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Coventry

Coventry Desperaux and the Hallowed Ground

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The Padawan meditated in his dorm, waiting for the master assigned to him. He kept calm, his typical pazaak face present. Today was it. The day. He had not been looking forward to it. In his opinion he was about to undertake the single most dangerous part of his training. The Spirit Trial. He was going to look into the abyss of his own mind and face whatever was squirming around in its recesses. He had completed the script he was asked to write the day before, writing only what was within, in a gently cursive hand that was still legible. He had prepared it by hand, on flimsi, rather than type it in a datapad. That was how important this was.

 

He had heard tales of those who failed the trial...their minds shattered, in permanent catatonia. This was a very dangerous undertaking. Even a Desperaux's mind could not guarantee it's own integrity in the face of the trials stresses. Best case scenario if he failed hard was he'd be reduced to a babbling wreck, unable to even build a lightsaber. Worst case...well...there were worse things then being a babbling wreck.

 

Coventry had drawn up a schematic. A schematic of a curved hilt. Copies of which he had signed and sent to Inoy and Thuria in case the worst happened as a gift, along with his best wishes. He did not view himself as a pessimist, merely a realist. At last he sensed the presence of a Jedi Master...only a master could have such a strong signature. He opened his eyes, rising, clad in his usual dark green robes. The master was a mirialan man, with short cut dark hair, a round face, blue eyes, and wore long, flowing dark blue robes.

 

"Padawan Desperaux? I am Gojo Kurak. I'm a telepathy specialist assigned to you for your spirit trial. Are you ready? What you are about to undertake is very dangerous. Many fail this trial." Gojo explained, his voice deep and authorative.

 

Coventry bowed. "I am, Master Kurak."

 

"Have you a complete script?"

 

Coventry went over to his desk and retrieved the handwritten script. Gojo flipped over a few pages of it, eyebrow raising slightly. "Very well then, accompany me to the ruins." 

 

Coventry straightened up, and followed the middle ages Jedi out of his dorm, his lightsabers left behind. They would not help him here.

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Posted (edited)

Coventry called upon the Jedi code to ease his mind as they approached the destroyed area that had once been the room of a thousand fountains. He had seen pictures, once, before his capture at the hands of the Sith, he'd often dreamed of walking around inside it. His own private mental retreat. He hoped he lived to see it rebuilt, it's beauty restored, so he could meditate within it for real, because it had been destroyed before his time.

 

"I've been doing this a long time Padawan, helping students through this trial. I have to warn you...I have not always succeeded. Some students cannot handle the ugliest aspects in their own being," Gojo warned him as they made their trek. 

 

"I know the dangers of the trial. I know the dangers to my mind."

 

"It is one thing to be aware of a threat as it's abstract...it is quite another to experience it personally. Even I was not prepared for what I saw."

 

"What did you see, Master Kurak? If it isn't prying too much?"

 

Gojo looked at him. "Perhaps if your trial is successful, I will tell you."

 

Coventry nodded respectfully. "Fair enough."

 

They at last reached the vast ruins. He saw plants sprouting up through cracks in the ground. The Force was strong here, even in the area's decrepitude. And the presence of Jedi was slowly purifying its flow.

 

The Jedi had suffered a catastrophic setback in the ruination of the Coruscant temple. A tragic loss of life, to say nothing of how humiliating it had been. In those days, the menace of the Dark Side had never seemed stronger...

 

And yet...in spite of all that...life went on...plants still grew. It was this fact, that to Coventry, exposed the lies the Sith told of the Dark Side's supremacy. Because no matter how much of a tantrum they threw, it seemed, the flow of life always seemed to correct itself. The Sith had smashed the headquarters, slaughtered their best, butchered their leaders. It would have been the end for nearly any other organization. But The Sith had hit them with maybe the hardest blow they could...and they still could not kill them. They had tried covert methods...overt methods...combinations of both...and The Jedi were still here, growing stronger.

 

The Force balanced itself in the end. It always had. It always would. He took some comfort in that realization, seeing even those small plants. The world would go on. The Force would go on.

 

Coventry spotted a crack surrounded by a ring of small plants. That was it, that was the spot.

 

Coventry pointed to it. "There," he said. "That's where I want to start."

 

"You are certain?" Gojo asked.

 

"I am."

 

Gojo nodded. Coventry stepped carefully over the ring of plants, settling into the lotus position. Gojo sat across from him.

 

"To face the mirror, we must go into deep meditation. Deeper than any you have ever experienced before. Close your eyes...deep breaths..."

 

Coventry did so, breathing slowly and deeply.

 

"Good luck, Padawan..." Gojo said.

 

"I thought masters didn't believe in luck," Coventry spoke. 

 

"Most of the time we don't believe in it. Truly random, yet favorable entropy is rare...but happens. And while you must always put your faith in the Force, it doesn't hurt to want the universe's dice to roll you a seven during times like this," Gojo joked.

 

This earned a rare chuckle from the otherwise stoic Padawan. He resumed his meditation, breathing deeply.

 

"Sink within the Force...and continue sinking," Gojo told him.

 

Coventry emptied his mind, sinking. He began to feel the outer sensations dull. It reminded him of how he started to process his more vivid dreams. He could control and remember most if not all his dreams, like all descendants of Despiar Lucid-Dreamer. 

 

The ground underneath him began to not be noticed.

 

"Deeper..." Gojo whispered, voice starting to slow down.

 

Coventry lost his sense of touch.

 

"Deeeeeppperrr..."

 

The sense of smell went next.

 

"Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppppeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..." Gojo's voice called out from some distant place, now so slow it was like it was being manipulated by a computer.

 

Coventry sank deep into the depth of his mindscape...and kept sinking...

 

***

 

He was in the cell, and a half second of panic ensued...had it all been a dream? Was he still in the cell? Had he never left in the first place? Was Inoy, Thuria, Tongg...just horrible dreams a disintegrating mind told itself to give it companionship?

 

He looked about, almost frantic at the idea...he checked his wrists looking for the sores the shackles left...only to realize he was still in his robes. He checked the robes...they felt real...he felt real. He checked the knowledge in his head...it didn't seem contrived...

 

An amber lightsaber blade but through the cell door. He heard shouting outside. Alarms ringing. 

 

He knew this moment. Burned into his memory like one of the scars of his skin. The scars that were so bad he almost resembled a burn victim without his robes on.

 

He stated as the door was force pulled away. And in she strode.

 

Luke Coolhand, aka Lucky Seven, the only one besides him and Carra still openly defying the Warden's attempts to break prisoners. She was once a Jedi Shadow, the daughter of an escape artist from Castell. Keyword: Once. She got the name Lucky Seven both because she had a tattoo of a gray seven on her left cheek, her skin was pale, being a Nagai. Very pale and she had messy, curly her black hair. Her eyes were gone, cut out by the warden, who had also carved the number seven in a rage across her whole body after she spat in his face. She was clad in dark blue armor, and was carrying a synthetic red blade, which she tossed him, having killed one of the Sith Torturers beforehand for it.

 

She was beautiful, somehow, still.

 

"Coventry Desperaux. It's time," she spoke.

 

"We must act quickly," he said tonelessly, unable to help himself. He remembered, having kept himself strong with smuggled food from that traitorous guard.

 

"Carra's in position," Coolhand said. "Vostok's reckoning is upon us."

 

"Yes, it is. We have only one shot at this," he repeated without the heart he had had for it the first time. In the day the riots happened, his major concern was not spending one more day, one more hour, being tormented. The edge of sanity. Desperation. 

 

Coventry stepped forward. Through the cell, bracing himself for the familiar...

 

...and found himself in the top of a skyscraper in Coruscant, with a rappel line. 

 

"Yo, Covey! You ready?" called out a familiar voice.

 

Coventry turned around. It was Kultram...clad in dark blue robes, in contrast to his dark green.

 

He felt something on his belt. He checked and was stunned to see his lightsaber...his original lightsaber.

 

It was a durasteel staff nominally, but had been crafted with a distinctly insect like aesthetic, the emitter shrouds reminiscent of gossamer wings on butterflies. The blade guards like bent insect legs, the main body having off but not uncomfortable recesses. This blade, unlike every other blade he had built after, did not have an eye motif like the schematic he had built his magenta blade with.

 

"C'mon, bro. Those hostages aren't going to save themselves!" Kultram exclaimed.

 

"Coming, brother," he said, stopping in surprise as he heard his own voice, which was young and clear, rather than that damaged voicebox he had spent his whole life with.

 

Coventry was now concerned. He had know the trial would be difficult but not this. Gojo hadn't been kidding...

 

Except...even though he had included this part in the script...deep down, he still wasn't certain as to WHY.

Edited by Coventry

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Posted (edited)

Coventry blinked, not quite certain as to why he was including this but he played along. There had to be a reason. There was always a reason. Always. Especially for him.

 

Coventry began to hook up to the fastening point they had drilled into the roof. The sun shown down from high up, casting a mild peach color across the cityscape. It was curiously silent, despite the presence of the usual number of airspeeders in their set lanes. He felt a cool wind blowing across his face. He stared at Kultram in obvious surprise. No trace of the Dark Side, like he had felt happen.

 

"What's the matter? You look like a nerf in speeder headlights."

 

"I'm...fine," Coventry responded, still shocked by how normal he sounded. He had always wanted a normal voice.

 

"You don't seem fine...wanna sit this one out? I can cover it, it'll just take me longer."

 

"No, I'm on mission," Coventry reassured his brother, still not entirely sure where his mind was going with this. He approached the edge, the wind cool and pleasant. Kultram approached the edge as well. "Ready? We Force push the window in, take them down with Shii-Cho. On three...two...one..."

 

They both repelled down the building, dropping four stories in a matter of seconds and Coventry slowed the rope to a stop as they reached the level seventh from top. Both held out their hands, making sure no one was on the other side before delivering the strongest Force push possible. The window popped open and they both swung forward and cut their rappel lines as they landed in what looked to be a conference room. It was cherry red, with paintings of a flaming sword, like he'd seen in a particularly morbid children's anthology once, on Hoth.

 

He stared, getting a better look at Kultram's lightsaber. He was surprised to see it was a white version of his own  long handled single bladed hilt that he used in the real world. The hilt was a hospital white, but the eye was different on the large emitter shroud. It was black, surrounded by a black diamond shape. He moved quietly, and Coventry followed, stopping where Kultram ordered, both drawing their blades. Coventry raised an eyebrow as as sapphire blade wreathed in flames sprouted.

 

"They're just outside," he said.

 

"Hey what was that?" he heard on the other side as Kultram shut off the lightsaber. Coventry tensed, waiting, as the door slowly opened.

 

He threw a punch, making the criminal stumble backward, and into the grasp of Kultram. Coventry tensed, prepared to stop Kultram if he went too far.

 

Kultram instead put him in a sleeper hold, rendering the man in black armor with graying buzzcut and goatee with dark skin struggled before he lost consciousness. Coventry smiled. No more than the max amount of force necessary to render someone incapacitated. 

 

"Your Stava lessons have been helping," Kultram whispered wryly with a grin.

 

"Oh, so you take direction now?" Coventry joked back, in spite of himself. He felt his response was odd, suddenly. He usually wasn't that ready to crack a joke. Most of the time he had no sense of humor. Even Inoy, his closest friend, usually didn't get more than a crooked grin.

 

Kultram went out the door first and Coventry moved quietly behind him. The floor had soft carpeting though...little danger of loud noises. Coventry spotted the second man patrolling the hall way with his back to him. Coventry dashed forward with the Force, stopping just behind him as he turned...

 

...revealing himself to be that burly Vostok guard that had regularly beaten him in his cell.

 

Coventry froze, uncertain as to what was going on...what to do...he had put this in the script, but he was not sure how to react now that he had come across this part.

 

The guard smirked, eyes malevolent, as he cocked his fist back for a blow. He was somehow in the Gray uniform of the Vostok guards.

 

Coventry dodged the first blow, caught the second, twisting the arm into a lock behind his back, putting him in a sleeper hold and letting him struggle for a moment before he lost consciousness.

 

Coventry dropped him, unsure how he felt about the moment. He could never stop the prick from nearly busting his jaw before. He had almost not told Kultram to stop hitting him back when he had busted out. But taking the high ground that day had felt...empty.

 

Coventry had never admitted that to himself before now. He had tried to seperate his mind from the emotion associated with all that the guard had done to him. But the man had been sadistic and evil to the core, just like the warden. Coventry couldn't even bring up pity for the man's nature. He could feel empathy for people who'd fallen on hard times, the people who let their vices get the better of them. The people who had used to be paragons of virtue but had descended into evil, sometimes from very real injustices they had suffered until they simply couldn't take it anymore. But for the guard...the first time Coventry had looked into his eyes he could tell there had been no gradual decline, no fall from grace...he had always been that way. Thus, Coventry spared nothing for him. There would have been no point. The man was a psychopath.

 

Coventry stared, not feeling any real resolution. He recalled Tongg's dying warning. He knew it was good advice, and he experienced a sense of shame that a part of him didn't want to listen. He could eventually forgive the Republic for their heinous act on Tython...but he had lost what small trust he had held for them.

 

Was that his darkness, he wondered, or part of it? Was that what he was to face in this other world? If so, why was he not facing it immediately? Everyone had darkness. Everyone. No one was completely pure. 

 

That was the Consulars burden. They were close to the nature of the force, studied it's intricacies more...the danger of emotion, and the temptation to succumb to it an ever present issue. He has not succeeded in making Kultram understand. Why couldn't he make him understand--

 

"Hey!" Kultram hissed, clearly concerned. "Why'd you freeze?"

 

"You don't recognize him?" Coventry asked, turning to him.

 

"No," Kultram answered, looking perplexed. "Then again, I never was too good at telling Kel-Dor apart..."

 

Coventry turned back to the unconscious figure. It was a Kel-Dor, not the guard in Coventry's cell.

 

"Shavit," he muttered. This was a ton freakier than it had been writing it.

 

 

Edited by Coventry

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Coventry and Kultram made their way down a flight of stairs, hearing shouting.

"They're gonna kill the hostages soon," Kultram muttered. "We don't act now, they're dead."

"How many criminals are we talking?" Coventry whispered.

"At least ten left," Kultram answered back as quietly.

"What are their demands?"

"Not sure, Coventry, We only got the call from the cops a few minutes before it came out on the news," Kultram answered.

"I see," Coventry replied. "Well, let's not keep them waiting."

"Really? That's the best you can do for a one liner?" Kultram joked.

"I never was much of a zinger," Coventry said back with a ready grin, which felt strange at how willing he had been to give one. Even when he smiled at Inoy, it was reluctant, because he didn't like smiling. He wasn't proud of that, wasn't proud of how...frozen...he was when it came to expressing himself.

It had never been easy for him to talk anything but business, even when he had been with Carra as his teacher. He took after his master's stoicism, though even Carra could be warm and friendly when she wanted to be.

He had never been the guy people liked to talk to. He had never been built that way.

Coventry took point, staff in his hand, and he spotted armored criminals with blaster rifles in another conference room. He saw a group of hostages, about five in all, tied with ropes and huddled in a corner with gags.

"I'll set it up. You keep an eye out for reinforcements," Kultram instructed.

Coventry froze at those words, turning slowly...

...he wasn't in the skyscraper anymore...

He was instead in Test Chamber A.

The alarms were blaring, the Siren lights flashing crimson in a strobe effect that danced on the walls and ceiling.

"ATTENTION, PRISON STAFF...THIS IS A LEVEL 10 ALERT. MASS BREAKOUT IN PROGRESS. REINFORCEMENTS NEEDED IN CELL BLOCKS A, B, C, D, E, F..." The computerized voice of the Prison's electronic security A.I., Headhunter, announced. "TURRET'S DEPLOYED AT ALL SECURITY JUNCTURE'S...

"Coventry, you hear me? I said keep an eye out for reinforcements," Coolhand muttered, slicing one of the test subjects restraints off with her blade.

He looked around, remembering this place intimately. The testing tables where they restrained prisoners. They had been researching central nervous systems, from what he could gather. They were lined up against the walls exactly he remembered.

He went over to his table, the one where they always put him when testing his pain responses. It was empty. He remembered the clinical way they had spoken as they injected him with drugs.

Coventry didn't realize he remembered the pain so clearly, remembered every scar, and how it had gotten there, until his fist was clenched, seizing at a memory of how the scientists had injected something that made him him hallucinate terrifying things for over two hours. A dozen nameless drugs, known only by their effect. All pain, all of specific, succinct variety. Hell, different genre's.

He unclenched it, refusing to become angry. He didn't want to give even the memory of this place the satisfaction. He instead guarded with his synthetic red blade. He remembered this blade intimately also.

He had killed three guards with this, when he had taken the test chamber. Crude Shii-Cho attacks. He looked around the vast chamber filled with restraint tables and cabinets of drugs and computer stations. He spotted the one's he had killed that day, still in the exact spots they had fallen failing to defend this place from him and Luke.

Luke shouted for his help and Coventry went immediately to her side. She was undoing the restraints on a man Coventry had known well. Mikhail Ulfberht, a human from a planet called Castell. He was shorter than Coventry, with dark hair in a ponytail. His skin was a brown tan, bruised and bloodied by hours of torture, swelling on his face. He had been discovered at last, sneaking food into a prisoner's cell. That was what had prompted the idea to stage the riot a day early...the ringleaders of the breakout worried he would talk, Carra included.

Mikhail was a reminder that even the cruelest most unforgiving place can occasionally contain one decent soul who would act on his conscience...Mikhail had claimed he had been sent here from the academy, and for the first few months, had followed orders diligently.

It was the nightmares, he claimed, that had eventually gotten to him. The dreams he would have of victim's chasing him. He had started sneaking food in to individual prisoners, and had eventually become essential to planning the breakout. He had snuck lightsabers into their cells, stealing equipment to make them and using a Force adept off site sympathetic to his cause to make synthetic blades. That Force adept had been captured also...apparently a Dark Jedi having a crisis of conscience. How Mikhail had gotten in tight with a Dark Jedi, much less appealed to that Dark Jedi's better nature and succeed was any one's guess. Mikhail himself had never revealed much on the subject. Coventry had guessed the man had called in a serious favor...and that Force user had owed him so phenomenally that they couldn't help but do it.

In spite of knowing this was all the diseased reminiscence of his subconscious, Coventry went over to him. "Mikhail?" he called out gently, shaking him, already knowing the answer he would get. "Can you walk?"

Mikhail coughed a bit, spitting up blood. "I'm good," he replied, wincing, staring out of his good eye, the tissue around the other too swollen to see out of. He stood up, shuddering in pain.

"Get the other one," Luke instructed.

Coventry nodded, wondering why he bothered with this pantomime...hadn't this already happened? He had not understood what had made him write this into the script...Vostok lingered like a bad sore in his mind. The most succinct reasoning he could give to himself upon completion was he wanted to excise it, somehow...

Coventry went over to the only other table that had contained a prisoner. It was a female rattataki with wiry, muscular features. She had been in Vostok for only a few hours, as far as he could tell. Fresh meat still looked defiant. It would have faded in time. She was shaved bald, clad in a gray prisoners outfit.

She was awake, had a black eye and needle marks on her arm. "Get. Me. Out. Of. Here," she snarled. She looked barely out of her teens.

"You on your side, or ours?" he asked, as he had before. "We don't work together, none of us escape."

"I'm gonna kill as many of these gorram guards I can get my hands on," she snapped. "Let's burn this place to the ground..."

Coventry opened the restraints by hitting a switch on the side of the table. "Got a name?" Coventry had asked, as Luke tossed her another lightsaber hanging from her belt.

The Rattataki snapped the synthetic red blade on. "Odrania," she answered, just as four armed prison security teams burst through a wall, firing machine guns.

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Everyone got behind the cover of durasteel tables as bullets whistled through the area. "We're pinned down!" Coventry yelled at Luke the way he had when it actually occurred.

 

Luke, having once been a shadow, shrouded herself with the Force, going invisible. The guards firing the machine guns were then ruthlessly sliced in half lengthwise, split between the legs. Coventry felt a surge of guilt at not feeling anything over the matter. He had recognized those guards. They had personally broken his ribs.

 

How do you summon compassion for someone like that? The Jedi Code commands compassion for all living things, but how do you summon compassion for people who lived to make every waking moment of your life agony? He had tried, the first few months he was here. He felt it wasted. They neither wanted compassion or pity...what was the point?

 

In all the months of his training that question had danced around in the back of his mind, but he had never tried to address it. Wasn't it enough that he didn't hate them? Wasn't it enough that he didn't want revenge?

 

Wasn't that enough? 

 

A surge of bitterness at the question took him by surprise. He was unfamiliar with addressing it, unsure how to use the Jedi Code to banish it. 

 

He thought of his brother as the pantomime played out, Luke decloaking as Odrania got out from behind cover. Kultram had done what anyone BUT a Jedi would have done had they both the drive and the skill: His actions had utterly destroyed this place. Coventry was not sorry to have watched the Devil claim the structure, his flames licking and consuming the roof, spreading to the walls.

 

Coventry realized at that moment he identified with certain sentiments his brother had about justice, about the law of Karma, more than he wanted to admit or indulge in. Moral justice commanded that Vostok be put to the torch and rendered unto the domain of hell and its ruler. But ethical justice, what the Order espoused, would have tried to avoid unforgiving total destruction. Coventry realized at that moment when it came to Vostok, he flatly disagreed with such a sentiment. Vostok had earned its destruction a thousand times over.

 

But as he stared at the bodies he couldn't figure out why he was not secure in that sentiment. He didn't want to be his brother. He knew that. His brother was an idealist who made no room for reality. As a Jedi in training, Coventry did not have that luxury. A Jedi has to follow the will of the force...even if its will be that the Jedi in question becomes life's chew toy. He didn't want to be his brother. Had he not refused to detonate the explosives in the cave on Ando Prime? Had he not refused to condemn a helpless man to a painful and pointless execution?

 

So why was it he found himself sympathizing with his brother's mindset when he found himself here? In his single most horrible memory.

 

Carra's fate whispered in the back of his skull. He pulled himself away from that moment, not ready to face it. He realized he was breathing hard, the memory so raw...

 

He snapped to attention as Odrania went to check on Mikhail. "Mik, you ok?" she asked in a husky voice.

 

"I said I'll be fine," Mikhail answered.

 

"Good," Odrania snapped. "Because this is the last time I do you any favors THIS big. We escape this you better not come around my swamp for a while...I won't be happy to see you," she warned.

 

"I'm glad you're ok too," he muttered, chuckling darkly.

 

Odrania rolled her eyes. 'Yeah yeah, me too."

 

She turned to Luke. "Where the hell are we in Vostok and where are the Ships?"

 

"We're in the South Wing of the facility. The hangers are up north," the Nagai woman answered Odrania. "And they are being guarded by every dumbass that wants to die for this pile of shavit.

 

"Point me in the direction of the enemy. They will die for this insult." Odrania looked ready to kill.

 

"Coventry, I'll get Mikhail back on his feet. You go with Odrania and get to checkpoint seven. The other Prisoners are trying to advance on a turret nest," Luke ordered. "What are you waiting for, Go!"

 

Coventry broke off into a run and Odrania followed. He sprinted through the corridors, while the voice of the Warden played over the P.A. system.

 

"So," came the smug voice of an aristocrat. "The lot of you finally decided to grow a pair, eh? Oh, come now, why bother pretending it wasn't going to come to this? We both hate one another, and we both know we've been wanting to have it out. Just as well. I've been needing to free up some cells and tormenting you all was getting boring...you are all familiar with my techniques, so you're all used to them. It loses some of the 'Oomph' after a while. Don't worry! No reinforcements are coming! I have not sent for them. I want you all to myself for the next few hours...one last, grand, mass torture," the Warden said menacingly, as Coventry came upon a turn where prisoners with lightsabers were being blown back by turret shots. 

 

Coventry darted forward, summoning the sphere, Carra Bhakti's signature technique. The turret bolts impacted against it and Odrania hid behind it, unleashing multiple bolts of lightning in the direction of the guards operating it.

 

Coventry moved forward along with other Prisoners, no one caring what alignment the person next to them had in the Force. Not today. Because only one overriding thing dominated every prisoner who suffered here:

 

Kriff Vostok.

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Coventry and Odrania moved forward, Odrania cutting down the guards in a murderous rage, deflecting stray bolts with his Shii-Cho, crudely advancing with choppy, sloppy attacks that severed limb from torso, slicing weapons to pieces. He tried not to kill, but it occasionally happened. He had been weakened by torture, and was barely hanging on to sanity. He was lucky he was not feral, like some of the other prisoners were, slicing through prison staff with abandon. Even those that had not given in didn't seem to broken up when a guard fell to them by happenstance. All that mattered was that this place get destroyed and the Warden die at their hands. He enacted the crude motions he had used that day, his excellent recall having captured each moment against his will. He recalled nearly every moment of consciousness in Vostok. It was a side effect of his bloodlines mental resistance to telepathic intrusion...near perfect recall. Desperaux's remember everything in near perfect detail, even while they were given the strength to shoulder that burden.

 

Coventry didn't know how well he shouldered that burden, whether this nightmare was the beginning of the end or whether it was a sign of progress. 

 

Coventry delivered a kick to a riot guard that had come too close with a vibrosword, the vibrating edge barely missing his face. He sliced through the guard's left hand, disarming him, but otherwise leaving him alive. He couldn't speak for what would happen when another prisoner got to him. That wasn't his problem. There was simply no way of controlling how badly the prisoners wanted payback.

 

Again and again, he had wondered if it had been wise to even instigate the riot. But what had they all been supposed to do, be tortured until they died or joined the Sith? All Coventry knew was that he was tired at the time. He didn't want to die in that cell. All that was in that cell was the entrance to Perdition, to a world of flames and pain.

 

The walls, as before seemed to loom above the and close in, the alarm klaxon blaring at high pitch, metalic tones in a repeating sequence of three times every five seconds.

 

"You think you can take ME, YOU SONS A SCHUTTAS! I AM LORD OF THIS DOMAIN! I OWN YOUR LIVES! I. WILL. CRUSH YOU!" The Warden shouted in challenge over the announcement system "Bring it on! Do your WORST! DO YOUR ABSOLUTE DAMN WORST! I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU! I WILL NEVER BE AFRAID OF YOU!"

 

"This kriff needs to die," Odrania snarled, butchering another guard in a blood haze. She savagely sliced through three guards with vibrostaves, clearly lost in the rage of the Dark Side. Coventry cut off the leg of a guard that had been about to shoot a fellow prisoner in the back, the guards agonized scream shook Coventry to the core as he did it, especially since those screams only got louder when the other prisoners started hacking away at him with their blades. His stomach lurched. This was why he didn't kill unless necessary. And this was why if he did, he always tried to kill quickly and painlessly. He should have done it himself. The guard had suffered horribly, even if it was his own karma coming back to render the wages of his sins in this evil place. 

 

He sliced through another arm, then a leg, then another arm holding a slugthrower. He was starting to encounter more guards with those. They were starting to break out anti lightsaber weapons. Seems they were prepped for even a scenario like this, though given the disparity and infrequency of encounters, he had surmised they were more for repelling rescue attempts, against limited numbers of Jedi, not suppressing an internal riot where nearly all prisoners were armed with lightsabers.

 

"We have to get to the Warden's office!" Coventry shouted at Odrania and a few others.

 

"Why?!" The Rattataki woman shouted. 

 

"The Prison A.I., Headhunter!" Coventry answered. "Its directing staff resistance! If we can sabotage it we can affect the guards ability to coordinate a defense!"

 

"The ships are in the north!" Odrania protested, slicing through another guard.

 

"You'll never leave this planet if Headhunter is directing the anti-spacecraft turrets!" He shouted back, slicing the hand off a guard and punching him out, recalling everything he had said that day, the way he had said it, with a disturbing precision and compulsion he did not understand. He only knew it was important he do so. Not why.

 

"Oh, fine," Odrania said with faux exasperation, cutting off a guard's head. She bounded after him as he went into another wing of the facility.

 

He knew what came next but could not stop it. The Combat Droids came out of hidden recesses in the walls, modeled on Krath war droids but made smaller and smarter for Vostok's purposes, painted a deep red and armed with vibroblades and scatterguns built into their arm. Odrania had seen them decloak before he could react and hurled him into a nearby open cell with the Force before diving in to avoid the automatic scattergun fire from the skeletal, faceless warbots, which cut down the prisoners that had followed to cover them.

 

He had never figured out why Odrania, a darksider, had done that. ..had saved his life. She had certainly had no reason to. He doubted she even needed his help. For her part, she had never explained her reasons, merely getting up from her own dive into the cell and hurling lightning at the droids, cooking some and ramming the rest into the walls with telekinesis. 

 

She helped him up. "Don't get all mushy on me. I don't need your thanks," she snapped, saber going active and bolting out of the cell.

 

Coventry sighed and followed, walking through the open door...

 

...and finding himself back in the strange skyscraper. With his brother shaking him.

 

"Covey, you alright?!" Kultram asked. "Why didn't you keep an eye for reinforcements? I sense them heading our way! We need to protect them!" he exclaimed, gesturing to the still bound hostages.

 

"H-how many?" He asked, realizing he was drenched in sweat.

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Posted (edited)

"At least twenty," Kultram asked, his fiery sapphire blade activating. "Are you sick or something?" 

 

"No. I'm good to go," Coventry answered, the question in the back of his head rising up to trouble him as to what was real and what wasn't. He clamped down on that question. Hard. His escape had been real. Forseti biting it recently, as horrid as that had been, had been real. Forseti had deserved better, and he'd gotten shavit. But the ones the order really needed, he had noticed, tended to get claimed by the Force disturbingly often. And the Force didn't deal in 'deserved'. You took what it gave. End of story.

 

Coventry wondered why he had put this strange, disjointed sequence into the script repeatedly. It made no sense. But there had to be some point. It was...a mystery.

 

Coventry took his staff off his belt, feeling its weight. He remembered how it felt, having built it to his size when he was twelve. He had constructed it in Carra's presence. 

 

He flicked the activation buttons. Both blades shot out, one blue, one green, due to the fact that internally, past the singular hilt casing, it was two seperate lightsabers, just like Carra's. She had cautioned him against building a staff with only one crystal...you cut it in half, you destroy the crystal, you were screwed. Such designs should only be for hybrid staff weapons designed to look like single bladed hilts at a distance. He had taken the advice to heart. He spun, surprised by how happy he was to hold it. It had been his first effort. It would always have a special place in his memory. It was one of his happiest memories where Carra was concerned. They had braved Ilum to obtain the crystals. It had taken him hours to construct the blade.

 

The blades gave a low hum as he twirled them experimentally. He was happy to be fighting alongside his brother, even if it was just some warped conjuring of his own head. 

 

The memory of Kultram's pain as he begged him not to leave Vornu had quietly haunted him during his training on Vornu. He had never acknowledged it. Maybe that had been his mistake. He had never been good at addressing anything to do with his brother. Complicating matters was the fact that it was Kultram, personally, who had retrieved him from his cell. It was Kultram, personally, whose actions had released the prisoners from their cell blocks, leading to the prison getting its Karma when it had burned to the ground. It was Kultram's actions that had allowed them to escape. Coventry would have been a liar if he said he wasn't grateful for all of that. That he didn't wish he had some of his older brother's decisiveness, his charisma...though he would not have utilized it in the same manner.

 

As he heard shouting he rushed out, followed closely by Kultram. The criminals were armed with swords and blasters. He rushed forward, ignoring the cold sweat drenching the upper front of his robe, the way his black hair was matted to his scalp. 

 

Quick blaster shots from rifles caused Coventry to sink into a crude Form One stance, before charging into the fray, crudely batting aside the bolts with clumsy looking swipes from his staff, getting close to the shooter and cleaving the weapon in half, kicking his attacker in the face, bolting towards another three shooters and slicing their weapons in two as well, taking some of the armored criminals fingers in the process. They screamed, but Coventry slammed his fist into the jaw of one while delivering a grazing cut with his saber to the other two. Kultram leaped into the fray with his own more impassioned display of form one, slicing through weapons, force jumping over attackers and cutting a hand or foot off, but otherwise leaving his opponents alive. He had never liked to take chances, even as a boy. That was what Coventry remembered the most about his childhood where his brother was concerned...Kultram had always been the bold one, the fearless one, the one who took more risks than those around him. It had frustrated their dad greatly, unable to curb Kultram's risk taking behavior.

 

The pair defended and fought together back to back, and Coventry realized with no small amount of pain, that this was one of his secret desires: to fight side by side as Jedi, to reach Kultram's heart...somehow...to hope there was something to reach...

 

They moved in unison, slicing and chopping crudely through weapons and hands, though showing mercy at all points, never exerting more force than necessary. He then heard the snap hiss of another lightsaber, neither his nor Kultram's, when there were but five criminals left.

 

In spite of how disturbed he was, how unsettled by this bizarre back and forth, he couldn't stop the heartfelt smile that crossed his face when he saw Carra Bhakti force jump over the criminals from behind, slicing through their weapons and roundhouse kicking them into eachother, force pushing the remaining two into the walls of the office cubicles.

 

She looked exactly the same as she had before they had both been captured. She was blond, with curly hair, ocean blue eyes and a face that looked sculpted from some artist. Her robes were a soft white with a purple floral pattern. And she was using the very same staff he now used in real life.

 

"Carra!" he said, not able to hide the joy in his dream voice, ignoring the sliver of reality tugging at his brain, reminding, albeit gently, that none of this was real. But he would not hear it. Facts would not rob him of this moment.

 

Carra turned to look at him, smiling warmly. "Coventry, you look terrible. Coruscant a tad hot today or are you trying to get back into shape after eating one cream donut too many?" she joked gently.

 

Coventry remembered that while cookies had been Kultram's vice, pastries had been his.

 

"I...I've been under some stress," he admitted. "But its good you are here. Lets get these hostages to safety. Then...we all grab some food...sound good?"

Edited by Coventry

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Later that day, at least, that day in the illusionary world, Coventry, the false Carra, and the false Kultram, ate pastries at an open air diner, sipping on tea. Pastries were among the few forms of sweets Coventry tolerated... nearly all other forms tasted foul, and revolted him to no end. 

 

Coventry was happy like a child as he ate, the dream food tasting as real as anything in the real world. 

 

"So Covey," Kultram started, biting into a large cookie. "You wanna explain why you freaked out in that building?"

 

"What's the point?" Coventry asked with a sigh. "It doesn't matter anyway."

 

He looked into the distance of the false orange sunset. "None of this is real."

 

"Real?" Carra inquired gently. "What are you talking about? This is real. We're real."

 

"No you aren't," he said quietly to himself, more as a reminder than anything, looking at the false people eating and talking, voices low enough that he couldn't quite make it out. Convenient.

 

"How many times have I told you, apprentice?" Carra said with that mild chuckle that let him know everything was going to be okay. "Reality is just perception, a meme reinforced by your brain. If your brain is the only measure of what is real, than whatever makes you believe what you are currently experiencing as false is equally as valid as whatever you think is the truth."

 

"But you also said that the Force was a way to help discern reality from fantasy."

 

"Even the Force needs a brain to utilize it for that purpose. So how do you know that this isn't real. People's perception of the world around them changes. So again...how do you know?"

 

"Brother, you should have said something," Kultram said in concern, face creasing with worry and love. "We should get you to the temple. Have the healers look at you--"

 

"Coventry," Carra spoke softly, placing her hand on a now slightly confused Coventry. "What you are experiencing is real. We're here with you. I give you my word."

 

Coventry looked up at her sadly. "I wish all this were not so convincing. Wish Vostok was nothing but some nightmare I had...but..."

 

"Coventry!" snapped Odrania's voice. 

 

Coventry turned behind him, watching the Dark Jedi slice through more of the droids and guard personnel. He had thought about trying to stop her but he couldn't fight a battle on two fronts. It was all he could do not to slip to the Dark Side himself. He dodged a scattergun blast from the guard that had accompanied the droids and charged forward, slicing through the weapon and decking the guard with a punch to the jaw, fueled by adrenaline more than natural strength. He fought with  flurry of slices through another set of droids, who he didn't hold back against, as they were simple killing machines. He slashed through the target zones relentlessly as the droids surrounded him and Odrania, each slice arcing wide and going through the mid section and unarmored arms of the droids with form one. Vibroblades shot out of their forearms, the deadly vibrating weapons humming towards his throat and stomach but Odrania swiped away at them with a furious Juyo assault and a battle cry while force leaping, landing by him to cover his flank, her erratic strikes slashing at every droid part she could find, with Coventry focusing on the droids trying to fire on them both with slugthrowers, trying to draw their fire away from Odrania, attacking their ranged weapons first, then the melee weapons in wide heavy arcs that went through mechanical arms and legs, then heads. He struggled to maintain his calm as he had that day, to not let the need to survive twist into a desire for revenge, which Vostok was all too good at bringing out.

 

The last droid fell at his hands, the stiff resistance an indication they were on the right path. Odrania snorted, spitting on the droids and kicking them. She stared at the Turbolift in the distance. She headed towards it, signaling him to follow. He did so, feeling the walls somehow close in.

 

As he entered the turbolift, Odrania asked a question. "So what the Kriff is Headhunter?"

 

"Experimental Security and Torture oversight A.I.," he answered. "It analyzes escape attempts and prepares for as many scenarios as possible. It also psychologically analyzes Prisoners for the best way to try and break them. Mikhail said he had managed to introduce some sort of corruption into its subroutines to blind it to what he was doing."

 

"So thats why he was studying programming when he visited," Odrania muttered. "Still wish I hadn't let him talk me into making all those lightsabers."

 

"Why did you let him?" Coventry asked, already knowing her answer, though he felt compelled to ask again for reasons that were a mystery to him. 

 

"I got my reasons," was the only answer she had given so long ago, and it was the same answer she gave now as she hit a button labeled HEADHUNTER CENTRAL CONTROL.

 

"What they're doing here is insane," she growled absently, saying no more as they headed upward...only to stop as Headhunter locked down the elevator controls.

 

Coventry's lightsaber sliced up into the roof. He had gotten used to the greater strength required to wield it and manipulated the blade easily as he cut a hole large enough to leap through, letting the cut piece of roof fall to the floor. Odrania leapt first, pulling him up soon after with rather impressive arm strength, and they both started to climb the service ladder upward. Coventry groaned. He remembered the climb, how long it had taken, sighing as he began the ascent behind Odrania. "If you stare at my ass Jedi, I will cut you," Odrania snarled.

 

"How encouraging," he muttered. "Will that be all, my dear?"

 

"Kriff you," she replied, focusing on climbing.

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The pair climbed, the shouts of fighting and whine of blaster fire and gunshot cracks carrying up the shaft of the turbolift. Odrania climbed quickly, and Coventry just a few rungs below her. He went a little slower than he originally had, as he wasn't looking forward to what happened next. He didn't understand what was happening, not at all. The trial was like nothing he had imagined. If this was "facing the mirror" than it was the most cracked, warped mirror possible.

 

He had gotten hints of it in that droid bunker on Tython...a world of flames. Flames of the mind.

 

His mind. In flames. He hadn't understood how to deal with it then, and he did not now. But this was all happening for a reason. He had to trust that the Force had its reasons. That was about the only thing he COULD trust at this point, and hope he wasn't stuck forever in some labyrinthine hell made of his own subconscious.

 

But what was the point of reliving all this?

 

He was distracted by the frustrated snarl of Odrania, who had reached the turbolift door to the level they were supposed to be at. Coventry heard the whine of the turbolift start up. Headhunter had planned that figuring they would find some way to stop it in case it went shooting up with them in it. Odrania heard it first, getting out her lightsaber and shoving it through the door, hacking a square into it, where she could jump through easily after Force pushing the cut away pieces as the turbolift rocketed upward. Coventry hurried up ward as soon as she was through, barely getting past the hole as the turbolift shot past where he had been only a second before. He wondered what would have happened if he had gone off script, stayed on the service ladder...but decided it might not be wise to test whether he could die in this dream. No sense in taking chances, especially since he wasn't entirely clear what was going on. Was he on script or had something gone horribly wrong?

 

Odrania snorted. "You're quick, I'll give you that," she grumbled, looking around her. The room was dark save for the blue running lights of dozens of server towers, circular in shape. They headed upward to a domed ceiling, and the place felt cold, refrigerated. Odrania rubbed her arms as she headed forward to a large, circular computer terminal with a large screen.

 

Coventry knew this next part, and steeled himself. Of all his memories of the Vostok Riot, this was one of the worst.

 

The avatar that served as Headhunter's visual representation, a demon's face wreathed in flames, popped onto the screen. The face was red skinned with yellow eyes, and large black, ram like horns with a slender, sharp and pointed nose.

 

"Prisoner Six," it noted in a hollow, computerized voice. "This scenario was not unanticipated."

 

"Then you know why I am here."

 

"I recommended to the Warden you be executed a few days after you arrived. He did not listen. An error on his part. Your defiance amused him."

 

"Lots of things amuse that prick," Coventry snorted. "Today will not be one of those things. I confess, I am uncertain as to whether you are alive or not...you clearly pass the sentience test. But whatever the case you are still a machine. I don't think I will lose much sleep destroying you. However, as I do not want it said that I made no attempt to end this peacefully, I will offer you the opportunity to do the right thing and disconnect yourself from the security and comm systems."

 

"You're kidding, right? It's a computer," Odrania derided.

 

"If it really is alive, I want to show it more mercy than it ever showed me," Coventry answered without thinking about it.

 

"You know I can't do that, Prisoner Six," Headhunter said.

 

"I thought as much."

 

"I anticipated someone would breach my inner brain. I had a recently acquired prisoner moved here," Headhunter announced.

 

Coventry heard a snarl in the distance, remembered the encounter in horrific detail.

 

"Odrania," he said. "Get your blade out."

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Odrania heard the snarls and her red blade went active. "What is it?" she hissed.

 

"It's a...beast..." Coventry answered, thoughtlessly.

 

"Oh, that's a lot of comfort, you not knowing," Odrania spoke.

 

Coventry paused. His original answer had been "I don't know." Odrania had not acknowledged his new answer. So he had an answer as to whether or not he could affect this dream realm, at least, as far as that went. But it still didn't provide an answer as to what he needed to do to escape it. For now...it seemed he had to go along with it.

 

Coventry ventured forward as the lights cut. Headhunter's doing. There had been no choice back then. He had tried to end it peacefully but every moment Headhunter continued to function more rioters died.

 

"Odrania, start destroying every server you can," Coventry hissed, knowing what came next. He went forward shoving his red blade into the nearest server tower. Alarms sounded. The snarling got louder. 

 

"Intruder Alert," Headhunter announced. "Central control breached. All available assault teams requested."

 

Coventry chopped through another server tower.

 

"Prisoner Six psychological profile: Withdrawn, insular. Convinced of his ability to overcome Vostok Facility Mission Parameters. Refuses to submit. Intense resilience to psychological trauma, scoring higher than all other inmates. Telepathic assaults generally ineffective. One recorded incident resulted in fatal stroke for interrogator. Emotionally distant," the A.I. noted dispassionately. "Telepathic link to master exploited without success. Analysis of genetic structure suggests a predisposition to schizotypal disorders. Likely only remaining avenue to successfully breaking down prisoner is disillusionment and even that may not turn him to desired cause. Sexual preference unknown, despite repeated interrogatives designed to shame prisoner. Suggest immediate disposal. But the warden never listened. He was determined to cut the knot, so to speak."

 

Coventry ignored the subtle taunt from the machine intelligence, cutting down more towers, while Odrania did the same.

 

The turrets hidden in the ceiling popped out, attempting to target and fire on the two force users, only to explode.

 

"Error. Unknown corruption in program. Suspected sabotage. Requesting maintenance after intruder disposal.

 

"Thanks Mikhail," Coventry said, having not said it before. The Riots simply wouldn't have happened without his help. One man with a conscience COULD make a difference. Mikhail had been the real hero that day, not Carra or Coventry.

 

Part of his insides twisted at what would happen at the riots conclusion. He fought it off, trying to focus on the positive, whatever was happening, it wasn't real. He took small comfort in the fact that as vivid as all this was, it couldn't truly happen again. So he focused on the present, cutting away at another tower. Headhunter had likely had multiple defenses to stop this scenario. The fact he couldn't activate any of them was testament to how effective Mikhail's sabotage was. It was starting to show with Headhunter itself.

 

"You shall go to the fiery furnace of a man's dying heart. A place where only broken love and lost faith and anarchy reign," the Machine said, it's previously calm and computerized voice going erratic, its damaged intelligence warping with nonsensical musings.

 

"The mysterious, unknown, elsewhere shall beckon the flaming sword to be quenched in its waves."

 

Coventry sliced through another tower, ignoring how the dying machines musings seemed to make a twisted sort of sense, though what that was in context to was anyone's guess. The machine was breaking down, saying whatever nonsense jumping up its circuits.

 

"All you know shall disappoint you."

 

One sliced tower toppled into another, sending sparks flying and starting fires.

 

"Is this my Karma?"

 

Odrania got bored and just threw her lightsaber. The arc the red blade made sliced through the remaining towers on her end.

 

"Sorry, that was getting REALLY creepy," she joked.

 

She screamed as the beast leapt out of the darkness, just as Coventry expected. He saw it. The beast.

 

It was scrawny, with a palid white color. It was naked with a wrinkled, barely feminine shape. He thought it had been tortured, whatever it was. It didn't even seem like a person anymore, despite having obviously been a twi'lek. He charged, kicking the snarling beast off of her, dragging Odrania up.

 

The lightsaber was tugged out of his hand with a crude Force pull as the animalistic prisoner leapt on to him. Odrania tried to swing her saber and kill it only for the beast to crudely Force Push her into a wall. Odrania hit her head, knocking her out cold. And Coventry was forced to contend with the creature. 

 

The face was as wrinkled and disgusting and wooden as he remembered, but that only added to his surprise as he fought its animal strength. 

 

The creature scratched and clawed at him and gave him a look he had never been able to explain until now.

 

It was a look of recognition. Hateful, murderous, dementia riddled, but recognition. And then it went back to trying to bite his face.

 

For his part, Coventry had been too focused on trying to survive the first time around. Now, he was calmer, knowing ultimately it wasn't real, and he found he recognized it also.

 

It was the creature He thought Carra had slain on Hoth.

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Coventry struggled, the vile creature snapping away at him, trying to sink rotting but sharp teeth into his neck. Adrenaline gave the creature strength to hold him down, while his own adrenaline didn't allow him to do much more than keep its mouth away from his neck. He punched it in the side, but this only seemed to make it angrier and it directed frenzied, clawing swipes at his face, making him yelp as one scratch raked his cheek, just like last time. That caused him another surge of adrenaline, and he finally managed to toss it off him, scrambling away, looking for his lightsaber. He heard the creature snarl behind him, heard its dirty clawed feet skittering behind him he dived out of the way when he turned around and watched it leap. Its mouth was agape in mid snarl, and he barely managed to duck, its hideous nature making it difficult to gaze upon for more than a few moments. It was THAT ugly.

 

He broke into a run as he scrambled towards Odrania as he had before knowing he would need the back up. The vicious feral creatures tackle from behind had him once more fighting its mouth away from his neck, shouting for Odrania to help. Before the pale, yellow eyed beast tore out his throat with its teeth.

 

He felt its claws rake his side, the fresh fire of pain followed by a sensation of wet reminded him of how its dirty fingernails had torn open a cut close to his ribs and still the creature's jaws kept snapping for him. He couldn't stop its feral strength that allowed its teeth to get ever closer to his jugular...its insane eyes devoid of anything resembling civilization. Not that he realized who it was he was not surprised that it was utterly animalistic...that mercenary on Hoth that had command of the Dark Side had managed to get inside the head of this creature, ripping out every tid bit of useful knowledge, irreversibly damaging the mind the knowledge had come from in the process. An act which, in a twisted way, had ended up saving his life...had he faced this creature in its prime, its sheer command of the Dark Side...of moving the very earth beneath its feet...would have been more than enough to slay him and Odrania.

 

The feral monster, once a powerful Dark Side Witch, was in centimeters of taking a bite from his neck, when the beast was force-pulled off of him and onto Odrania's lightsaber, impaling the snarling monster through the stomach, and the blade instantly caused the beast to slide through it splitting in half from the waist  up as the saber exited through its pale head, spilling yellowed organs and viscera everywhere, the stench of which reminded Coventry of manure and sweat and dried blood. It was a stench that permeated the immediate area and Odrania started gagging immediately, while Coventry rose up, breathing hard, having exhausted much of the strength he had saved for the breakout. He breathed, even through the stink of the fresh corpse.

 

"What the kriff was it?" Odrania hissed. "Its no Twilek...organ structure is all wrong...and before you ask how I know that, its because I cut a few open in my day for...reasons..." she trailed.

 

"Whatever it was," Coventry said, giving his original answer. "It escaped this hell the easy way..."

 

Odrania tip toed around and over the stinking, slightly cooked remains and helped him up. 

 

"Did we screw up this place's defenses?" Odrania asked. "Cause I REALLY wanna get the hell outta this prison."

 

"We shouldn't have much left to contend with air defenses save the people running the command center," Coventry mentioned. "Of course, now we have to figure out how to get out of here...hopefully there's a staircase or something. Worse comes to worst, we cut a path downward with our lightsabers."

 

He spotted his blade and picked it up, and began venturing to the edge of the server room, looking for that door he had spotted the first time he had gone through this day.

 

He found it, a simple turbolift that led directly to the Warden's office. He beckoned Odrania with a hand and as they made their way down beige colored steps he remarked on something he had before when experiencing all this in the real world.

 

"The servers were destroyed. You could have run, dark sider. Why bail me out?"

 

"You stopped me from getting my throat bitten out by that thing that attacked you," Odrania answered with an annoyed snap of her voice. "I repay my debts, Jedi. Consider us even."

 

"As you wish," Coventry said respectfully as they went down a flight of stairs, before reaching the door. He braced himself and stepped through.

 

...and stepped not into the Warden's office, but to the shuttle bay of the Tython temple.

 

"Bro!" Kultram called out playfully bidding him to a nearby speeder where Carra waited. 

 

"You're holding the mission up, Cov!" Carra called out. "Those villagers aren't going to save themselves from the flesh raiders."

 

Coventry stepped towards the speeder, knowing where he would go next with this was just as stressful as Vostok. But it had to be done. He had to face...something...the truth...perhaps.

 

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Coventry was silent as the speeder raced through the plains of Tython to the village of the twileks.

 

Except he didn't intend to reach the village. He had a detour in mind. 

 

He had always regretted not having the nerve to go back to her gravestone. Always. He couldn't even remember what had originally stopped. He had made some half assed excuse possibly...his brain was just so rattled back then.

 

But he needed to face it. Had to face it. Here, at least.

 

"Pull over," Coventry spoke, steeling himself.

 

"Why?" Carra asked, behind the controls.

 

"I have to face something..." he admitted, not really talking to Dream-Carra.

 

"This is off the route to the village," Kultram complained.

 

"I know. Pull over."

 

Carra reluctantly stopped the speeder. "Hurry up and make this quick," she muttered, seemingly losing her good mood.

 

Coventry hopped out and Kultram followed. "What's wrong, Cov?" Kultram asked, "You been acting strange ever since Coruscant."

 

"I don't know, in all honesty, whether or not this...dream...is real in its own way, or if its some waypoint between realities, or whether my mind makes all this real and not real in the same instant...but I know this..." Coventry said as he marched forward. "I don't want to live in this mindscape. Because it isn't the truth. Because it, at the very least, isn't my truth."

 

"All perceptions are valid..." Kultram complained. "You would be happier here at least."

 

"I'd be living a lie," Coventry replied as he came to her headstone. "Just like you were living a lie on Vornu. All too many times you showed me you hadn't changed. I don't want to live a lie. I want to face the truth, no matter how horrible."

 

He knealt before the simple simple headstone, bracing himself.

 

Carra's headstone was covered in grime and blood. Her photo was dirty and burnt.

 

"In the last months before the breakout, you were constantly telling me that anyone, even a Jedi, should be allowed at least one exception to following the the rules set by creed they follow. I didn't understand you then, so I asked why. You said the one exception proves the true value of one's creed."

 

"I didn't know what to make of that then, when Luke secretly arranged meetings between us so we could plan those riots. Between the drugs and the pain, perhaps...perhaps I was just being wilfully ignorant. On an intellectual level, I understood the surface level of it...how can one truly know how valuable ones creed is unless they come upon the one and only reason it would be understandable, acceptable even, to break their oath?"

 

His hand reached out to the stone, touching it.

 

"But on an instinctual level...I guess I knew the real reason you were saying it. Even back then, you were telling me, weren't you? That you were going to take revenge. That you planned to kill him. And I didn't catch it. Didn't catch the flaw in you the Warden had found."

 

He felt bile in his throat and forced it down, head hanging in shame.

 

"You didn't decide out of the blue to ask me to kill him. You had been wanting his blood on your hand for a long time, and I was too blind to see it."

 

He stood up, taking his hand off the grave.

 

"As I rotted in my cell after the riots, I always thought I had failed you in some way, not granting your final request. That's where a lot of it stems from, I think. That guilt. That guilt of feeling like I failed you..."

 

A dirty, rotted hand burst out of the ground and grabbed him by the leg, dragging him into the suddenly liquid earth.

 

He fell, crashing through something and landed on the floor of a destroyed control center, the area that had been maintaining air defenses...and ready to shoot down escaping shuttles.

 

Coventry rose quickly, activating his lightsaber. He remembered this part. After he and Odrania had escaped the Warden's office, they had stormed the air control center, fighting through waves of guards in riot armor defending the place. Luke had caught up with them, but she was badly wounded, a bad lasceration on her abdomen, cradled by Mikhail, now armed with a blaster. Odrania was busily slicing up terminals, to prevent the guards from using anti-space craft weaponry slaved to those terminals.

 

"Coventry!" Mikhail yelled. "Luke's hurt bad. We need to get her on a shuttle!"

 

"Finally speaking my language!" Odrania snapped. "There has to be more than a few shuttles to flee with!"

 

"We got a lot of wounded. We should try getting as many people out of here as we can! They've started using nerve gas! We need a frieghter at least!"

 

"Forget it!" Odrania protested, walking up to him. "I risked enough as it is just helping you make the damn lightsabers! And it STILL didn't work! The prisoners are gonna lose! Even now they're being pushed back!"

 

"Odrania! Please,"  Mikhail pleaded. "They're gonna die. Last favor. I promise."

 

Odrania snarled in frustration, letting off a bolt of lightning at a terminal.

 

"You're lucky we're such friends," she muttered bitterly.

 

"They'll send people to try and stop you from taking off," Coventry said. "I'll act as an irritant. A distraction. You get as many prisoners as you can aboard whatever ship you find in the hangers," Coventry offered, knowing what happened next would be brutal.

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Coventry helped Mikhail carry Luke to the shuttle bay through halls of dead guards and prisoners. Odrania spotted a badly wounded prisoner, a Rodian, begging for help, his arms and legs gone from lightsaber cuts, and knealt down.

 

"Who did this to you?" Odrania asked quietly.

 

"Sith Warriors...headed to the shuttle bay..." the prisoner answered, nearly delirious from pain. "Help...me..."

 

Odrania seemed conflicted for a moment but picked the prisoner up and hoisted him over her shoulder in a fireman's carry. Coventry didn't bother commending her for it. Nor did he question why a Dark Jedi would show such generosity. Everyone had their reasons for doing what they did today. He theorized she may have simply wanted proof it hadn't all been for nothing. 

 

His comlink blared. "Coventry, you there?" came a ragged, stressed, but still feminine voice. It was Carra. Coventry's stomach twisted. It was the beginning of the end. And there was a question that he needed to answer. It was a question about fear, and one he hadn't looked forward to asking even when writing the script. And whether he passed or failed his trial would depend on how he answered it. And he wasn't sure what his answer would be even now. He couldn't know because there was still so much pain associated with it.

 

"Yes, Master?" he called back on the stolen comlink.

 

"We've cornered him. The Warden! I need your help to end this! He and his bodyguards are fighting hard but they're running out of ammo! They're trying to flee deeper into the facility! Drop whatever you're doing and hoof it to the east wing!"

 

"I'm trying to get prisoners out of here through the shuttle bay!" he called back, heart twisting at the sadistic choice he had been given that day. But he decided what he had decided before. That saving what lives he could was more important. Someone had to escape. Vostok could NOT be allowed to prove its point by having him act selfishly.

 

"Coventry I NEED YOU HERE!" Carra shouted over the link. "We're SO close! I'M so close!"

 

"I'll...I'll try and get to you as soon as I can..." Coventry said, stomach in knots as he made the decision a second time. He had wondered hundreds...thousands of times since that moment if it was the right call. He still didn't know. But Vostok couldn't be allowed to claim ALL its victims.

 

Coventry and company trekked through ruined, blaster bolt ridden passages, taking a few turns until they came into the shuttle bay. Incidentally it was the same one Inoy wound up dragging him to some time later.

 

Mikhail and Luke had been busy. Between them they had destroyed shuttle bay security if the smoking turrets and sliced open guards were an indicator. Dozens of injured prisoners unable to walk had been painstakingly dragged here by Mikhail in a frantic attempt to save as many as possible.

 

The rest of the facility was still filled with killing, but the guards were going on the offensive at this point. They had minutes at best. The prisoners still standing, light or dark, were helping load prisoners aboard what looked to be a tubular supply freighter. The truce between alignments that day had been strong indeed. No one cared what the person next to them believed. Escaping, beating, Vostok was more important.

 

Coventry set Luke down and began helping the others load the wounded aboard.

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It was tough work for the next fifteen minutes, as some prisoners had to be moved very carefully, their injuries that severe. It was likely more than a few would be dead by the time they reached wherever they were fleeing to. Coventry had never asked Mikhail. Mikhail had taken so many risks in betraying the Sith, it was probably better if he DIDN'T know.

 

Mikhail worked like a man possessed, Odrania helping him load prisoners aboard an already cramped starship. They were already near capacity when they heard the lightsabers.

 

Robed Sith Warriors, their faces covered in masks that resembled ancient demons brandished their blades, both in a Shien stance. They were flanked by a squad of guards on both sides of the darkened hanger.

 

Odrania's blade was out in a flash, along with Coventry's. One last prisoner, a Togorian man with reddish skin and sulphur eyes, flashed his blade on also, having clearly made his choice the moment he saw them, choosing to stand by Coventry and Odrania defiantly. 

 

"You want to kill us? Come here if you dare!" he growled boldly.

 

The Sith and the guards rushed forward, using regular blasters in order to merely harrass them while leaving them open to attacks from the Sith. Coventry, Odrania, the alien Prisoner along with Mikhail himself charged also, Odrania and Mikhail engaging the guards while Coventry and the Prisoner engaged the actual Sith.

 

The Sith synchronized their attacks against the two, using the strength of their blows to force Coventry and the prisoner backward towards the shuttles, forcing them to dodge or crudely parry strong slashes and chops directed at the torso and head, even while being forced to deflect the occasional spray of bolts from guards not preoccupied by Odrania, who was slowly but surely slicing through them, though Juyo was far from the best style for bolt deflection. The Togorian was being worn down, already injured by cuts to his arms and legs, and when one of the Sith managed to flank Coventry for a crushing overhead blow, the Togorian pushed Coventry out of the way with the Force, only to be impaled by his own opponent. He saw Odrania and Mikhail in the background of this, Mikhail strangling a guard with his bare hands, his blaster out of ammo, Odrania stabbing a guard repeatedly through the head with his own knife, all the others having fallen to her at this point.

 

Coventry scrambled up, the Sith warriors attacking him with slashes and chops at the same time, and he could only crudely defend against the blows, dodging whatever he wasn't strong enough to parry, but they were pressing on him hard, not giving him time to retaliate, and he knew only the basics of form one at this point in his life. He was buying time, and dared not retaliate, only block and dodge. The warriors slashed and stabbed, and in desperation, Coventry played his only good card. He concentrated, struggling to summon the Force for his one good trick. Carra's gift.

 

As the warriors drove him towards a wall, he parried a high strength blow with all his might crudely, barely getting the enemy saber clear of his body while making an overhead block from the other warrior. But he finally managed to tap the Force. As Jakar Forseti himself had remarked later during the one and only time Coventry had ever dueled the future Grandmaster, had it been used in a combat situation, it would have worked perfectly. This was the situation that had let Coventry know that.

 

The Sphere flickered into existence in the immediate proximity of the warriors, red and seething, and they were caught in it as they raised their blades to attack, burning them badly, causing them to stumble backward and cry out. Coventry took no pleasure in what came next but knew that if he didn't they were likely all going to die. A pissed off Sith, after all, was always a bad thing.

 

Inside the sphere, Coventry ripped his blade through their torsos, which were still caught inside it, killing them both. The act sickened him then as it did now. This was the experience, the experience of being so close to death that reminded him of the need for restraint. He watched sadly as they both fell to the ground, sliced open. Jakar had been right on the nose about the techniques effectiveness.

 

He immediately went over to the Togorian prisoner. He checked him. He was still alive, but wouldn't be for long.

 

"Thanks," Coventry said, picking him up gently by the head to stare at him.

 

The Togorian, too weak now to respond verbally, could only give a crooked grin as he expired, eyes rolling upward as he died. Odrania and Mikhail, both badly wounded by this point, sporting burns on their arms and legs, could only drag themselves toward the shuttle. Odrania was cradling her left side.

 

"Huh, tougher than you look, Jedi," Odrania snorted.

 

"My bloodline is conducive to a survivalist mindset," he replied quietly, holding out his hand. "Thank you for everything you did. For the Prisoners. For me."

 

"We were facing mutual destruction. Cooperation was necessary," Odrania grumbled.

 

"But making the lightsabers for the prisoners in the first place wasn't. You could have just told Miky to piss off. You didn't. Your act was worthy of a Desperaux."

 

Strangely Odrania seemed to perk at the name, mouth going slack for a few seconds before she decided to take his hand, shaking it.

 

"You coming?" she asked. "We got some room left."

 

"I have to help my Master," Coventry said firmly.

 

"Coventry..." Odrania muttered grimly, sulpher eyes narrowing. "You can't seize this prison. Only escape it. You don't come with us now you may never get a chance like this again..."

 

"I know...but my master...is my master. I have to help her."

 

Odrania stared for a moment before nodding in resignation and boarding. Coventry took Mikhail's hand, shaking it. "Take care Mik. You're a real hero."

 

Mikhail seemed to wince at the word. "No I'm not," he said morosely. "I was rank and file around here like anyone else. I ignored the horrors here for years. All I did was set my karma back to zero. Redemption is just a perception, a meme..."

 

"I cannot believe that. No one who does what you did...all you did...believes its all just a cold hearted balancing of scales. Thats not what life is like. Maybe a lot of this things in this world are only just perceptions made by skewed and flawed people. Maybe beliefs are just memes...but that doesn't mean they aren't worth fighting for. You found your conscience. Not a lot of people do. You did what you did because you believe deep down...the world can be better...should be better than this. You believed it so badly you even managed to wake something in Odrania. You reached a Dark Jedi. Thats something a Jedi Master can strive for their whole career and never achieve. Believe me...you're a hero. Why you were not born a Desperaux is a decision of the universe which I find incomprehensible."

 

Mikhail managed a smile. "Good luck Coventry," he said.

 

Blaster bolts barely missed their head. More guards. Swarms of them.

 

"GO!" Coventry shouted, deflecting the bolts and rushing forward to occupy the guards while Mikhail ran aboard.

 

 

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He reached the mass of guards just as their bolts started to pelt the frieghter. He let his blade go through an arm on his right, arcing through a pair of legs on his left. He slashed through a rifle in front of him, deflecting a shot from his blind spot with the Force. Eight guards left, all falling backward, all firing. He pressed the attack, rushing and hacking through another weapon and a few pairs of arms with wide slashes. The guards started to try and break up now, trying to surround him. He didn't let them, immediately attacking those who were still the closest, slicing into exposed limbs and cutting down their weapons, he crudely deflected a wild spray of shots, wincing as one grazed him, but sheer adrenaline that day had kept him going, and as soon as he turned around, having exploited the target zones of the next three, summoning his sphere again to give himself some breathing room and absorb the shots. He waited until they all ran out of ammo. Then he struck. His attacks were quick, cutting off hands, cutting off feet, keeping their target zones in mind as he attacked, trying to adhere to Form Ones traditional principals in spite of the bloodshed. He disarmed them all eventually, but killed none of them...though given how the imps rewarded failure and now that he was quite literally experiencing hindsight, he realized that they would have been punished regardless.

 

He sliced through the last pair of hands...just as an explosion sounded in the distance. He knew the sound. Knew it intimately. The whine of the frieghter lifted off in the distance and he watched it fly into the atmosphere in the distance. He still never learned what became of Odrania or the prisoners they had saved. He likely never would. But that was not his concern now.

 

The question was upon him.

 

He left the shuttle bay, sprinted through halls filled with dead, the smell of gas filled his eyes with tears. The guards were finally putting them down. Some prisoners had clearly been mutilated out of spite. Vostok kicked and kicked even when there was no further point. He gagged at the sights, unable to help himself. This was when he had felt it. Felt the hatred.

 

He ran and ran, even though he knew it would make no difference. He could not alter the outcome. But he ran anyway.

 

Carra Bhakti had meant that much to him. Even now, in this dream realm, he would run for her like he would run for no one else. He owed her memory that.

 

He had felt her calling to him deep inside, felt her presence teetering. He had to reach her. The question had to be answered. The disquiet had to be settled.

 

He reached the east wing, where prisoners were still holding out by some barricades. He stopped a fleeing prisoner, demanding to know where Carra was. The prisoner, a red furred Cathar male yelled she had gone down a hallway after the warden, and they were holding the guards off long enough for her to kill the bastard. Coventry ran, ran as fast as he could, ran until his lungs burned. He found the hallway where he sensed his master.

 

He saw her, and his heart broke again.

 

The prison had not been kind to Carra. Her hair had mostly fallen out from stress at the torture, a few strands hanging lonely at the top of her scalp, the blond color having gone white. She was thin as a rail, and bloodied and wounded like so many others, her ocean blue eyes having somehow dulled and lost their vitality. She had thought she had been using her own mental fortitude all this time to keep them strong, but now Coventry knew the truth: It had been the other way around. Coventry had been unconsciously lending her his own strength to keep her from breaking. She was clad in a prisoner jumpsuit like the others, her once dazzlingly beautiful face gaunt and scarred from beatings. The Warden was cowering in front of her.

 

He was a pathetic creature, and Coventry's very blood recoiled at the idea of letting him go unpunished for all he had put them through.

 

His features were aristocratic and fine, his hair cut in a military fashion and bright blond, with blue eyes. He was clad in the uniform of an imperial colonel. When they had first been brought here, Coventry had thought he could almost have passed for being a brother of Carra. He didn't think that now. His unvarnished evil and sadism had made it so that they were nothing alike in his eyes. They could never be alike. Never.

 

"I...I was only following orders..." he got out hoarsely.

 

"Of course you were, Mr. 'One, last, grand, mass torture,'" Carra sneered, seething with clear hate. "None of us may escape, but I promise you...you will remember me."

 

Her red saber activated and she grazed his face with the tip, leaving a diagonal trench across it. He screamed, collapsing in agony and clutching his face. She raised the blade over her head, every torment the warden had ever inflicted about to bring the saber down like a lead weight and make him scream as much as he had made her.

 

"NO! CARRA! DON'T DO IT!" Coventry shouted at the top of his lungs.

 

"He's taken everything from me! From us! All our innocence! All our dreams!" she roared, tears streaking down her face. "He has to die! There has to be an exception! Just once! At least for someone like him!"

 

"If you start now, you'll always make exceptions. And another and another! Until you're just as bad as he is! You do this, he wins! The Dark Side wins! Please, don't destroy yourself! End this cleanly! Prove you're better! Rob him of his victory!" Coventry pleaded, stomach twisting until he was ready to vomit. Tears were streaking down his face now also, the question twisting his brain into a knot over what came next.

 

Carra hesitated. "He...did things to me..."

 

"He did things to me too. Don't do this! Don't be like him! Give me the saber! If we die, lets die as Jedi! Please Carra! PLEASE!" he shouted.

 

Carra raised the blade a little higher, struggling, struggling with a deeply violated heart. She struggled for seconds that lasted an eternity.

 

With a cry of anguish, she dropped the blade. He caught it with the Force.

 

"I...I'm scared, Padawan..." she said weakly.

 

"I know," he admitted. "I'm scared too."

 

She turned to him, trying to hope, reaching out to him for comfort. They probably had seconds before the guards found and killed them both.

 

The ceiling gave. And the scream that tore from her throat as she was crushed from the waist down stayed in his chest, the sound recorded by his brain for an eternity.

 

He rushed to her, watching her writhe in agony, blood flooding out of her mouth and out the sides of her face. The most perversely hallowed ground in all of Coventry Desperaux's many, many, terrible memories.

 

He dropped beside her, sick at witnessing this a second time, body cold with sorrow at the sight. 

 

"Cov..." she gurgled, wincing as she heard the warden laugh, starting to pick himself up. "End him...end his miserable, God-forsaken life. For me, Coventry...for me..."

 

And there it was. The question. The one he had never voiced, not even internally as he watched the Warden drag himself up against a wall. Laughing and pointing, in spite of his injuries. He stared at the blade he had taken from Carra, and finally voiced it. Finally found the courage to ask it out loud. His blood screamed for a catharsis, any catharsis.

 

"If I could do it all over again...would I have honored her last request and ended you for the pig you are?" he asked grimly at the laughing warden.

 

The walls seemed to close around him. He stared at the blades. Stared at the Warden. And he made his choice.

 

He held out the blades...and dropped them, as he had before.

 

"No," he said, steeling himself. "I would not."

 

"USELESS!" Carra shouted in despair as he turned to face her rage.

 

"I'm sorry, Carra. I can't," he said firmly. "Jedi cannot take revenge. Revenge is a Darksiders way. We can't take revenge, even for someone who was...who was like a parent to us."

 

"TRAITOR!" she screamed, the agony owning her forever in her last seconds, the pain warping her spirit into a thing of pure fury.

 

She reached out clutching her hand, and as before he felt his throat constrict...but he maintained his calm, letting go of his sorrow. Letting go of his guilt as the world around him darkened.

 

He saw him finally. The reflection of himself. The anger, the burning rage that screamed at him as he dropped the blades. It appeared out the corner of his eye, tearing himself out of the walls.

 

It looked like him, but was riddled with scars, its robes burnt and warped, its eyes sulphur.

 

"She asked you for one thing!" his dark self screamed at him. "One simple thing! Kill the evil bastard! It wasn't hard! Wouldn't have ended the world! But you were weak! You were weak and she died hating you! See what the Jedi Code forced you to do! And you are still so stupid you want to listen to it!"

 

"The Jedi Code didn't force anything. That decision was my own free will," he said calmly, letting it punch and spit at him ineffectually. But he wasn't going to listen. Wasn't going to let it win, not here, not now. Not after all he had been through. He saw it for what it was. His guilt. His failure at saving Carra. But he didn't want to rise to its bait. It had poisoned him enough already.

 

He let it ran blows on him, refusing to feel the imagined pain that should have come with them. He was done with that. Done with Vostok, done with letting it drag him back here. He refused to fight back. It would have been pointless. He decided to do the best thing he could.

 

He turned away from his pain, released it into the force, along with his guilt. He chose to accept the choices he had made that day. If he could go back, he wouldn't have changed a thing he did. He had followed the code, turning away from revenge, and he refused to regret that decision any longer.

 

As his mirror self connected another blow, it shattered his evil self's fist like glass as it struck his shoulder. The mirror him stared in shock, as the whole of him started to crack and shatter, losing definition, until it finally collapsed in a pile of broken, glass like shards. Coventry then turned to his master again.

 

"I'm so sorry, my master. I wish I could have found a way to ease your pain. To give you justice. But its too late. The only way to honor you, the you that taught me, is to live by those teachings. I did everything I could to honor the person that taught me on that terrible day. I showed mercy when possible, put others before my nigh-overpowering urge to help you. Urged you to reject your entirely justified rage. That the ceiling fell on you was a tragedy. A horrible tragedy. As was your choice in the final seconds," he said remorsefully. "But it was still your choice. Your choice to let the hate win in your final moments. And my guilt for not doing what you asked nearly dragged me down with you."

 

The memory only stared at him in sorrow and hate, her eyes turning sulphur.

 

"My guilt tormented me all this time. And I wondered if I could have a do-over, whether following your final request would truly have been such a bad thing. And...and I also wondered whether I should have stayed on Vornu..." he admitted kneeling down next to the memory of his crushed master.

 

"But I know the truth now...if I had honored your request, than the you that taught me, the real you who smiled and joked with me as a child...that you was the you that would have failed utterly. I would have proven the Wardens goal then and there. And if I had done what Kultram asked, and stayed on Vornu, I would have denied the will of the Force, which called me to Tython. And though I slipped later, and fled Tython out of that guilt...I eventually came back...came back for you...because deep down, I could not let the You that taught me fail. But I cannot remember you like this. I won't. You deserve better. And I have to release you...release both of us."

 

He took the weak hand of the memory, clasped it gently.

 

He blinked, and they were both standing on the edge of a cliff, a whirpool of white clouds behind them. Carra was whole again, lack she had been in his 'ideal' world. A world he now accepted to be just wishful thinking. Perhaps his brother could be redeemed...but he would accept the Force's will if he couldn't. He knew it now...he wasn't his brother. He wouldn't do what his brother would do. The Dark Side was in everyone, but he had faced it in himself, and turned away from his bloodlines innate urge to punish the wicked. He wanted justice. Not punishment.

 

"I have to let you go now, Carra."

 

Carra said, nothing, merely nodded in understanding. She gave a little smile, the one she used to give when he made poor attempts at humor. He was still holding her hand. 

 

The wind from the whirlpool of clouds picked up. He felt peace. Felt actual peace for the first time in a long time. It was almost the way it used to be, before Vostok.

 

He didn't fool himself. The scars of Vostok would remain. They would never fully go away...nothing that traumatic truly does...but he would not allow the rest of his life to be haunted by them, to be dominated by those scars the way Kultram was dominated by his. He would not allow them to make him ugly on the inside the way they had made most of his body ugly on the outside. He would live as a Jedi. He would take solace in that, and his friends, solace in helping others, for as long as the Force willed it. 

 

He let go of her hand, and Carra smiled as she was lifted up by the wind, flying into the gently whirling clouds, closing her eyes as the clouds closed around her.

 

Coventry exhaled, and closed his eyes, felt something in his spirit lift him upward, and upward...

 

He blinked open his eyes, and found himself back in the ruins. He did not question any longer whether he had escaped or was still in his cell. He had just left it.

 

He felt...energized...and happy. Genuinely happy.

 

Gojo opened his eyes, feeling the change in Coventry's spirit. The hope inside it.

 

"Well done, Padawan." Gojo said warmly. "You passed. You faced your darkest, most unpleasant thoughts...and let go of them. I cannot imagine the kind of pain you were living with. It is a pain that would break many. I'm so sorry for your master. What happened to her was cruel beyond words."

 

"We all deal with cruelty and evil in our profession. How we choose to react is what seperates us from the Sith. Carra made her choice. I hope some portion of her will find peace. She was too wonderful a person not to," Coventry said solemnly, standing up. "I wish to meditate a while, masted Kurak. I wish to reflect on what I experienced.

 

Gojo nodded in understanding, standing up and congratulating him one more time before leaving. It had been twelve hours since he had first gone under. He was not quite the same person who had gone under.

 

He felt secure in his decisions now.

 

He had headed back to his dorm, but before he engaged in meditation, he stared at Carra's staff, sitting in its rest, and realized it was truly his now. He had earned it.

 

He took out some tools and began to work, dissassembling the blade telekinetically, and began working on the emitters. After a half hour, he had onstalle new, shove shaped emitter shrouds on both ends, and, as was now customary, painted eyes on the blade, abstract, green ones against a swirling background of clouds on both shrouds.

 

He then reassembled it and went into meditation a changed man.

 

EPILOGUE.

 

Three weeks before Coventry's rescue from Vostok...

 

Odrania hadn't been on Vornu long, nor was she sure why she had dared come to a Jedi stronghold. The bald Rattataki hid her signature as she made it through the streets, the files she had gotten from Mikhail, who himself had swiped them from Vostok's computers, on a holodisk in her pocket.

 

It had taken her a long time to find him. Months of tracking him down. But Odrania didn't like owing anyone. Never had, never would. So she had risked everything, because the thought of Coventry rotting in there while she breathed sweet free air kept her up at night.

 

She had used a stealth belt to get inside the enclave apartments having found his room after doing some digging. 

 

Way she saw it, she wasn't just repaying a favor to Coventry...she was repaying one to his brother.

 

As she took out the holodisk, she taped it to his door. No way he could miss it. And then she was gone. Going as quickly and quietly as possible. It was an arduous trek. And she didn't feel safe until she was back in orbit, in the same ship she had escaped Vostok in. All the other prisoners had gone to ground. She would likely have to ditch the ship to be safe. The Sith were royally pissed. They'd be looking for whoever had been suicidal enough to help the prisoners.

 

Going to ground was the only sane choice. Time to pick out a new swamp.

 

Odrania needed to strategize. So she decided to ask her mentor, Isobelle, who was hidden on Tattooine. Isobelle would know what to do. Odrania trusted her advice.

 

Odrania set coordinates for Tattooine, and her ship disappeared into hyperspace. She dared to let out a sigh of relief. Perhaps she could even reaffirm her connection to the Dark Side. She had risked it greatly as it was with her altruism. She needed to connect with her anger again.

 

And she needed to forget how good being the hero had felt.

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