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-   -   Fic: Pawn Endgame (http://www.lucasforums.com/showthread.php?t=206319)

Emalin 12-28-2010 10:14 PM

Pawn Endgame
 
Summary: It's been his obsession for so long. In the belly of the Trayus Academy, he finally acts on it, and the Exile is his next target. Atton's, Mical's, and FemExile's POVs. Atton/Exile.

A/N: Wow, it's been a looooong time since I've posted here...

Anyway, howdy-do! I come bearing a major rewrite of my KOTOR2 fanfic "Consumed", which was posted here in 2008. I felt that the fic hadn't reached its full potential, and the feeling bothered me to the extreme, so in early 2009 I set out to realize that potential. The following version was completed in early 2010. I am now reasonably content (though after a grueling year of history, literature, and philosophy papers I could definitely improve upon this version as well... but NO! *slaps her hand away from the keyboard* THIS MUST END).

What's in the rewrite? Well, expect to see Mical's POV (gasp!), flashbacks that explain the background story (yay!), and an improved ending (woohoo!). If you read the old version and enjoyed it, I encourage you to read this one. It's different enough that it should be worthwhile, and I would greatly appreciate your feedback on the changes. :)

A couple of pointers for all readers:

(1) Each chapter is told from a different POV, so please pay attention to the chapter headings.
(2) Flashbacks, which start in the second chapter, are italicized.

Oh, and a note for new readers: I listened to lots of alternative metal to set the mood while writing this fic. That means this fic is very dark and very emotional. If you don't like that kind of thing, you probably won't like this fic.

Still here? Ok then! Thanks for giving this a try, and I hope you enjoy. :thmbup1:

Emalin 12-28-2010 10:20 PM

--------
Part I: Atton
--------



You're walking through the cathedral-like room, looking around in concern, your stance agitated. Oh, how sweet. You're looking for her. You really do care.

My cracked lips twist into a smile as I watch you from behind a pillar. I knew you'd come because I know you better than you think. I knew you'd be worried sick over her, and you wouldn't obey her order to stay on the ship. Instead you'd come looking for her like the lovesick puppy you are.

And I knew you'd end up here, not at all suspecting I'm here with you, watching you from the shadows.

I chuckle quietly. Yeah, some Jedi you are. Aren't you supposed to sense me or something? Surely I'm not that good at hiding. Or is the darkness of this place too much for your tiny Jedi senses to handle?

You pause as if you heard me. For a breathless moment I can't tell if you have or not. Then you start walking in my direction. Sithspit. I freeze every muscle in my body, becoming as still as the statues in this room. I'm gonna choose when you find me, not you. Didn't you read the contract?

Where the kriff did that come from, says a little voice in the back of my brain.

You approach the pillar I'm hiding behind. And you linger. I barely breathe, even though I burn with the longing to step out in front of you, thrust my saber into your gut and watch you writhe till you die. But see, that's not the plan. Every revenge story needs a nice, dramatic ending. First you'll learn why you must die, and then you will, but only after you've had time to angst about it.

So I hold myself back until you pass by. Then I slip away from my hiding place and glide after you. My footsteps are nonexistent, my breathing quieter than a corpse's as I slip from shadow to shadow. I'm amazed by how naturally my assassin training's returned to me. Maybe I never changed.

Suddenly, you stop dead in your tracks, alerted to my presence. I'm so frustrated I want to spit, but I decide to snag this opportunity. Before you can turn around, I move to stand behind your shoulder.

"Hey, kid."

You turn around with a start. Only vaguely entertaining. What really gives me a kick is your horrified reaction when you see me straight on. Yeah, I know what I look like: pale eyes, cracked skin. The darkness on this planet's done a real number on me, but that's the price of power, baby.

"Atton?" Your expression shifts from horror to distrust. "The Exile. Where is she?"

Of course you would ask about her. "She's safe. You don't need to worry about her. You never did, really."

Not like I did. You never cared about protecting her. You stole her from me.

The thought's run through my head dozens of times. This time, though, there's no hollowness, no burning regret. This time there's a hunger that only blood can satisfy. I smile at the familiar feeling. Welcome back, Jaq.

I circle casually around you, enjoying the feeling of having you right where I want you. Though I keep my voice equally casual, every word is thick with the hunger I feel.

"You know how long it's been since I killed a Jedi? You get a taste for it, you know. I killed a bunch here on Malachor, while the planet was dying. Killing a half-Jedi like you should hold me over until the next one comes along. They always do, you know."

"Atton, Kreia is using you!"

A memory pierces my thoughts, one of a witch clawing into my mind, breaking, stealing, destroying. Then a memory of her smiling coldly at me in her quarters while I'm shaking with rage, choking back tears—because of you.

I throw up an extra mental wall. Ain't no way you're gonna leech that from me.

"Really? I had no idea." I laugh. "Everyone uses each other, kid. And if she's using me to kill you, as I see it, I really don't lose anything."

Except one thing. Like an echo, the thought threatens to make me feel hollow again. I channel it into my hunger instead, and my voice turns dark.

"I already lost what mattered to me. I wanted to protect her, to help her, and then you show up, playing hero." I finger my saber. "Fine."

"Atton, the feelings between the Exile and I—"

"Doesn't matter. Not anymore. I'd forgotten how much I hate Jedi. And the less of you that are in the galaxy, the better."

Liars.

Manipulators.

Murderers.


I flick my saber on, hardly noticing that the blade's still blue.

"Ready to die, kid?"

Your muscles stiffen. Your eyes flame.

"I won't fight you, Atton!"

Oh, please. My answer is flat. "I don't care, I just want you to die."

Then I unleash a Force scream and leap the distance between us.

I just want you to die.

I want
all of you to die.

Emalin 12-28-2010 10:26 PM

--------
Part II: Mical
--------



It is no surprise when I sense Atton's presence behind me. I know he cares for her, and I did not expect him to stay on the ship, just like I did not expect myself to stay.

However, it is more than a surprise when I turn and see his face. It is a shock, and it is an even greater shock when I hear him speak. His voice has changed into something poisonous—smooth and dark and deadly. As soon as I hear it, I know he has fallen to the dark side, and I know he did not come looking for her but for me.

"Atton, Kreia is using you!"

The Atton I met on Dantooine would have bristled at my words, but this one laughs bitterly. "Everyone uses each other, kid. And if she's using me to kill you, as I see it, I really don't lose anything.

"I already lost what mattered to me. I wanted to protect her, to help her, and then you show up, playing hero. Fine."

I must explain it to him! "Atton, the feelings between the Exile and I—"

"Doesn't matter. Not anymore. I had forgotten how much I hate Jedi. And the less of you that are in the galaxy, the better." His lightsaber ignites with a snap-hiss. "Ready to die, kid?"

I see then that his path is set. He wants no explanations; he wants blood. Desperate, I cry, "I won't fight you, Atton!"

His eyes are soulless. "I don't care, I just want you to die."

He leaps at me with a Force scream. Disoriented by the blast of noise, I stumble backwards and only barely manage to deflect his lightsaber with my own before he slices through my neck.

He succeeds in driving me back at first. Soon, however, I gather my strength and go on the offensive. There is only one alternative now, and it is that I win this battle. If I do not, he will seek out Rae next, and there will be no one to help her.


--


"Is something wrong, Rae? You've seemed quiet lately. Sad."

When he asked, they were sitting together on the floor of the portside dormitory, preparing to meditate. She sighed and looked away without answering. He studied her gently. "I can feel it, Rae. Something is troubling you."

"It's nothing you can help, Mical."

"But I would like to try if I can." Taking a chance, he reached over and covered her hand with his. Though she didn't pull away like he feared she would, when she glanced at him he saw everything—and nothing—in her eyes.

He was her student. Loved and appreciated, yes, but only her student. Nothing more.

He swallowed slowly, removed his hand and looked away. "It's Atton, isn't it?"

Silence. He could feel her staring at him, surprised, perhaps confused, no doubt trying to think of a way to avoid confessing. Finally, in a tone of defeat she answered: "Yes. How did you know?"

"I have seen how you look at him, but only when he isn't looking at you. I have also noticed you seem to avoid him and him alone. Tell me, Rae. Are you in love with him?"

"I . . . ."

She started to reply but trailed off. He glanced over at her in time to see the pain on her face before she ducked her head. That alone would have been answer enough had she chosen to stay silent or leave. But she didn't. Standing up, she walked to the door and closed it. Then she turned, leaned her back against it, and stared at him. He was surprised by how tired her eyes were.

"Does anyone else know?" she asked.

The_Catto 12-29-2010 03:27 AM

Dude, I loved it when I first read it and I am very much enjoying it now. I love Atton's chapters and really want to see more from his POV.

And alternative metal? Couldn't've picked a better genre to set the mood. Awesome point +10!

More, Em! More!!!
:D

Emalin 12-29-2010 05:58 AM

Haha. Thank you muchly, my dear Mr_BFA. More is coming in the next day or so. :D

And yep, alternative metal rocks for writing angsty tragedies! Some favorite songs for this fic were "Sweet Sacrifice" by Evanescence, "Breathe into Me" by Red and "Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin. The last song especially - it's such a love triangle song.

The_Catto 12-29-2010 11:06 AM

Ah man... You gained another five awesome points just from that post haha.
Evanesence and Breaking Benjamin? Nice choices indeed, my friend!
Will definitely be checking back in the day or two!

machievelli 12-29-2010 03:31 PM

read

Emalin 12-30-2010 02:42 AM

--------
Part III: Atton
--------



The dark side rushes to me from every corner of the Academy, like it's the light and I'm the black hole. It pours into me as I fight, fueling me, consuming me. Every slash of my saber fills me with a hot, vicious joy I've never felt before.

With this kind of power on my side, there's no way you'll defeat me.


--


He was sitting in the pilot's chair, head in his hands, shoulders slumped in defeat.

His mind swam with memories he would never have. Memories that at one time he thought he
could have. He'd nurtured them back then, holding them close like tiny flames, both to shield them from prying eyes and to warm himself when the ship got cold. They'd flitted through his dreams during the night cycle, peeping out from among the usual images of violence and horror, like lights in the darkness.

A shy touch.

A skipped heartbeat.

A shared breath. . . .

Then they went out, every single one of them. And he was left alone in the cruel, cold dark.

Gritting his teeth, he grabbed his hair and twisted it just to feel the pain.
Switch the face of the plus two/minus two card, the totals are nineteen/twenty.

What had gone wrong? 'Cause it had been there once. He knew it.

Flip for five, totals are twenty-four/twenty.

Even now he could see the looks she'd given him in unguarded moments, the smiles that made him croak if he tried to speak. He could hear the sound of her laughter and the way her voice melted into something low and sensual when they talked alone in the cockpit. He could feel the warmth of her gaze, the electricity of her touch.

Or had he been fooling himself the whole time?


No minus card. He went chill.

What if . . . what if it was all lies?


Lose round. . . .

. . . Lose game.


--


He watched them from the corridor, breathing quietly, his mind tucked away behind its mental walls.

They had no idea he was watching them, of course. They were sitting on the floor with their eyes shut, too deep in meditation to notice him. He resisted the impulse to chuckle out loud. Had he still been in the assassin business, they would've been sitting tachs right now, the kid especially.

Atton curled his lip in disgust as he raked his eyes over the blond figure next to Rae. Swept-back hair, cherubic features, plain attire. What did she see in the kid that made her spend so much flamin' time with him? He was a pansy, so naïve it was sickening.

Yet, there they were. Sitting so close that their knees touched. It was like a punch in the gut. Or a cruel joke. Maybe they’d been laughing at him behind his back all along.


No, he thought darkly. This was no joke.

He'd seen how the kid's eyes brightened when he looked at her.

He'd seen how she led him on with warm smiles and easy laughter.

He'd seen it many times, and each time he'd felt himself burning as the world around him turned red.



--


In the end, it was the Witch, of all people, who helped him see the truth.

"No game of dejarik can be won without pawns." That's what she'd said the day she broke into his mind. And that's what she said not long after Pretty Boy came on board. "Do not think I will release you now that she has one of her own to help her. Our game of dejarik is not yet over, and you have not lost your uses."

Though Atton would never admit it to her, that was the moment the first piece of the puzzle clicked into place.

Uses. Of course. That was the only reason he was here. He was a pawn, and not just to Kreia but to the Exile.

Click.

The smiles, the looks, the rounds of pazaak—all of it had been nothing more than a ruse. Bait on the hook. And he'd fallen for it like a two-cred fool. He'd bared his heart to her, telling her things he'd never told anyone else, and she'd used it against him. She'd manipulated him into becoming one of them!

Click.

After all, what was her own game of dejarik if not a righteous quest to resurrect the Jedi Order? Hunting down the old masters, the ones who'd hidden like cowards while the rest of the galaxy burned. Telling all the little tag-alongs hanging onto her coat sleeves to become good little Jedi servants. Oh, he could see it all now. He could see through every subterfuge, every lie.

She'd never really cared for him. She was no different than Kreia, no different than the rest of them.


Click.

With that revelation, his last shining idol toppled and shattered. Shattered into a thousand tiny pieces, and his heart with it. The galaxy was nothing but darkness again . . . darkness, and hollowness, and coldness . . . until the ashes of an old hatred caught fire.

Then the galaxy wasn't so dark and cold anymore.

The_Catto 12-30-2010 02:59 AM

Ah, the tugging of old heart strings; misspent love and ill-informed senses of desire. Atton, Atton, Atton. Poor guy, lol.

A nice addition, Em. Woah, he really hates Mical, doesn't he! I never much liked him either, haha.
Extremely well written and I can tell you've spent a lot of time on this.
As always, looking forward to more :)

Ahhh, not to sound mean, but finally a fic worth posting on in this stagnant beast of a CEC!!! Been extremely slow as of late. Welcome back, Em!

Emalin 12-30-2010 03:25 AM

Glad you're enjoying this, Monsieur BFA! Heh, I'll confess it's quite easy to make Atton hate Mical. What's tough is writing Mical's side of things. I think I've gained some respect for him after playing through K2 again and trying to understand what the game devs had in mind. Suuuure takes imagination, though! ;)

Yeah, I've spent almost three years on this thing, oh my word. And guess what? I tried to abstain from editing it this time around, but boy I'm failing miserably. Oh well. After this it's done for real, I swear!! :p

Sad to hear the CEC's been slow. I would do more to liven it up, but unfortunately I'm about to start back to college in a couple of weeks.

The_Catto 12-30-2010 04:38 AM

Ha, yeah I try to give Mical a chance, but its hard NOT to dislike him :xp:

And haha, editing always happens whenever you go over something you haven't in a while. Always manage to find SOMETHING you didn't find before.

Sure has been slow. I've been working and what not so I haven't been able to post much but everytime I come on here its like it hasn't really moved much at all. Kinda sad really considering how lively it used to be a few years ago. Ah well.

Emalin 12-31-2010 01:49 PM

--------
Part IV: Mical
--------



I'm getting weak. I've been fighting back with all of my strength for what seems like hours. Now it's slipping away from me, and he knows it. He grins more often—a terrible expression on that corpse-like face—and fights with ever more arrogant flair, striking so hard that my joints feel battered from parrying. I try to draw upon the light side for strength, but I can hardly reach it. I am too inexperienced, and the dark side is too strong here.

In time we spin out of each other's reach. Breathing hard, I hold my lightsaber in front of me, ready for the next round of attacks. Atton advances with a look of venom. "Wanna know why I hate the Jedi?"

I do not answer.

"They're hypocrites. They preach compassion, but when you come to them for help, they throw you out the airlock. They say they have the truth, then they turn around and lie and manipulate. And the whole time they're doing it, they think they're better than everyone else!

"Twice in my life I thought I met a Jedi who was different, who was 'real'. But time showed 'em up for the frauds they were. Jedi are all the same. The galaxy doesn't need their arrogance or hypocrisy anymore!"

"You're wrong," I exclaim, unable to restrain my anger. "The Jedi may make mistakes—"

"Of course you'd defend them; you're one of them! Force, I wish you'd die, I wish you'd all die!"

He launches himself at me with a cry of rage. I brace myself to parry his strike, only to see his true intent at the last second—and by then it's too late. A wall of Force energy broadsides me from out of nowhere and slams me into a pillar. The impact knocks my lightsaber out of my hand, and I collapse on the floor.

Get up! Get your lightsaber!

But I can't. The room is spinning. Before I can move, he is there, and once again it's too late.

Seizing me by the collar, he pulls me up from the floor and promptly shears my arms off at the elbow. I scream in agony, but the physical pain can't compare with the crushing weight of my despair.

I've lost, Rae. Oh, Force forgive me.

"Well, that was fun, wasn't it, kid? We should do it again sometime." He slams me against the pillar, this time with his hands instead of the Force. I feel something break in my back, and through the haze of pain I realize that only the darkness of Malachor V could give him this strength. My blood runs cold with fear.

Oh, Rae, forgive me.

Atton guesses my thoughts. He grins maliciously, still holding me against the pillar. "Aw, thinkin' about her, are we? Don't worry. Like I said, she's safe, and I'm gonna take good care of her. I'm crazy about her too, remember?" He leans in and drawls in my ear. "She could've come and saved you, you know. Makes you think twice about the Jedi, doesn't it?"

Everything seems surreal. This isn't happening. It's all a nightmare.

"Well, much as I love chattin' with ya, I've waited a long time for this. And I hate long goodbyes."

With that, he brings his lightsaber up to my face, letting me recognize it as my last sight in this life. I try to control my breathing, even if I can't control my heartbeat.

Rae, forgive me.

Rae, forgive—



--


"I'm afraid I've been influencing you all. Without realizing it."

They were in the portside dormitory again, except this time they were on their way to Telos to find Kreia. Rae was sitting on one of the bunks, looking so uncharacteristically vulnerable that it jarred him. "I don't understand what you mean," he said.

"Do you understand why you attack who I attack, kill who I kill? Mical, why are you following me?" The look in her eyes was heartbreaking. "Do you ever wonder why you're with me?"

"Never." He stepped over to her and took her hands in his. Even if she didn't love him, he would not stand aloof while her world crumbled around her. "I believe in what we are doing, what you are doing.

"I am here"—he smiled down at her and her vulnerable eyes—"because I choose to be."

The_Catto 01-01-2011 09:36 PM

Gah, Atton is so deliciously evil! Hahaha.
I love this fic. Dark, twisted, sadistic with a hint of humanity squeezed in here and there, its a mixture of genius!

Now, enough brown-nosing for the time being, lol.
Awaiting the next installment. Oh but no worry, no pressure or anything :P

Emalin 01-02-2011 01:42 AM

Thank you! :D Oh yes, Atton is teh evilz. Though I would chalk part of that up to Malachor's influence. It takes what's already twisted inside you and twists it even more... :eek:

Again, I'm glad you're enjoying this and hope the trend continues.

Emalin 01-02-2011 02:17 AM

--------
Part V: Exile
--------



Rae, forgive me.

A familiar voice echoes through the Force. I falter. Mical?

Rae, forgive—

His voice is silenced. At the same time, a searing pain rips through my being, the kind of pain I hoped I would never feel again: that of a bond being severed.

I cry out and stumble backwards, trying not to double over from the pain. My opponent seizes the opportunity to come at me with a downward slash; I block it purely by reflex. My mind is scattered now, my focus gone. I call out blindly through the Force. Mical!

He doesn't answer. I keep calling out to him as I fight, though in my heart I know it's no use. A severed bond can mean only one thing.

By the time I cut down my opponent, my breath is labored from more than exertion, my limbs shaking from more than adrenaline. Deactivating my saber, I stand with my fists clenched and stare at the dead Sith at my feet. Questions claw at me from within.

Why, Mical? I told you to stay on the ship. I told you!

I can feel the ache at the back of my throat that I used to feel right before I cried. I bite my lip savagely, not letting up until the ache goes away. Then I close my eyes and stretch out my senses. My jaw is taut, my will made of steel.

I'll find him—find out what happened to him. Then I'll take him back to the Hawk. Leaving him here on this planet, even burying him here, is unthinkable.

The dark side clouds everything, making it difficult to see through the Force. I cut through the fog with my force of will as I search for him. The pain of our severed bond throbs in my chest like a gaping wound. Sometimes I think I can feel the warm blood seeping into my robe.

Just when I'm beginning to get desperate, my search turns to the center of the Academy, and I find something. It's an echo, the hollowness that a life leaves behind when it's snuffed out. Malachor rings with millions of these echoes, yet this one has barely started to spread.

The sound that escapes my lips is too weak to be called a sigh. Opening my eyes, I step over the body at my feet and press on toward the echo's source. When a specter of grief touches me, I cut it down ruthlessly.

I will not let myself feel grief. Not here. Not now.


--


She knew he had feelings for her. She'd known it since their meeting on Dantooine. And as much as she would've liked to pretend it was mere hero worship or the student-teacher bond, she knew better. She'd seen the signs: the way he looked at her, how eager he was to please her, how concerned he was for her safety.

Now, as she felt his hand cover hers—a gesture that she knew was meant to be more than comforting—she felt no embarrassment. Just regret. The moment she'd hoped to avoid had finally come, and now she would be forced to hurt him.

So she turned and simply looked at him. It only took the space of a heartbeat for him to understand. Swallowing, he broke their gaze and moved his hand away, leaving hers exposed to the cold air.

"It's Atton, isn't it?"

She blinked at him like a mute gizka. For a long moment her mind refused to acknowledge that he'd just mentioned the name "Atton" in this conversation, much less that he'd seen through her every disguise.

Then the moment passed, and her panicked mind blazed through the options.

Could she deny it?
Evade answering?
Frame her reply so vaguely that it lessened the impact of the truth?

No—she could do none of those things. She saw it in Mical's eyes; he knew the truth and had already felt its impact. Anything short of frank acknowledgment would only add to the hurt, and she could not do that to him—even if it was dangerous not to do it.

She suppressed a sigh. "Yes. How did you know?"

"I have seen how you look at him, but only when he isn't looking at you. I have also noticed you seem to avoid him and him alone. Tell me, Rae. Are you in love with him?"


Oh, Force.

"I . . . ."

She hesitated, heart hammering. In earlier days, even as recently as Dantooine, the answer to that question would have been simple, and she would have committed it to Mical freely. But nothing was that simple anymore, and she feared it never would be again.

As she fought for words, suddenly she realized that she
wanted to tell him. She wanted him to know everything, for there was no one else who could help her bear this burden, and she wanted someone. Needed someone.

Exhaustion overtook her then, and as she stood to close the door her movements were heavy.

Visions danced through her head: visions of fatigue, of heartache, of the grueling task she was forced to undertake day after day.

Those moments when she tore her eyes from
his face, only to feel like she'd torn out a part of herself. Those times when she slipped away to one of the dorms to meditate, only to end up stalking around the room, railing in her mind against the fate that the Force had chosen for her.

How it all started in the first place. Those subtle hints from Kreia—frowns, unwelcome interruptions, grandmotherly prying—hints that had grown more heavy-handed with time until, one day, they had become vocal disapproval, and Rae had been reminded of the fate to which she was inescapably chained.



--


"The galaxy needs you. The Force needs you. But the fool does not need you, nor do you need him. He is a distraction only, and any attachment to him may prove dangerous in ways you cannot comprehend."

"Force's sake, Kreia! I've been in danger since the Mandalorian Wars! Why should it matter to me now?"

"Are you so blinded by your feelings? Our enemies seek to destroy you, and every weakness they uncover will be to their advantage. Do you doubt that they can strip away the outward defenses and expose the heart beneath? The heart is a vulnerable thing. A
dangerous thing. It can endanger missions, imperil galaxies. If you value your feelings above the fate of the galaxy, then I have wasted my time with you."

Incensed, Rae turned to leave, but Kreia stopped her.

"Exile, hear me." Her voice was unusually flat. "Your enemies will show no mercy. If you value the fool's life, you will stay away from him."

Rae stared at her. The witch met her stare evenly, her wrinkled face a statue's. She could have just warned Rae to stay away from strange men, and she would've looked no different.

Or she could have just threatened to be as merciless as their enemies.

The_Catto 01-03-2011 07:23 AM

Atton maybe an awesome character, but Kreia, undoubtably, is my favourite character of the kotor series.
Ahh, reading this takes me back to memories a few years ago when I first discovered Kotor in '05. (I know, a little late, but better late than never, of course! :xp: )
Good memories :D

Anyways. Continue the great work, dude!

Emalin 01-05-2011 12:22 AM

--------
Part VI: Atton
--------



Killing him was release. I feel free now, so free. Just one more step, and freedom will be really, truly mine.

Till then, this waiting is torture. Something burns me from the inside, begging me to move, to fight. I wanna start pacing like a kath hound in a cage, but I steel my jaw and stay where I am, a shadow within shadows. I can't move or I might ruin the surprise.

My eyes dart to the dead body across the room. Ah, yes, what a surprise. A shocker, really. Soon she'll see it, and if it isn't enough to screw with her little Jedi mind, seeing her precious "fool" will.

Yeah, see this? See what you did to me?

The thought makes me wanna laugh. And it makes me wanna cry. So I don't react. I just keep waiting, and breathing, and letting my mind become one with the darkness of Malachor.

After what feels like an eternity, I sense her presence, and my eyes fly open. She's here. All of a sudden my heart's pounding. Does she know I'm here? What'll she think when she sees him? Thoughts race through my head, jumbled, panicked. I'm losing control, and it angers me. Gritting my teeth, I close my eyes and let one thought ring through my head.

I hate her.

Three simple words. Yet they're so full of power that they send a shudder through my body. Other thoughts fade away.

I hate her.

Yes. I hate her for what she's done to me, for what the Jedi have done to me. Nothing else matters now.

I just wanna be free.

When I open my eyes, I feel calm again, much to my satisfaction. That's it, Jaq. Pure pazaak. I creep to the edge of the pillar and look around it. She's spotted him already, and now she's walking toward him with slow, measured steps. I feel my blood heat as I watch her. Her cheeks are flushed from battle, her eyes lined with red, her hair a mess. But she's still so beautiful. Like a doll.

I smile.

So I'm gonna break her like one.


--


He'd been shocked by how effortlessly she'd broken into his mind in the polar academy. She'd brushed past his defenses like they were so much space dust, then ripped out his secrets with the same obscene ease—secrets he'd never breathed aloud for fear that they would turn on him and strangle him.

After that, she'd stared knowingly at him with those eerie white eyes, and she'd smiled, her lips curling at the edges.

He'd felt genuine fear then. The kind he hadn't felt since he was a kid.

Now, as Atton lay in a trembling heap on the floor, he tasted that fear again. Only this time it was tinged with a resentment deeper than any he had ever felt before.

She'd broken into his mind again. She'd seen the blackness brewing there, and now she was
laughing. Laughing at his anger and pain.

"So, at last you have seen what was plain to me from the beginning. Good. Hold it close, let it burn you with its truth. The pain will give you strength, and you will need that strength in the days to come."

Then she spoke to him about many things. Pretty Boy. The fate of the Jedi. The part that Atton would play in it.

Her words crawled within his skull, whispering to the darkness inside him, compelling him to give in.

At one point he realized that he'd managed to get back on his feet. But it hardly mattered. In his mind he was still lying prostrate on the floor, as helpless as an ant in the jaws of a spider. He knew that she was using him for some greater purpose, and that he would pay a price if he resisted, just like last time.

This time, however, there was one big difference: he didn't
need to be threatened with punishment. Not really. Not when her words echoed so harmoniously with his deepest desires. He would do what she wanted, without hesitation.

He was sure she knew that, too. And he hated her for it.

The_Catto 01-05-2011 11:26 PM

Once again, a nice addition, Em. Not much else to say really, haha.
Well, except, 'more!'.

Emalin 01-06-2011 11:45 PM

--------
Part VII: Exile
--------



The door ahead of me is sleek and black like obsidian. Like a gateway to hell. I approach it warily, my gloved hand wrapped around the hilt of my saber. The aura of the room beyond the door screams of the dark side, and on its ancient bloodstained floor there's a fresh stain in the Force, so strong that I can almost smell it.

This room is the source of the echo.

I reach forward to push the door open, trying not to think of what I'll see on the other side. As soon as I touch the door, a barrage of negative emotions slams against me. Anger. Fear. Despair. I pull my hand back like I've been burned.

Was his enemy merciful?

But then, what do Sith know of mercy?


I take a moment to gather my strength, let myself breathe. Then I pull open the door and enter. My eyes are met by a grand, pillared chamber with a vaulted ceiling. Its floors and walls are as sleek and black as the door. Red lamps glow on the walls, and red floor lights cast shadows behind every pillar.

Except for my own breathing, everything is quiet.

An apprehensive buzz starts at the base of my skull. I ignore it and step out into the open, daring all the forces of darkness to attack me. Then I see something that was hidden from view while I stood in the doorway. All at once, time slows, and the rest of the room fades away.

It's a single, lifeless body dressed in Jedi robes, lying at the base of a pillar.

Somehow my feet carry me to where he lies on his side. I stand over him, numbly observing the carnage. Was his enemy merciful? But then, is being decapitated after losing your arms a more merciful death than most? I can't say. I can't even think. I can only stare, feeling nothing, as I remember his kind smile, his reassuring touch, how quietly and loyally he loved me.

A procession of faces marches past my mind's eye.

Bao-Dur, who took his last, shuddering breath before I stumbled out of the wreckage of the Ebon Hawk.

The Jedi Masters—Vrook, Kavar, Zez Kai-Ell—whose life-forces were sucked out of them by a fallen Kreia while I lay unconscious.

All the Mandalorians and Jedi who died by my hand, sucked into this merciless well of gravity known as Malachor, all because of one order I gave.

And now Mical. Here at the end of everything.

It's my fault. If it wasn't for me, all of them would still be alive. I'm the death of the Force, of everyone I care about.

Atris was right. I should've died that day on Malachor.


My vision blurs with tears. My shoulders quake as I try to control my emotions, but I can't. The dam must break at last. So I collapse on my knees next to Mical's body and let it break. My sobs are loud. Angry.

So many dead.

How many more must die before this ends?


I don't realize I've said it aloud until I get an answer: "Every last one of you Jedi."

I ignite my saber mid-turn. I know I'm about to face Mical's killer. A Sith Lord, no doubt, robed in black, with eyes like death.

But when I see him, it's like slamming into a permacrete wall. My mind reels, shocked and confused; horror pulses through me in nauseating waves.

Atton?

He's on the other side of the room. Seeing him here would be shocking enough, but no words can describe the riptide of emotion I feel when I see his face.

The last time I saw it, it was his face, handsome and familiar. Now there's no other way to describe it than as the face of a corpse. His skin is pale, clear like ice in some places. His veins are bruised and bulging, the roots of his hair gray as if withered by dark energy. But none of it—none of it—compares to the horror of his eyes.

Where I should've seen warm, hazel gateways into the soul, I see cold, colorless orbs brimming with hatred, murder, and lust. All of it focused through tiny black pupils. Focused on me.

The sight freezes my heart to the core. He knows it does, and he chuckles. The sound is inhuman.

"My face scares you? Heh. Scared him, too." He gestures carelessly at Mical's body. "But, like your dear Pretty Boy learned, I'd have it no other way . . . sweetheart."

The endearment rolls off his tongue like a drop of acid. I stare at him, a desperate, out-of-breath feeling caught in my chest. This can't be happening. This is a vision like in the tomb on Korriban. Any second now, he'll disappear.

As if aware of my thoughts, he walks toward me with a defiant grin on his face. Oh, I'm real, babe. I don't react until he's a couple of strides away. Then my sense of danger overcomes my shock, and I jerk my lightsaber up to his throat. He stops short, eyes flashing with annoyance, but he quickly composes himself.

"Aw, c'mon, sweetheart. You know you're just putting off the inevitable. Can't you feel the power of this place? It's draining you. Just like I knew it would. Soon you'll be on your knees before me while I'm growing stronger and stronger."

Something about his voice makes me tremble inside. His voice has changed. It's deeper, darker. And I do feel weaker, like his words have sucked something out of me.

"Atton"—my voice breaks—"what have you done?"

"Call me Jaq."

"What?"

"I said call me Jaq. Isn't it obvious what I've done? I've done what should've been done a long time ago. He's had it comin' to him since he first pranced onto the Ebon Hawk."

"But why?"

Atton—Jaq—rolls his eyes. "Tsk, tsk. My dear, you really should know that already, smart as you are. Or do you just want a great monologue?"

He turns away with a bitter laugh, and for a few seconds I think he won't answer me. Instead he engrosses himself in twirling his saber in his fingers. Clockwise. Counter-clockwise. Upwards, downwards. I find the motion mesmerizing, eerily so, until he speaks.

" 'Dancing in the shadows for your favor.' Yeah, I overheard Kreia that day. You think a scoundrel like me can't eavesdrop now and then? But she was right, you know. I was a fool. Left myself wide open for a betrayal. And that's exactly what I got.

"Get the picture yet, sweetheart?" He turns back to me. "Or do I have to carve it into your chest? Not that I won't do that anyway."

I hardly hear his threat. I hear only one word: Betrayal.

The word crushes me, condemns me, tells me that everything I thought was true is a lie.

Betrayal.

This is . . . this is my fault. My fault! I thought I was protecting him by what I did. I thought he wasn't as in love with me as I was with him, and he would find it easier to let go of me. He was good at loving and leaving, he'd said.

What was more, I thought he'd changed. Truly changed.

I was blind. Now Mical is dead, and my own death is staring me in the face. Killing Atton or dying by his hand: either way is death to me.

"Atton, I didn't know—"

"Jaq!" he interrupts with a snarl. "And don't lie to me! You knew I would've died for you, that I worshiped the ground you walked on. You knew I thought you were different from the rest of those Jedi. I was a fool! You led me on and manipulated me, all for your righteous little quest. And then he comes along, a new toy for you to play with, and guess what? I'm out the airlock!

"You were never different from them, Exile! They lie, they manipulate, they murder innocents, and so do you! I'm dead inside because of you, and when I run you through, it'll be nothing but justice for what you did to me!"

His shouts deafen me; his eyes burn holes in me; I can't tell if tears are really running down my face or if it's a trick of my mind. When at last he stalks toward me, his saber springing to life in his hand, I'm tempted to surrender and let him do what he wants with me. The pain is too much.

I should've died that day. Oh, Force, I should've died. . . .

"No," I find myself whispering. Resolve fills me and, with it, new strength.

I deactivate my saber and turn to face Atton head on. The dark side is strong here, but I won't let it stop me. Exerting all of my strength, I call the light side to me. Its energy flows through me and around me, building in power. Defying the darkness that is Malachor.

This won't end in death.

I won't
let it end in death.

Emalin 01-08-2011 02:24 AM

--------
Part VIII: Jaq
--------



I can feel the hate burning in my gut, eating me from the inside out. The dark side pours into me, drawn to my hate like a magnet. I can't wait any longer. I ignite my saber and stalk toward her, ready to break her like the doll she is.

She was never the type to go down without a fight, so I expect her to lift her saber in challenge. To my surprise, she does the exact opposite.

She turns it off.

I stop, unbelieving. Then I understand, and my chest heaves in rage. So she's being all sweet and noble, too? After blazing a trail of death through the galaxy? Is there no end to Jedi hypocrisy?

Before I can act, the Exile closes her eyes and extends her arms sideways. I watch, eyes widening, as energy gathers around her in a swirling vortex of bright blue light. What the kriff? She’s supposed to be weakening—

The energy explodes outwards. I slam into the wall behind me and black out.

Seconds later, I wake up to find myself lying on the ground. The Exile is kneeling beside me with a hand on my face. Though her eyes are nearly too bright to look at, somehow I see they're glistening with tears.

"See it through the eyes of the Exile," she murmurs cryptically. She closes her eyes again, places her hands on either side of my head. . .

. . . and my senses collapse under a torrent of noise.

It's the sound of a raging windstorm, and above it the sound of one long scream, more hellish than any scream I've ever heard before. It sends white-hot agony sizzling through my nerves, electric, unbearable. I arch my back, bucking against the Exile's hold on me. Let go!

It doesn't help. She holds on like a madman. The scream increases in intensity until I'm screaming with it.

What's happening? Is she electrocuting me?

No. Inside my mind there's an explosion of light and heat, color and tears. It resolves itself into images, flashing through my head at light speed.

She's showing me her mind. Her memories.

"I have seen how you look at him, but only when he isn't looking at you. I have also noticed you seem to avoid him and him alone. Tell me, Rae. Are you in love with him?"

Yes.
The Exile's voice, echoing all around me.

"Exile, hear me. Your enemies will show no mercy. If you value the fool's life, you will stay away from him."

I won't let you touch him!
she cries.

"You were never different from them, Exile! They lie, they manipulate, they murder innocents, and so do you! I'm dead inside because of you, and when I run you through, it'll be nothing but justice for what you did to me!"

I love you, Jaq.


Faces flash past my mind's eye. Mical. Bao-Dur. The Jedi Masters. Others I don't recognize. And, last of all, my own face—contorted with hate.

Through it all, the scream continues. It's Rae's voice screaming. Her pain I'm experiencing.

The pain of a wound in the Force.

It's my fault. If it wasn't for me, all of them would still be alive. I'm the death of the Force, of everyone I care about.

I should've died that day. Oh, Force, I should've died. . . .

Jedi lies!
I shout. This has happened before, and she lied to me. They're liars, every last one of them!

No. Rae's whisper slices through the chaos. Don't you see? It's the truth.

Warmth floods me—the warmth of a love I didn't believe exists—and suddenly I'm remembering her. Her pain, her death. I remember her ashen face. I remember the things I did to her. I remember the smell of her blood, and the smell sickens me.

It all melds with Rae; somehow they become one and the same. I'm standing before them both, one hand on their neck, the other drawing back a knife. One stab, I think. One stab and I can watch their lifeblood gush down their shoulders.

Then I look them in the eye and see the love shining there.

"Before she opened her mind to mine, my only thought was that I would love to kill her."

The knife falls out of my hand, and I collapse on my knees.

"In the end, she wasted her life to save me. Me."

No. She . . . she lied to me. You're lying to me,
I protest feebly.

It's the truth. She loved you, Jaq. Warmth floods me again. And I love you.

I can't grasp it. I fight it with everything in me. Just when I think I can't take it anymore, Rae lets go. The scream dies away, taking the light and color and agony with it.

But not the tears.

My world's spinning out of control, and I whimper like a helpless pup, hating these tears.

Emalin 01-11-2011 03:10 AM

--------
Part IX: Exile
--------



By the time I let go of his mind, my own mind is reeling in shock from what I've witnessed. I open my eyes to see him curled in the fetal position, his face wet with tears, and something breaks in me. I wrap my arms around him, feeling a desperate need to keep him safe.

He takes a deep, shuddering breath. For an instant it feels like the old Atton is with me again, at a rare moment when his defenses are shattered and waves of anger and hurt roll off him. I bury my face in his neck and let our tears mingle. I know I'm making myself vulnerable by doing this, but I'm not afraid.

Which is why I don't react when I feel a knife settle against my neck.

"Get up," Jaq growls.

I obey, taking care to rise in tandem with him and his knife. Once we're on our feet, he keeps the knife at my neck, breathing hard. His icy eyes rove all over me as if he's imagining the things he could do to me. I stare at him, still unafraid.

With a flick of his wrist, he nicks my skin. The sting of pain sends a jolt through me. As the warm blood creeps down toward my collarbone, he angles the knife to catch it.

He studies it. A battle rages in his eyes. Hate . . . lust . . . doubt . . . fear . . .

. . . revulsion.


He removes the knife and walks away.

I let myself breathe again.

He stops a few paces from me, his back turned. The silence thickens between us. I feel like he just stepped across a gulf as wide as a Malachor canyon. Maybe he was on the other side to begin with.

"You cared for him."

He says it so abruptly that I blink. I follow his gaze and see that he's looking at Mical's body. Sorrow washes over me. "Yes."

But not like I cared for you.

He doesn't answer. I watch him, waiting. His gaze remains locked on Mical's body.

"You Jedi are all the same," he says finally. "Always keepin' your little secrets. Well, secrets can kill, you know. And I don't just mean the one who keeps them."

It takes me a moment to realize he isn't referring to Mical but to himself.

My heart aches. I step toward him, but he throws up a hand to stop me.

"Don't, Jedi. Just get out of here."

What? "I'm not going to walk away from you."

"Leave!" He turns on me with fire in his eyes. "You've saved yourself. Now do what you came here for!"

I can't believe it. Anger shoots through my veins. "Is that all you think it was? Me trying to save myself?"

He stares at me. The fire in his eyes cools, and suddenly he seems to give out. His shoulders sag, and he looks down at the ground. "No. Of course it wasn't," he mumbles. "Or maybe it was. I don't know. I don't know what's true anymore."

I stare at him, at a loss for how to respond. He turns away without looking at me, the knife lax in his hand. His posture is that of a man who has been utterly broken.

I realize then that I won't save him. Not truly.

This man has lost everything. His home and his family long ago, and now his identity, his soul, his will to go on. I may have saved him from the dark side, but I was too late to save his life.

To him, it is already gone.

A numbing grief settles over me. Wordlessly, I approach Jaq and touch his arm. He looks up at me, and I see that his expression is haunted and empty, his eyes every bit as cold as they were before, only in a different way.

Blinking back tears, I embrace him.

At first he remains frozen; I'm embracing ice. Then ice melts into flesh, and his arms move to embrace me. We stay that way, communicating things too deep for words, for I don't know how long. I only know that by the time Jaq pulls away from me, it hasn't been long enough.

"You have to go."

I know. She's waiting for me, and she won't wait forever. I linger a few more moments to study his face and remember it as it used to be. Smooth skin. Brown hair. Hazel eyes. When my gaze reaches his cracked lips, I lean in to give him the kiss I should've given him long ago. I'm sorry.

Then I turn and walk to the door that leads to the heart of the Academy.

It takes all of my strength to not look back.


--


The Trayus Core is a majestic place, built to be the focal point of Force power in the Academy. From the moment I step into the chamber, however, I only have eyes for the black-robed figure standing alone on the central platform.

Kreia.

She pulls back her hood as I approach, revealing dead, black eyes set in a face of stone. The darkness in this chamber is strong, so strong that it feels like a million claws grasping at my clothes and face and hair. But, even then, it's not as strong as the current of emotion running between me and my former master.

My betrayer.

I stop a short distance away, lightsaber in hand. I stare at her. She stares back. Neither of us speaks until, finally, I ask the question that weighs most heavily on my mind.

"Why did you do it?"

She knows my meaning. Her expression remains as stony as ever.

"To break you," she says coldly.

The_Catto 01-13-2011 09:08 AM

......

Brutal.
Just, brutal, man!
Weird to say, but I felt like I could feel both Rae's and Atton's pain. Deep, Em. Very deep indeed.
Part VIII is my favorite part yet. Absolute genius.

Now... Once again, I brown-nose WAY too much, haha.
And in saying that... Nice job, and I really want to read more!

PS: Sorry for the late reply. Been a really busy week!

Emalin 04-20-2011 11:02 PM

A/N: Whoa! Ok, my last post disappeared, apparently. That means it's time for a REPOST! :)



--------
Part X: Jaq
--------



The sound of footsteps. Leaving me here, alone. A door opening, then closing.

She's gone. She'll probably be dead in a few minutes. Kreia, too.

I didn't think it was possible to feel emptier, but I do. Emptier than the blackest part of space. I look around listlessly, not sure what to do with myself. I've got a hunch this planet won't last much longer. Rae would make sure of that.

Might as well die with it, huh, Jaq?

Kreia lied to me all along. About everything, including Rae. And I fell for it.

The truth of it echoes in my head again and again, but I can't make myself feel angry. Can't make myself feel anything, really, other than irony. Of course this is how it would all turn out. I've always been an easy pawn . . . or slave. First to Revan, then to juma and pazaak, then to the Witch. Through it all, to my own fears. The only time I had freedom was those few short months when I was the Exile's apprentice, and—like the fool that I am—I threw it away.

Yeah. I'm a real sucker. Wouldn't know a good thing if it shot me between the eyes.

She kissed me.

The sudden thought makes me chuckle. Well, that was a good thing. Her lips were real soft, and for some reason I had a feeling she hadn't kissed a lot of people in the past. I should've grabbed her and kissed her drunk. . . .

Then I remember the dead body a few feet away from me. I drop the thought of kissing Rae like it's a naked, sacred flame, too sacred for me to withstand.

Killers like me have no business getting kisses from women like her, much less kissing them. Only thing we have business doing is doing them a favor by dying. It's the cold, honest truth, and I think she must've known it, which is why she left like she did. Or she must've known she couldn't convince me otherwise. She's one of those people who'd believe to the end that killers like me are worth saving.

Damn idealistic, that one. I feel myself smile a little. Like she was. . . .

My thoughts shatter under the sound of footsteps.

I straighten up. My grip tightens on the knife I forgot I had. When a wave of darkness hits me, I realize who it is. I also realize that, somehow, I knew this would happen all along.

"And I get the fool," he growls.

Snap-hiss.

I don't feel any fear. Or hate. Just relief, not to mention more irony. Well, well, Jaq. Looks like you got an ideal ending after all. I glance around stealthily for my saber and see it on the floor by a nearby pillar. Must've been thrown there when I hit the wall.

I put on the mask for the last time. Relaxed. Cocky smirk. Then I turn with theatrical flare to face Sion.

"Funny. That's just what I was thinking."


--


"Once, a Jedi showed me the Force. I heard it, I felt it.

"At the time, there was too much pain to confront it, because if I did, it meant I would be changed into something else.

"Now, I'm not afraid of it anymore. And I think that by learning how to use it, I can help protect you. Or at least buy you some time when disaster comes screaming in."

He took a breath. Looked her straight in the eye.

"I want to learn how to use the Force. I want to learn how to use the Force to help you."

She smiled at him. It was a kind, gentle smile, the kind that only further convinced him he was doing the right thing. He would do everything he could to protect this woman, and not because he'd been saddled with the obligation by a manipulative witch.

Rae deserved it. She deserved to live, and hell if he'd let anyone else decide she didn't.

"Then I will train you, Atton," she said, her voice warm.

And she told him to close his eyes.



--------
End
--------


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