zaalbar responded, not sounding too thrilled about Bastila’s wakeup call either.  Brinna hoped that Bastila didn’t understand the Wookie; otherwise, the Jedi would be less than thrilled with what Zaalbar had just called her.
            “I’m up, I’m up,” Brinna said, grouchily.  She coaxed herself into a sitting position, stretching her arms over her head before rubbing her hands over her face, doing her best to dislodge the grit in the corners of her eyes. 
            “Hurry.  We have wasted a great deal too much time already,” Bastila said.
            “And I was having such a pleasant dream about rescuing you yesterday,” Brinna said, her tone belying her annoyance.
            Mission gave what could only be defined as a loud snort of laughter, which she immediately tried to cover up by pretending she was in the midst of a coughing fit. 
            “What’s going on?” the Twi’lek asked, blinking her eyes as though her coughing had awakened her.
            Bastila glared at both of them and flounced back over to where Carth was sitting, resolutely ignoring Brinna and Mission as she began drinking out of a mug and talking quietly to Carth.
            “And I thought the Tarisian nobles were bad,” Mission whispered to Brinna as the Twi’lek made a big show of yawning.
            “You were awake the whole time, weren’t you?” Brinna asked her, amused.
            “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Mission said, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
            “You should have left me at the mercy of the Gamorrean slavers,” Zaalbar groused as he too rose from his bed.
            Brinna burst into loud laughter and both Carth’s and Bastila’s heads swiveled in her direction.  The expression on Bastila’s face caused Brinna to choke and she turned and hurried over to the apartment’s sink, splashing cold water on her face while imploring herself to be calm.  It couldn’t have been pleasant for Bastila to have been at the mercy of Brejik, which must surely be the explanation for her rude behavior. 
            Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Brinna thought as she dried her face and then combed her hair and pulled it back.  She had just enough time to bolt down some breakfast before Bastila practically hauled her out of the door, calling instructions to Mission and Zaalbar over her shoulder.  Carth looked at Bastila with a raised eyebrow and it seemed that the Jedi had actually heard something of what he had said yesterday because she looked somewhat abashed and closed her mouth with an almost audible snap.
            As soon as they stepped out of the door, Brinna was accosted by an alien who announced he came bearing a message from Canderous Ordo.  Brinna exchanged a surprised look with Carth, much to Bastila’s confusion.  The alien was sent off with the assurance that Brinna would seek Canderous out at the upper city cantina as instructed.
            “He’s a Mandalorian mercenary working for Davik,” Carth explained to Bastila as they set off.
            “What could he want with you?” Bastila asked Brinna.  By the tone of her voice, she might as well have asked Brinna what anyone could want with bog slime such as her.
            Patience, Brinna told herself.  “I have no idea,” Brinna responded, making her voice so sweet that she gave herself a toothache.  “I would suggest that we go find out.  Hold on just a minute, though.  I have one thing I need to do before we go down to the cantina.”
            Brinna entered the apartment next to hers and found an anxious-looking Dia within.  The smile that spread over her face at the news that Holdan had called off the bounty was a gratifying sight to Brinna.  Dia was so pleased that she offered a family heirloom to Brinna, an offer that Brinna graciously rejected.  Bastila made a pompous comment about the aide they’d offered to Dia and Brinna looked over at Carth with an incredulous expression.  He looked rather flabbergasted by Bastila’s taking credit for work she had not done but he shrugged helplessly at Brinna and said nothing.
            So help me, when I report back to the Republic at the end of all this, I’m demanding hazard pay for working with this rancor-cum-Jedi.
            It wasn’t long until they found out exactly what Canderous wanted.  Brinna was a bit surprised by his bluntness but she knew instantly that he was not being deceptive and that, however unlikely it seemed, he had every intention of carrying through on his promise to help her get off Taris.  She knew that Bastila sensed it too and she could practically have spoken the words along with Bastila.
            Disconcerted, she cast a look back at the Jedi.  An unreadable expression passed over the Jedi’s face and Brinna would have studied her more intently had Canderous not reclaimed her attention.  For the moment, the strange occurrence would have to be overlooked but Brinna carefully stowed it in the back of her mind for future analysis.  She told Canderous that she would break into the Sith base to steal the launch codes and Canderous told her she could purchase an astromech droid capable of breaking into the base from Janice Nall.
            “I don’t like the idea of trusting that merc,” Carth groused as they left the cantina.
            “Look, Carth, I’m not thrilled with the idea of being in league with a Mandalorian merc either but what other choice do we have?” Brinna asked him.
            Carth sighed.  “None.  But I’ll be keeping my eye on him.”
            “We’d hardly expect any less from you,” Brinna told him, sarcastically.
            Bastila looked from one to the other of them.  Carth graced Brinna with a mild glare to which she responded with a sunny smile, before he turned and distracted Bastila by asking her how the Vulkars had managed to overcome her. 
            Ahhh, that’s beautiful, Brinna thought with a smug smile as Bastila admitted that she’d misplaced her lightsaber.  Brinna suggested that maybe losing lightsabers was a side effect of Bastila’s Battle Meditation and was rewarded with a very un-Jedi like look of outrage from Bastila.  Carth wisely decided to back off without saying anything more other than a suggestion that Bastila might want to keep the loss of her lightsaber out of the history texts.  Brinna had to give Bastila some credit for humility as Bastila protested at Carth’s comments and then added that there were some things her Jedi Masters need not know about the mission.
            “Before we get the droid we need to drop the serum off with Zelka,” Brinna said, in a low voice.  The streets were crowded with Sith and she didn’t want anyone to overhead her.  “We’ll explain when we get there,” she added, cutting Bastila off as the other woman opened her mouth to question them.
            To Brinna’s relief, Bastila complied with nothing more than a curt nod and they made it to Zelka’s facility without incident.  Once inside, Brinna introduced Bastila to Zelka and then gave him the serum.  There were tears in the older man’s eyes as he thanked Brinna for her help and gave them the good news that there was enough serum for him to be able to synthesize it and begin distributing it to the poor.  Brinna once again refused a reward and was surprised to sense Bastila’s approval of her actions.  Maybe the Jedi wasn’t quite as cold as she appeared to be, though Brinna was once more annoyed by Bastila’s acceptance of Zelka’s praise as if she’d been the one to recover the serum.
            “Funny, I don’t remember her fighting any rakghouls to get to it,” Brinna muttered to Carth as they left the facility.
            “Shhh,” Carth admonished but he looked rather amused by Brinna’s ire.
            She opened her mouth to say something smart back to him but they were stopped by Gurney who berated Brinna for giving the serum to Zelka rather than Davik.
            “I don’t have time for you,” Brinna said, coldly, glaring malevolently at Gurney as she passed.
            “Wow,” Carth said, his voice filled with something like awe.  “I’m surprised he didn’t turn into a block of ice on the spot.”
            “He’s disgusting,” Brinna practically spat.
            She turned and caught Bastila studying her with an appraising look.  The Jedi gave her a curt nod, apparently signifying her approval of Brinna’s actions, before she was once more distracted by Carth, who asked if she’d ever considered joining Malak and Revan in the war against the Mandalorians.
            As Brinna listened to Bastila spouting her Jedi rhetoric, she was surprised by the vehemence behind Bastila’s words.  Though she’d never personally known a Jedi before, Brinna had always been under the impression that they were the most serene and composed creatures in the galaxy.  Clearly Bastila did not fit into this category.  Brinna supposed she could understand Bastila’s indignation against two Jedi who had chosen to disobey orders in favor of throwing themselves into the fray but she couldn’t understand exactly why Bastila seemed as angry about the affair as she did.  Curious, Brinna asked Bastila what the Masters had seen that had prevented them from coming to the aide of the Republic before they had.  Bastila’s voice was intense as she told Brinna that the Masters had sensed something out there that was devouring the Jedi.
            Bastila’s words were rather unsettling to Brinna but she doubted Carth had even heard them.  He obviously felt that the Jedi abandoned the Republic and Brinna knew that a great deal of his anger was personal.  Bastila, however, did not and she continued to argue the point with Carth until he angrily broke the conversation off.  Brinna studied Carth out of the corner of her eye and the tormented look in his eyes caused a twinge in her heart.  There was more to his story, a great deal more, she was sure of it.  She only hoped he would open himself up to her and unburden himself of some of the anger and guilt he wore like a badge.
            They arrived at Janice Nall’s shop.  Brinna felt badly for the prejudice the Twi’lek shop owner had faced but she took one look at their dwindling supply of credits and knew that they could ill afford to pay the asking price Janice quoted for T3-M4.  Feeling rather guilty, Brinna used her most persuasive tone of voice and convinced Janice to drop the price a bit.
            Brinna, Carth, and Bastila all agreed that it was best that they find the codes and report back to Canderous that day, so they set off for the Sith base immediately.  Once again, Brinna had the uncanny sensation that she was in tune with Bastila’s thoughts and it seemed that the Jedi was every bit as apprehensive as Brinna was.  Ever since finding Bastila, Brinna had not been able to shake the feeling that something ominous was looming on the horizon and that they’d best get off Taris as soon as they could.  It seemed Bastila had the same sentiments and Brinna could sense the whirl of Bastila’s thoughts.  She wondered if Bastila knew that Brinna could sense her thoughts.  More unsettling, Brinna wondered if Bastila could also sense what was running through her own head.
            Carth, it seemed, was blessedly unaware of anything strange between the two women.  He had a looked of focused determination on his face but didn’t seem troubled by anything that might be happening between Bastila and Brinna.  In fact, he was so focused that he’d forgotten to shoot Brinna one of his usual suspicious looks, much to her relief.  She could understand Carth’s paranoia, she truly could.  She simply did not like to be on the receiving end of it.
            Breaking into the Sith base was ridiculously easy with T3’s help and Brinna sent him off to their apartment base with a fond little pat of his metal head.  He beeped appreciatively before rolling off.  Brinna was positive that Mission would adopt the little droid the moment he slid through the apartment door and the thought made her smile.
            “Happy?” Carth asked, as they stepped into the elevator that would take them into the bowels of the base.
            “I’m always happy when I’m going off on a suicide mission,” she told him, brightly.  “I like nothing more than the thought of infiltrating a base full of merciless Sith.”
            “You scare me,” he said, frankly.
            She laughed and shook her head.  “Lighten up, flyboy.  What, do you think I’m some kind of psychopath?  No, I was really smiling because I was thinking of how sure I am that Mission’s going to take a shine to T3.”
            “Ah, gotcha,” Carth said.  She was annoyed to see that he relaxed, as if he’d really thought she had been serious about what she had said about breaking into the Sith base.  “Yeah, I think you’re right.  She will love him.”
            Brinna frowned at him, leaving him looking at her with a puzzled expression.  There was no further opportunity for conversation, however, as the doors slid open and they stepped into a reception area.  There was a Twi’lek female behind the desk who questioned their presence.  Brinna knew immediately that she was not a Sith and she offered the Twi’lek fifty credits to let them into the base without raising the alert.  The Twi’lek was positively delighted as she took the fifty credits and left the base with the request that they wait until she was gone to start destroying the place.
            “Wonderful security,” Bastila said, as she watched the Twi’lek get on the elevator they had just vacated.
            “Fortunately for us,” Brinna said distractedly as she sliced into the Sith computer systems and took a look at the base’s security camera feeds.  With a few keystrokes, she made a few favorable adjustments to the situation in the base.
            “Let’s go,” she said, grabbing her vibroblades and leading them through the first door.
            Even with the droid shields Brinna had lowered and the Sith soldiers she’d fried by causing power conduits to malfunction, they still had many challenges to face as they made their way through the base.  The initial base security had not been much to look at but the rest of the base was chock full of Sith who were more than willing to do their best to put down Republic infiltrators. 
            To Brinna’s astonishment, they ran into the Duros who had hid the bodies of the Sith patrol that she and Carth had killed during the first day of their search for Bastila.  He told Brinna how to disable the force field that held him captive in his cell and though she felt confident that she knew what she was doing, Brinna could not help but hold her breath until she successfully lowered the shield and set the alien free.
            As they fought against Sith after Sith, Brinna could not help but grudgingly admit that Bastila knew how to wield her double-bladed lightsaber.  Bastila’s ability to deflect blaster bolts with her saber was also a huge boon to them and Brinna was glad to suffer fewer blaster burns than she had during her search for Bastila.  The Jedi’s Force abilities also came in handy, especially when they faced the Sith governor at the end.  Even though he was outnumbered three to one, he still managed to give them a run for their credits until Bastila Force Stunned him, allowing them to finish him off in peace.
            Using the handy papers Gadon had provided, Brinna, Carth, and Bastila went down into the lower city.  Bastila and Carth were busy formulating whatever plans they could for their escape from Taris but Brinna was too distracted to really listen to what they said.  Maybe it had escaped their notice, but Brinna was well aware of the fact that the Sith governor had referred to her as a “Force Adept.”  Perhaps Bastila and Carth thought that he had been referring to Bastila but Brinna knew that the man had directed his comment at her.  His eyes had looked into hers with a gaze that was more knowing than Brinna liked.  It was almost as if he had sensed something within her of which she herself was unaware.  It was a disconcerting sensation, to say the least.
            Brinna supposed that it wasn’t a complete surprise; after all, Bastila herself had told Brinna that she suspected Brinna might be possessed of some untapped Force abilities.  Still, somehow this assertion was less troubling coming from Bastila, as arrogant and unpleasant as the Jedi could be.  At least Brinna knew she could trust Bastila.  After all, Carth Onasi, the galaxy’s least trusting person, placed a great deal of store in Bastila’s abilities and importance to the Jedi Order and the Republic.  If Bastila said she had Force abilities, she was speaking it as a truth and not out of any evil intent.  Brinna could handle the news coming from Bastila.  She could not, however, handle it from someone who represented everything she despised in the galaxy.  She did not like the idea of her enemy having the ability to read into her in that way.
            “Is something wrong?” Bastila asked, startling Brinna.
            Looking up, Brinna saw that they had nearly reached Javyar’s Cantina, where they were to rendezvous with Canderous.  She turned to look at Bastila blankly and saw that both the Jedi and Carth were studying her with surprised expressions.
            “No, why do you ask?” Brinna responded.
            “Because we’ve been asking you questions for the last five minutes and you apparently haven’t heard a word we’ve said,” Carth told her.
            Truly startled now, Brinna looked at the two of them.  “You have?”
            “Yes,” Bastila said and Brinna had the sudden sensation of something tickling at her mind, as if Bastila was attempting to probe her thoughts.
            Nonsense, Brinna told herself.  She can no more read your thoughts than you can read hers.  What happened with Canderous in the upper city cantina was just a coincidence.
            “It’s…it’s nothing, sorry.  I was just thinking about something that happened at the Sith base but it’s not important.  I didn’t mean to drift away there,” Brinna said lamely.
            Both Carth and Bastila studied her with skeptical expressions and Brinna was relieved to find that they had arrived at the cantina.  Before either of them had a chance to say anything else to her, she stepped past the bouncer and into the cantina.
            Canderous was waiting for them and, as promised, he unveiled the rest of his plan.  Brinna listened in astonishment as he said he’d get her into Davik’s estate by claiming that he had recruited her to work for the crime lord.  More surprising than that, however, was his announcement that they could use the launch codes to steal Davik’s ship, the Ebon Hawk, and flee from Taris.  Bastila immediately balked at the suggestion but when Canderous asked if she had a better idea, she grudgingly admitted that she did not.
            “It’s a deal,” Brinna said, before Carth or Bastila could say anything further.  She believed Canderous was sincere and she was more convinced than ever that they needed to get off the planet and get off it fast, though she had no idea exactly why she was convinced of this.
            “Excellent.  I knew you were clever enough to understand that this is a sound plan,” Canderous said, looking at Brinna with approval.  “Are you ready to go to Davik’s estate now?”
            “Yes.  The sooner the better,” Brinna said.
            “Then we’ll go immediately.  You’d better only bring one of your friends with you, though.  If I show up with a whole troop, Davik will get suspicious,” Canderous told her.
            Before she could even begin to think about who she should take, Carth said, “I’m coming.”  His was a tone that would brook no refusal.
            “Carth…” Bastila began to protest.
            “I think you should listen to your friend, princess,” Canderous suggested, his tone rather derisive as he looked Bastila up and down.  “Somehow I don’t think showing up at Davik’s estate with a Jedi in tow is good for anyone concerned.”
            Bastila was clearly incensed, both by Carth’s immediately stating that he would go and by Canderous’s words.  She sputtered for a moment and Brinna took pity on her.
            “Listen, Bastila, Canderous is right.  It would look strange if you came with us.  Why would Davik believe a Jedi would want to work for him?  Carth and I are less conspicuous than you and, anyway, someone needs to look after Mission, although I’ll deny it if you tell her I said that.  The Sith could descend on that apartment at any minute and I don’t want her or Zaalbar to be alone.  If the Sith come knocking, Mission and Zaalbar are definitely going to need your help,” Brinna told her.
            Bastila looked slightly mollified thanks to Brinna’s words and her persuasive tone but she was still clearly unhappy with the arrangements.  “Very well,” she said, grudgingly.
            “We won’t have much time once we steal that ship.  We’ll get a signal to you and you should meet us here,” Canderous said, marking a spot on the map on Bastila’s datapad.
            “May the Force be with you,” Bastila said before turning and leaving the cantina.
            “Let’s go,” Canderous said, without any further fanfare.
            Canderous led the way, Carth hot on his heels.  Brinna followed behind the two men, studying the tense set of Carth’s shoulders.  She was only too certain that he probably enjoyed teaming up with a Mandalorian as much as he would have enjoyed teaming up with Saul Karath once again.  Brinna was quite sure that Canderous was aware of Carth’s unspoken hostility but it was clear that Canderous was not the least bit troubled by it.
            When they reached Davik’s estate, Canderous played the situation off exactly as he had told Brinna he would.  She was surprised by how smooth the seemingly blunt warrior could be when he tried.  Davik accepted Canderous’s explanation without any signs of doubt, although his lapdog Calo Nord appeared to be much more suspicious, telling Canderous it was unlike him to work with others.  Nord and Canderous were like two animals in a pit, circling around each other, each one waiting for the other to be the first to strike.  Davik seemed both pleased and displeased by this situation.  He clearly did not want his two best men fighting with one another but Brinna couldn’t help but feel that Davik was pleased by the animosity seething between the two men.  She found it very difficult to play along and pretend like she couldn’t wait to work for Davik, she found the man so morally repugnant.
            Davik took them on a little tour of his estate and showed them his ship with a not-so-veiled warning about the consequences they would face if they attempted to steal it.  Brinna was unimpressed by Davik’s warning but she was impressed by the Ebon Hawk.  It was a larger ship than her own and had a sleek beauty that her own tidy little vessel couldn’t quite claim.  As a pilot, Brinna couldn’t help but covet the ship and she could hardly wait to get on it and put it through its paces.  If they had to lie, cheat, and steal in order to escape Taris, they might as well do it in style.
            Finally, Davik left them in a guest room with the warning that they were not to stray from the guest quarters while he ran a check on them.  In spite of herself, Brinna felt a cold finger of dread trail down her spine at Davik’s words.  He may have called them “guests” but it was quite clear to her that they were more prisoners than anything else.
            “We don’t have much time,” Canderous said, as soon as Davik and Calo left the room.  “Nord is already suspicious.  Still, it’ll take a few days before Davik realizes that anything is wrong.”
            “We’re not waiting a few days,” Brinna said, firmly.  “But we still need to be smart about this.  I’m assuming this place is under guard around the clock?”
            “Of course,” Canderous responded.  “Under the watchful eye of the best and most unscrupulous guards and bounty hunters Davik can find.”
            “Well, that makes things easy,” Brinna said, facetiously.  “Still, it’s too early right now.  I think we’d be better off resting for a few hours and then trying to make a break for it first thing in the morning when there hopefully won’t be as many guards around.”
            “I don’t like the idea of staying here tonight but I think you’re right,” Carth said, reluctantly.
            “Agreed,” Canderous said.
            “Good, then it’s unanimous,” Brinna said, brightly.  Now that they were closed in a smaller space, Carth’s animosity toward Canderous was even more apparent and the Mandalorian had started to look at Carth with something like an amused challenge in his eyes.
            Great, just what I need: a testosterone fest, Brinna thought.
            “You two go ahead and rest.  I’ll keep watch first,” Canderous said.
            “No need.  I rarely sleep anyway,” Carth said, evenly.
            “Is that so?” Canderous asked, seizing him up.
            “Yes, it is,” Carth said, toying oh-so-subtly with his vibroblades, which made Canderous smile rather predatorily.
            “I have an even better idea.  How about you both sleep with your fingers on the trigger while I keep watch?  Just don’t blast one another behind my back,” Brinna suggested sarcastically.
            “I like your friend.  She’s got style,” Canderous told Carth, his smile changing to one of genuine amusement.
            Carth did not look too pleased at Canderous’s comment, which made Brinna want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him silly.  It was fine for him to be as suspicious as he wanted when it came to her but if another man dared to say anything about her he felt he had to rush to defend her honor? 
            “Yeah, well, stick with me and you’ll learn a thing or two.  Both of you,” she said, trying to draw the attention back to herself so that they two would stop looking at one another like kath hounds getting ready to challenge one another for the position of alpha male.  “Now shut up and go to sleep.”
            Canderous laughed and Carth shot her a sour look but neither of them said another word as they each lay down.  Carth stared directly at Brinna as if to prove to her that he had no intention of sleeping and she made a face at him before turning her back on him and facing the door.  It was going to be a long night.