emerald54: That Leviathan just sneaks up on you. In any case, it's going to be interesting to see exactly how this plays out. I have my own ideas, but the characters might fight me on it, so we'll see. Thanks for reading! Striker: You may remember Karath from waaaaay back on Dantooine. But you're right, he's trouble. Rogue_Pilot: I am occasionally timely! I actually think I'm on a writing spree lately. JoE: Thanks! I do worry about juggling the cast, but I'm glad that no one's gotten lost yet. Entropist: Actually, I have a confession to make. I hate Manaan as a level. And I don't think it would translate well into written form. So, even though Leiraya would have a field day with Hrakert Station, I decided to axe it. Don't worry, I have a logical explanation. But yeah... no Manaan for this story. Not in this draft, anyway. dark_jedi_lover: I may or may not have annoyances with the way the game was constructed so far as the male versus female players are concerned. So... I make no promises of anything. princess_of_naboo: I'm rather fond of that line myself. Thanks for reading! *whew* Now that I've taken care of that, I give you an update! Chapter 30 "We've got a minute," Carth looked around the circle at everyone standing there, in varying stages of coherency. "They'll board the ship, and they're not going to want any nonsense." "But there has to be a way to formulate an escape," Aiden protested. "Bastila or I could-" "No," Carth cut him off. "You and Bastila are the first people they'll be watching. Me too, for that matter, since Saul Karath taught me everything I know. If there's going to be an escape plan, it has to rely on someone else." "I'll do it," Canderous volunteered. "You can shoot me somewhere nasty, I'll sneak out of the medbay." "Wait just a second," Aiden looked at the Mandalorian. "You can stage an escape while critically wounded?" "No," Canderous replied, clearly denoting the preposterousness of the statement. "Back in the late days of the war I got an implant that helps me regenerate at an impressive rate. It'll hurt, but a Mandalorian never shies away from pain." "You're sure you'll be able to do it?" "Yes, and you won't find a better man for the job, either." "All right," Aiden nodded. "Someone had better shoot Canderous before they board." "Which will have to be now," Carth replied, and quickly pulled out his blaster, shooting Canderous in the gut. Canderous coughed and grimaced, but motioned for him to continue. A few more quick shots rendered him unconscious. Carth checked his vitals, which seemed to be stable, and he and Aiden proceeded to lift him to the small medical bay. No sooner had they put him down on the table than the sound of the ramp hissing open tore through the ship. "They're here." * * * Things could have, on the whole, gone a lot worse, Aiden thought. Okay, so he, Bastila and Carth were being held in force-field cages with naught but their underwear to protect them, but he was pretty sure he'd seen Canderous carried out of the Hawk on a stretcher. He wasn't sure where they were, or why Malak wanted them so badly, but hopefully he'd figure something out. If not, things might get very interesting. "Karath," Carth snarled. Aiden looked up and saw the Admiral stride confidently into the small room holding them. "Ah, Carth. It's been too long since we last met." "You can drop the pleasantries, Saul." "That's Admiral Karath to you, Carth." "You destroyed my world," Carth continued, ignoring the attempt to reinforce rank. "You killed my wife, and for that I'll see you dead." "Empty words, Onasi. That's all I ever hear from you these days." Karath shook his head sadly. "And you were so promising. However, I'm not here to trade empty threats with you. I'm here to make sure your friends are ready for Lord Malak's arrival." "You won't get any information out of us, Karath," Bastila stood firm. "Our loyalty is to the Republic, and to the Jedi Order." Karath gave her an amused smile. "I expected as much from you. I'm much more interested in your friend here. After all, his loyalties have proved to be... flexible in the past." Aiden gave Karath a confused look as he felt his companions' gazes fix on him. "What are you talking about?" Karath blinked at him for a moment, then started to chuckle. "Oh, this is too good. You really don't know, do you?" Aiden could feel a knot beginning to form in his stomach. "Know what?" "Oh, far be it for me to spoil the surprise," Karath gave him a wicked smile. "I'm sure Lord Malak would like to tell you himself, given your past associations." "I'm not sure what kind of spice you're hitting, but I've never met Malak in my life." "Be that as it may, I still have to keep you occupied until his arrival." Karath walked over to a control panel and punched a few buttons. "I'm not to damage you, but I'm sure any information I could glean from you before he arrives would help me gain favour with Lord Malak." Before any of them could react, an electrical current was sent through each of the cages, and Aiden almost lost his balance as he was gripped by intense pain. Electricity coursed through his body at higher voltages than he knew how to deflect or absorb, and it was all he could do to keep himself from screaming. Just as suddenly as it started, the pain cut off. Looking sideways, he could tell Bastila and Carth had been given similar treatment. "A small taste of what's to come," Karath assured them. "Now seems like as good a time as any to conduct my interrogation." "You've got to be kidding if you think torturing me will do any good," Aiden spat. Karath merely smiled. "I don't think it will do any good. However, most people, especially those of your apparent moral standing, do not wish to see those they care about suffer. To this end, Bastila will receive a shock every time you are uncooperative." "Don't tell him anything," Bastila interjected before Aiden could protest. "My pain will pass." "We shall see about that," Karath seemed amused by her defiance. "Now, to the questions. First things first: where is your hidden Jedi enclave?" "You don't seriously think this will work, do you?" "That was not an answer," Karath replied mildly, and flipped a switch that sent Bastila screaming. "Feeling any more cooperative, Jedi Star?" "No." "A pity. Not that it matters anyway. Lord Malak discovered the location of your Dantooine enclave, and we received word an hour ago that it had been destroyed." Aiden's stomach fell to his feet. "You're lying." Karath favoured him with a small smile. "If it comforts you to think so. In any case, I have more questions for you..." * * * The sounds of screams could be heard through the thin wall that divided the torture chamber from the cell where everyone else was being held. "Geez, you'd think they'd want us to be afraid or something." Mission sat on the floor, holding a very frightened Sasha close. "Well, it's not gonna work. Right, Sasha?" The young girl looked up at Mission and nodded numbly. "Not s-scared," she stuttered unconvincingly. "That's the spirit," Mission squeezed her close. "Bastila's taking a beating in there," Leiraya observed. "No doubt someone's trying to scare Aiden into talking," Jolee replied. "Wouldn't be the first time a Jedi was tortured through his bond with another person." "You're just full of happy stories, aren't you?" Leiraya snorted derisively. "Hey, it wasn't my idea to live through this many wars." He shrugged. "If there's one thing that hasn't changed much through the years, it's torture." "Hey, I like rainbows and gizka," Mission interrupted, her look clearly suggesting that perhaps torture was not the best topic of conversation. T3-M4, sitting innocently in the corner, tweedled his agreement. "Statement: I myself have encountered a number of techniques-" "HK!" Jolee and Leiraya yelled in unison. "Retraction: It was uninteresting. I will not bore you with the details." HK paused and his photoreceptors dimmed slightly. "For now." "All I can say is that Canderous had better make his recovery. Fast." Leiraya folded her arms, and Zaalbar roared his agreement. The sooner they were out of there, the better. * * * Canderous woke in the medical ward. The harsh white lights dazzled his vision for a moment, but he sat up and took mental stock of his health. His wound seemed to be mostly healed, and when he stood, he didn't feel light-headed. Good. Blinking once more, he cleared his sight and took stock of the room. He was the only patient, which would make his job much easier. He walked over to a bin next to his bunk. His armour had been deposited in it, but it was unwearable. He'd have to find another set. Silently striding to the doorway, he listened to see if there was anyone in the hallway. He could hear the sound of one set of boots walking up and down the hallway. Standing aside, he pressed the switch that would open the door. He heard the boots pause, then change direction to investigate. As the Sith trooper walked in the door and past him, he planted a solid kick into the back of the trooper's neck, knocking him over. He quickly grabbed the trooper's blaster rifle, turned the trooper over, and shot him in the chest. Peering out the doorway, he could see the the hall was clear, and there was an equipment locker at the end of the passage. He ran towards it, shooting the lock off and removing the contents. There was a spare combat suit, which he quickly donned, and an extra blaster, which he slid into the holster, just in case. He snaked his head around the corner. A knot of troopers stood in the hallway, chatting about something or another. Canderous frowned contemptuously. A true warrior would never dishonour his armour by making idle chat while he was on duty. It made him feel less guilty about shooting two of them in the back before the other three could even react. Somersaulting out of the way of their blasts, he came up on one knee and shot one more in the neck before rising. The other two followed close behind, their blasts only grazing his armour. He shook his head. Before turning to the Sith, these troopers had been a part of the Republic that had defeated the Mandalorians. That being the case, this was a most disappointing showing. Identifying the leader of the group, he searched the officer's pocket, and found a ring of keycards. Smiling tightly, he pocketed the keys and quickly reoriented himself. If the design of the ship was at all like any of the Sith ships he'd studied in the past, the detention cells would be down the corridor and to the right. Jogging quickly, he had to dispatch two more knots of guards before reaching the detention center. Just as he was about to enter, the door whooshed open and he had to dive behind a storage locker, barely making it out of sight before he heard the sound of boots clicking on the deck. If they came his way, they would round the corner and see the trail of bodies he'd left, and he'd have to kill the lot of them, too. Clutching his blaster rifle, he prepared for another battle. The sound went in the other direction. Releasing a breath he hadn't noticed he'd been holding, Canderous waited for several more moments before checking to make sure the hall was clear. Seeing no one around, he quickly entered the detention block. A lone computer stood in the center of the room, and he ran the first keycard through it. A door opened, and the larger part of the crew was revealed. "Canderous! You made it!" Leiraya rushed out, everyone else close behind her. "Where's the others?" "I'm getting there," Canderous replied gruffly, finding another card to swipe through. After two unsuccessful cards, he finally found the card that opened the door to the torture chamber. Leiraya rushed in and quickly shut the force cages off. Aiden and Bastila immediately walked out of their cages, Carth stumbled a few steps before Leiraya rushed over and caught him. "Electric shock," he coughed, smiling weakly. "I hear we're not built to take that." "Aiden was treated worst by far," Bastila supplied, "but as Jedi, we can deal with the pain better." "We'll get you back to the ship-" Leiraya started to say, but Carth interrupted. "Oh no," he shook his head. "I'm not done here. Karath is still alive, and I've got a promise to keep." "Not like that, you don't," Leiraya insisted. "You can barely stand." "Oh yeah?" Carth tried to stand, but his legs wobbled and he fell over again. "I'll walk it off." "And you're doing a great job of trying." Carth looked up at her, clearly set on going whether he could stand or not. "There isn't time to argue." Leiraya frowned, but she also knew he was right on that count. "You're determined to do this, aren't you?" Looking her straight in the eye, he nodded firmly. "I told you, he has to pay for all he's done." Closing her eyes, she sighed and shook her head. "Then let me help." Holding her hand above his body, she concentrated on the electrical energy through the Force. Seeing how it had taken hold in his muscles, she simply redirected its flow. It didn't take much- a few electrons were coaxed down to the deck, and finding a conductor, other electrons were soon eager to follow in their path. When she opened her eyes, she stood and pulled Carth with her. Testing his legs out, he found that they worked much better when they were not still vibrating with electrical energy. "Handy trick, that." "Just don't try getting shocked on a regular basis," Leiraya replied softly, a concerned look on her face. "I got rid of the extra energy, but it still did a number on your system. You probably shouldn't do anything strenuous for a while." "There's a war on," Carth replied, "and until the galaxy's saved, none of us get to rest." Aiden had already begun to give directions. "Canderous, you'll need to get the crew to the Ebon Hawk." "We'll have to go to the bridge," Carth instructed as he walked over. "It's the only place we open the hangar bays." "Carth, do you know your way around these ships?" Carth nodded. "The Courageous had about the same layout. All our equipment will be stored across the hall." "Then we'd better move fast," Aiden nodded. "Canderous?" "I'm on it," the Mandalorian warrior nodded and motioned for the crew to follow. "All right, you two." Aiden strode towards the equipment storage room, more than eager to not only get his weapons back, but also his clothes. "Let's move." Just as they started to jog away, Leiraya's voice cut through the air. "Carth, wait!" She ran back into the room and hit Carth with an embrace at a dead run. He barely caught her without falling over, but she didn't seem to notice. "You've got to promise me you won't do anything stupid." "Stupid?" "Carth Onasi, you know exactly what I mean." She set her jaw and glared at him. "I know you want revenge, but just... just..." she seemed unable to finish the sentence, but her meaning was clear. Don't get yourself killed. "Hey, it's me," he tried to smile. "Don't worry about me. I'll come back, I promise." She looked at him skeptically. "Are you sure?" There were a lot of things Carth could think of to say in that moment, and a lot more that he'd like to say but couldn't articulate. Even if he could have, a quick look over her shoulder at Aiden told him that he didn't have time for any of it. So he did the only thing that made sense to him, and the last thing he had planned to do. He kissed her. It was at once exhilarating and terrifying, shifting into a strange happiness as he felt her respond. All too soon, however, he had to release her, whether he wanted to or not. Carth pulled her into one last embrace before he relinquished his hold on her. As she stepped back, he smiled reassuringly. "I will see you on the Hawk. I promise." For once in her life, she seemed unable to generate a snarky quip. "May the Force be with you." "And you." With that, he turned to jog out of the room with Aiden and Bastila, hearing the patter of her feet against the deck as she made her own retreat. Karath was going to get a healthy dose of justice, and for the first time, Carth was determined that he wouldn't die trying.