Thread: [Fic] KoTOR 3 : Schism
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Old 11-17-2012, 10:49 PM   #3
Akyra
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Join Date: Nov 2012
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A quick word to thank the person who sent me a message to tell me they liked the story so far - I couldn't reply as apparently you need at least five written posts before you can. I'm not entirely familiar yet with the way the forum works.

So, what the heck, here's chapter two. A little more banter and fun.

Chapter 2 : Where there is a lot of talking

***

Atton's feeble attempt at meditation was interrupted less than an hour later by something that sounded like banging. At first, Atton had thought the noise was made by the Handmaiden, or Mandalore, during a particularly nasty training bout, but common sense quickly dispelled that rather incongruous idea. There was no way he would hear it from the cockpit, unless they were blowing the ship to pieces - which would be a spectacularly moronic thing to do.

Determined to investigate, Atton pushed himself to a standing position and strode to the main hold, where Mandalore, Goto and Arik were already gathered.

"What's going on here ? Can't hear myself thinking", Atton complained.

The look Mandalore gave him, even with his helmet on, spoke volumes about his opinion of Atton's abilities in this particular domain, but he had the good grace to remain silent.

Mira showed up then, her hair still wet.

"Sorry", she said, "I was in the shower. I forgot to tell you..."

Most of those present, even Arik, who usually was unnervingly equanimous, looked at her rather ferociously.

"Forgot to tell us what, exactly ?" Atton asked, although he was not quite sure he wanted to hear the answer.

Mira had the good grace to look embarrassed. "You see, when I was on Malachor, I picked up, er... another passenger."

Atton was still lost, but Arik must have guessed what she was talking about because the look he gave her was rather aghast. "Are you actually telling me that..." he began, then trailed off - as if not voicing the idea could somehow miraculously make it untrue.

"Sorry", Mira said with a slight wince. "I just couldn't leave him to die, although I probably should have."

This time, Atton understood too. "The wookie ?" He realized his mouth hung open, and he closed it quickly. "You're telling us you brought the wookie onboard and you forgot to tell us ?"

Mira gave him a contrite look. "Well... HK helped me, I couldn't carry those three hundred kilos of fur and spite all by myself. You guys were busy with Bao-Dur fixing the ship, I meant to tell you but then we had other preoccupations, and... I kinda forgot ?"

The look Arik gave her was still aghast, but tinged with amusement. Atton wondered how he could find any humour in such a situation. "And pray tell, what exactly do you expect us to do with these... three hundred kilos of fur and spite ?"

"Drop him off somewhere", Mira shrugged. "Then he can get himself shot by someone else and that's it."

Mandalore folded his arms. "I say kill it. That beast is a liability."

"I don't mean to sound like a Mandalorian, but I rather agree with him", Atton said, jabbing a finger in Mandalore's direction. "That beast is three hundred kilos of unmitigated trouble, if you ask me."

"My, my", Arik murmured, "don't we have here a ruthless bunch."

"You can talk", Atton mumbled.

Mira glared at him and Mandalore. "Well, Hanharr is my prisoner, and I'm the one who decides what we do with him, so you boys shut up and let me deal with it."

Atton lent slightly forward. "You know what ? I don't care. But shut that beast up or I'll shoot him myself."

Mandalore shrugged and seemed to lose interest in the matter. With a last snort of derision, he walked away, soon followed by Goto. Mira heaved a deep sigh, and looked at Arik.

"Look, I know it's your ship and all, but I meant it when I said Hanharr is my prisoner."

Arik shook his head. "What, you think I would just kill him ? That beast is a nuisance, but we don't execute prisoners."

Mira reddened ever so slightly. "Sorry, but I just wanted things to be clear."

"So what do you intend to do ?"

"Well..." Mira bit her lower lip. "It's gonna sound stupid, I guess, but I don't really know. Just letting him loose is tempting, but what if he starts killing people ? Or if he tries to kill himself ?"

"Right", Atton rolled his eyes. "What a loss that would be."

Mira did not even grace that comment with a glare. The banging, which had subsided, resumed even louder.

"Oh, ****", the bounty hunter groaned. "Guess I need to talk to him before he tears the ship apart or hurts himself..."

Nevertheless she kept staring at the steel panel, apparently reluctant to open it.

"You did tie him up, didn't you ?" Atton asked.

"Of course I did ! Well, just the arms. I didn't have much time and it took forever to bring him to the ship."

"Oh, that's grand !"

"Just shut up !"

"And very mature, too."

"Enough of that, you two", Arik interrupted them wearily. "I think we have enough to worry about with a mad wookie without fighting each other."

"We ?" Atton snarled. "There's no we. That thing is her wookie, as she reminded us so gracefully. I don't give a damn !"

"Then just get outta here", Mira growled back. "We don't need you here to gawk."

"Oh, no. I want to be here so I can say "told you so" when it tries to eat you !"

"I'm touched by your concern !"

"You're welcome !"

"And get lost."

Arik had finally made the admittedly wise decision to ignore them, and was now focusing on the steel panel closing the storage unit. His fingers brushed the cold metal, and he watched, his eyes half-closed. Atton was struck by the strange impression that he could see through the panel, directly at the wookie on the other side. The banging subsided again, if only for a short time.

"What are you doing ?" Mira asked, diverted from her ongoing argument with Atton.

It was a lot harder to argue with someone who was not even looking at you.

Arik was silent for another minute, before he finally answered. "I was trying to soothe him, for the sake of my ears if nothing else. He's not very receptive."

"That's the least you can say", Atton sneered.

"You're not helping."

"Wasn't trying."

"Could have fooled me", Mira muttered, amiable as always - though Atton had to concede he had been provoking her more than a little.

"All right, look, I'll cut the snarky comments, but you fix this."

Mira shrugged. "I'll try, but I don't really have a quick and easy solution handy."

"Maybe talking to him would help", Arik suggested.

"Maybe", Mira agreed, without much enthusiasm. With a final, deep breath, she opened the panel.

The wookie very nearly fell over her, still kicking and howling and banging. Mira jumped back hastily, while Arik and Atton moved forward at the same time to contain the snarling beast. It was made easier by the fact that the wookie was obviously exhausted and wounded, though none of his injuries seemed to be life-threatening. Too bad. It kept fighting, however, clawing and spitting at anything it could get a hold of. Atton almost kicked him, but held back because he knew Arik would not approve, no matter how much of a relief it would be.

"Hanharr... Hanharr !" Mira all but shouted. When she failed to get his attention, she did kick him. Apparently as surprised as Atton, the wookie suddenly stopped moving, staring numbly at the young woman. Recognition dispelled part of his fury, though only part of it.

"You", he snarled in Shyriiwook. "Kill me ! If you have any honour as a warrior, you must kill me !" At least that was what Atton understood from his growls and howls.

Mira knelt beside him, though she still retained enough sanity to remain out of his reach.

"Why should I kill you ? I've never hated you, Hanharr. And if you're honest with yourself, you'll see that the only one who ever hurt you was yourself. If you can't live with yourself, it's really not my fault."

Hanharr's howl of hatred could not really be translated into words, but its meaning was plain enough. Mira shook her head in discouragement.

"That beast is insane", Atton said. His words were harsh, but he surprised himself with how gentle his voice was. "There's nothing you can do for him."

Mira looked up sharply. "So what's your advice, uh ? A merciful execution ? Feels a little like taking the easy way out, doesn't it ?"

Taking advantage of her momentary distraction, Hanharr tried to bite her. Mira drew her hand away just in time, and slapped the wookie, hard. Atton almost winced in sympathy.

"You'll have to behave, Hanharr", she growled. "I'm not letting you take the easy way out either. I'm not that merciful. You'll just have to learn to play nice."

"You want him to become nice ?" Atton did not even try to hide his disbelief. "I thought he was crazy, but I think you're more insane than him."

"If I could change, so can he", Mira retorted.

"You were never as far gone as he is", Arik observed quietly.

Mira turned her attention to him, looking almost betrayed. "You - you're the one running around, giving people second chances, and now you dare to tell me he's a lost cause ?"

"Not quite." Arik was looking at her seriously. "I am only telling you that you cannot save everyone. You can try, if you feel you must, but there may come a time when you have to let go. I want you to understand that first."

The wookie, who had been ignored for the past few minutes, howled again. "Kill me !" The howl ended in something that sounded almost like a sob. Atton looked down at the broken ball of fur, torn between revulsion and pity.

"I need to think about it", Mira said in a very low voice.

"Well, in the meantime, let's drop him back in the storage unit", Atton said. "He stinks."

"We'll need to take care of his wounds first", Arik said.

"What ? Do we really have to ?" Atton groaned. "Besides, we don't have any kolto left. And if we did, you need it more than him."

Indeed, pinning down an angry wookie, even when the aforementioned wookie was tied up and injured, was not exactly advisable for someone just out of a fight with the Sith, and Arik was leaning against the wall rather heavily. Atton suspected that without his Jedi training, he would not even be up at all.

"We can at least clean up Hanharr's wounds and dress them", Mira said. "I'll do it. It's my responsibility, I guess."

"I don't know how you can be that forgiving", Atton said, shaking his head. "If that ball of fur had tried to kill me, several times at that, all I'd want to do would be to kill him slowly. I know I'm not supposed to think like that, but that's just how it is", he added with a quick look at Arik.

"It's all right", said Arik. "Jedi are living beings, not saints. Trying to deny your feelings, even dark feelings, only makes them stronger and allows them to corrupt you from the inside. Or at least, that is what I believe. The Jedi council disagreed with me, as you can imagine."

"Who gives a damn what they thought", Atton muttered.

Arik gave him a chiding look, probably for speaking ill of the dead, but said nothing. It comforted Atton a little to see that even he was not that forgiving.

"Anyway", Mira added, "think of it that way. Hanharr would far prefer to be tortured, rather than being cared for. So I get to do the right thing, and to withdraw sadistic pleasure from it."

Atton gave her an impressed look. "Woman, you have a twisted mind."

She grinned at him, perhaps for the first time. "I know."

Arik stared at the two of them and shook his head. "The two of you agreeing on anything is… disturbing", he mumbled.

***

They arrived to Onderon two days later, and landed directly on Dxun, not very far from the Mandalorian camp. Atton had mixed memories of the moon. Getting through the tomb of an ancient Sith lord had been a trial in many ways, but at the same time that was when he truly felt like he had found his path. When he had proved to himself he was able to resist the temptation on his own, and that his choice left him with no regrets.

He felt more ambivalent about the Mandalorians. Sure, they were good fighters, and they had helped out a little. Mandalore himself was not a bad bloke, if you could get past his bloodthirst. But the Mandalorians wars were still too recent for Atton to trust them. At the same time, he was not very sure of what he felt. He hated what the Mandalorians had done, but could he hate the Mandalorians themselves ? As a people, yes, he could, but when he met each of them personnally... well, it was harder. He stole a glance at Bao-Dur, and wondered how he felt. At the same time, he could not really imagine the Iridonian actually hating anyone.

They walked with Mandalore to the camp. This time, Atton felt the presence of the Mandalorian guards before they even showed themselves. He wondered how Mandalore did, for though he was not Force-sensitive, he showed no surprise at all. Then again, it was hard to tell with his helmet on. As they walked inside the camp, most of the Mandalorians stopped what they were doing to look at their leader, obviously happy to have him back though they were too disciplined to cheer openly. Mandalore stopped near the training area.

"This is where we part ways", he said, turning to Arik. "As promised, one of my soldiers will go with you, while we prepare for what is to come. Kelborn, come here."

The Mandalorian stepped forward. Atton remembered him as the one who had been the most friendly to them during their two visits. If they absolutely had to have a Mandalorian with them, that one was probably the least worse of the lot.

"You'll go with Jedi Arik Keilas", Mandalore instructed Kelborn, "and obey him as you would me. Find Revan, and bring back information about the Sith if you can."

"Yes, Mandalore", Kelborn said emotionlessly.

"Wait !" Another Mandalorian was striding through the crowd gathering around them, and stopped only two steps from Mandalore. "I demand the right to prove my worth in battle and go with the Jedi, Mandalore."

Atton recognized him. He was the young idiot who had tried to convince Arik to get into a fight to the death, Davrel. He tried hard not to roll his eyes. If there ever was a stereotypical Mandalorian, Davrel was it.

Mandalore was looking the young man up and down with something akin to disdain. "You demand ? You're not even a real warrior yet."

"That is the reason for my request", Davrel insisted. "I ask that this mission be considered my trial. If I come back alive and successful, I will have proven my worth."

Mandalore stared down at him for another few seconds, then shrugged dismissively. "That's up to you, Jedi", he said.

Davrel looked expectantly at Arik, who did not look very happy to have been given the final say. "You have fought me, Jedi", the young Mandalorian said, "and we have fought together in the jungle. You know my valor. If it is not enough, then I respectfully request a fight to the death to restore my honour."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Atton had to bite his lips not to laugh. Arik was being put in an impossible situation. He may not want to take someone young and inexperienced with them, but at the same time if he refused he would have a hard time denying Davrel his fight to the death.

Arik took the time to think about it. "We all have a right to make our own choices", he said finally. "I assume you do realize that the mission we are on is extremely dangerous. If you still want to come, so be it."

Atton was surprised for a moment, before he thought it through. After all, Arik had been forbidden from fighting in the Mandalorian wars by the Jedi council, and he had gone anyway. Maybe it was not so surprising that he would allow Davrel to do what was basically the same thing.

Davrel himself was no thinking that far ; he jumped on the occasion. "Thank you, Jedi. You won't regret it !" His excitement was painfully obvious. "I will get my equipment immediately."

"I'd better get mine", added Kelborn, looking vaguely amused.

"If you want supplies", Mandalore said once they had gone, "I will provide you with them. You will need them. Just give the list to our logistics officer."

"Thank you", said Arik. "I will."

Without another word, Mandalore turned away. No mushy goodbyes with the Mandalorians, obviously.

"I'll go and get the supplies we need", said Bao-Dur.

"All right", nodded Arik. "Let us know if you need help to carry them."

***

They were back to the ship less than an hour later. It had not taken very long for Kelborn and Davrel to pack, and they knew the jungle inside out after living in this camp for months. They were just as quickly settled in the port dormitory. Arik had officially moved to the starboard dormitory with Visas so that the two Mandalorians could be together. Atton had not wanted to object too strongly, but he hated to think that the Jedi would sleep in the same room as Visas. Naturally, he had been witness, as had the others, of her newfound devotion for him, but what if she suddenly went crazy and tried to kill him ? That woman... Miraluka... whatever she was, used to be a Sith. Atton felt, deep inside, that she could no more be trusted than Kreia.

At least they had obtained medical supplies from the Mandalorians, which had allowed Bao-Dur to treat the rest of Arik's wounds. In a few days, he would be fully healed. Not a moment too soon, if they really had to go beyond the Outer Rim.

After the Ebon Hawk had lifted from the green jungles of Dxun and reached a stationary orbit, Arik entered the cockpit and sat in the copilot's seat. Atton looked up at him.

"So, where to, now ? Esus ?"

"Yes", Arik nodded. "From there, we'll try to find out what direction Revan has taken."

"Easier said than done. He's disappeared a while ago. People might not remember. That's assuming we can even convince them to talk to us rather than try to kill us in the first place."

A thin smile twisted the Jedi's lips. "We'll try to be convincing. And somehow, I doubt anyone who has met Revan would be able to forget him quickly."

That got Atton's curiosity. "You... you knew him, didn't you ?" he asked in a low voice, even as he entered the new coordinates in the nav computer.

Arik looked vaguely surprised at the question. "Of course."

"You say that like it's obvious." Atton let out a brief laugh. "Not that many people could say they were friends with Revan himself."

"Many Jedi knew him, at least a little, if only because he met a lot of them to try and recruit them. And I served under him, during the war. We had meetings every week - and it was not quite as glamorous as you make it sound."

Atton leant slightly forward, more and more curious. "So what kind of person was he ? I mean... before he became Darth Revan."

He had thought Arik might be reluctant to speak about it, which was why he had not asked earlier, but the Jedi did not hesitate to answer.

"In one word ? Complicated. He was always concerned, of course. The war was not going so well, at first, and he had a lot of work. At some point, according to Malak, he was close to a nervous breakdown. He just could not be everywhere at the same time, but it killed him when people died because he was not able to handle everything personally. I heard he was... rather carefree, before the war, but I never saw that in him."

Arik stared into nothingness, deep within his memories. Atton had a feeling he did not see the cockpit of the Ebon Hawk any longer, that his mind had gone back all those years.

"He was demanding, of course. Impossible to satisfy. People accepted that, because he was even harsher with himself. And because he always got results. He was accurate, sharp, unbelievably clever. Always a step before the enemy, Mandalore could attest to that."

Arik stopped talking, still lost in his memories.

"So how did he fall ?" Atton asked softly, careful not to break the subtle link that had formed between them at the evocation of a past they had both lived through. "He was the strongest, the greatest of the Jedi." Not all would agree with that assessment, but Atton believed it firmly. "So how could someone like him turn ? How could he not realize what was happening to him before it was too late ?"

"Fall ?" Arik was thoughtful for a moment. "The danger is always there, especially for the strongest and the greatest of the Jedi." He added a subtle, ironic emphasis on the two adjectives.

"Present company not taken into account", Atton offered with a tiny smile, but Arik shook his head.

“That’s not what I meant. For a Jedi, it’s dangerous to even think in these terms. The fact is, because of what we are, pride was always our greatest temptation. I am not immune to it either – it’s part of the reason why I fought in the war. It was the right thing to do, of course, but I also liked to see people look at me like I was a saviour, or a hero. People were dying in millions, and what I was thinking about was my ego. It’s a slippery slope. The admiration turns to awe, the awe turns to fear, and before you know it you’ve become what you were fighting.”

He must have noticed Atton’s surprise, and he gave him a thin smile. “Not quite as heroic as you thought, is it ?”

In truth however, Atton was more surprised at Arik’s willingness to own to his own failings and flaws than at the nature of the failings in question. Jedi were only human, he had known that for a long time. If the Jedi had been more willing to contemplate that truth, they might have survived longer.

"But in Revan's case... well, I'm not really sure. I parted ways with him long before it happened, and we were never close friends in any case. I suppose the Jedi masters believed that his love for the Republic caused his downfall, and who's to say it isn't true ?"

"I wouldn't trust a word those senile old fools said", Atton groaned. "But you already know that."

"Well, I have a theory..."

Arik was interrupted by the soft blip of the nav computer, which was done computing the data and had a trajectory ready for hyperspace.

"Everyone hold tight !" Atton yelled in the interphone, and he pulled the lever. The stars stretched into white lines, before the ship entered the dark blue nothingness of hyperspace. "So, what's your theory ?"

Arik shrugged. "I think Revan wanted to make the Republic stronger, to unify it."

"Wait... I don't get it. By posing a new threat, he divided it, on the contrary."

"Yes, but he was supposed to either win or lose quickly. If he had not been betrayed and captured, it is what would have happened. If he won, the Republic would become an Empire united under his orders. If he lost, the Republic would be united against him and would be ready to face a new enemy."

"That unknown threat you're worried about. So he knew about it ?"

"If I am correct, he did more than know about it", Arik said softly. "Where do you think he got his new fleet ? All these ships, come out of nowhere, with an ancient and foreign yet efficient and deadly design ?"

Atton's eyes widened. "The Stellar Forge..." he whispered. "You think it belonged to them ? But if that's the case... how powerful can they be ?"

"No", Arik said. "I am far from certain that the Forge belonged to them, and I have insufficient data to be sure of anything. But I did some research since I got back, and I accessed data centers from most of the worlds we visited. Not to mention what Admiral Onasi was able to tell me. Apparently, the Forge was built by an ancient race called the Rakatans, a very long time ago. It is possible the Rakatans had contacts with this unknown people, and they built the Forge under their influence. Maybe they were conquered by them and turned into slaves, and built the Forge to obtain they freedom. Maybe they stole it from them... Really, I doubt anyone knows, except maybe this unknown people themselves. But in any case, if there really is a link between the Rakatans and our enemies, Revan definitely knew about it."

"That would explain a lot of things..." murmurred Atton. "But then, why couldn't we go to the Rakatans and find out more from them ?"

"No", Arik shook his head. "It would take weeks to go there and back, and I don't want to waste any time. Besides, anything they know, Revan knows. If we don't find him, or anything, then we can go and see the Rakatans, but I sincerely hope it won't be necessary, because I doubt they know much that could be useful."

"So, Esus, uh ?"

"I'm afraid so."

Atton sighed and leant back in his seat. A few meters back, the damn wookie howled and banged against the hull, liked he did regularly. Atton let out a groan.

"We should have left that beast with the Mandalorians ! If anyone can knock sense into a wookie, that's them."

"Somehow, I doubt Mandalore would have agreed.”

"Are you kidding ?” Atton snickered. “A brand new test for Mandalorian recruits ! Beat the wookie and you’re in !”

***

Eyes closed, Atton tried to relax, to let go of any sensations of his own body to focus on the feeling of the Force pulsing through him. He did his best to visualize the threads of Force that linked him to the ship, to the rest of the group, and to Arik. He focused on the last sensation, looking hard for any indication of duplicity. He probed deeper and deeper, trying to be gentle but aware that his mental touch must feel more like a hammer than anything else.

"I raise", he announced without opening his eyes.

"Are you sure ?" Arik asked, and Atton was certain he could hear the subtle manipulation vibrating underneath the words.

"Yeah, sure." He half-opened one eye to glance again at his cards. Nineteen. Hard to beat. Arik had to be bluffing. He had only sixteen. If he did not draw, he had lost, and if he did he had good chances of getting too much or too little...

"You're thinking too much", Arik remarked. "You're supposed to feel, not analyse the game. What am I feeling just now ?"

"Hum..." Atton could perceive Arik's feelings just fine, but translating his impressions into words, that was another matter altogether. "Confident ? But I also feel deceit. I think."

"Not bad." Arik drew a card, and looked faintly disgusted when it showed a six, thus giving the game to Atton. "I think it's as much Pazaak as I can take for one day, but feel free to practice on your own."

"Okay. What now ?" Atton checked his chrono. "I was going to suggest lightsaber training, but I think Kelborn and Davrel are sparring with the Handmaiden."

Of all Jedi tricks, lightsaber technique was Atton's favourite - and incidentally, what he was best at. Somehow, he had a hard time finding the proper concentration and peace of mind to use the Force, while using a lightsaber came to him naturally. According to Arik, it was fairly common amongst the Jedi to have more affinity with either the physical or the mental disciplines, and most of them became either Consular or Guardian.

"Actually, she asked me to join them so we could try fighting two on two, but you might want to train with Bao-Dur. He needs more practice, and you need to learn better control. Fighting with a less skilled opponent will force you to be more careful just how strongly you hit."

Atton felt his face redden and an embarrassed grimace twist his features while he remembered this one time when he had hit harder than was warranted for a sparring bout and had almost cut Arik's arm off.

"Yeah, I guess. Hey, wait", he called after Arik who was leaving the cockpit. "We'll have to talk about our destination. What we'll do on Esus, I mean."

Arik shrugged. "It's a little difficult to make any sort of plans when we don't really know what to expect. We'll probably have to improvise."

"Oh, that's great. Look, I still think we need an emergency plan. Just in case, you know ?"

"You might be right", Arik conceded. "Very well, I'll give it some thought and we can consider that later tonight."

After he had gone, Atton sighed and leant back in his chair. The closer they got to their destination, the more unease he felt. It was an almost physical sensation of dread, of impending doom, that woke him up at night, and that no amount of rationalizing would make disappear. None of the others seemed as frightened by their destination as he was, which in itself was a bad sign. Of course, it was hardly surprising. All of the members of their ragtag group had, in their own way, survived hard trials. They thought they had seen it all, that they could survive it all - and they were wrong. Atton knew better than to keep trying to convince them of that fact. The more he repeated his warnings, the less potency they would have. But that did not help calm him down.

Eventually, he made his way to the main hold, where he found Mira playing dejarik against the computer. She gave him a distracted nod when he entered, entirely focused on the game. Atton watched for a few minutes. If she did not move her tauntaun, it would get eaten by the rancor, but he would let her find that out by herself.

"Hey, how's it going with Hanharr ?"

Atton kept clear of the wookie as much as he could, but he knew Mira had been spending time with him regularly the past few days.

She looked annoyed at the question, but she could hardly deny him the right to know. He had to share his vital space with that walking carpet, after all.

"Nowhere, really", she was forced to admit reluctantly. "He's not exactly cooperating."

"Hum." Atton was tempted to say "told you so", but one ferocious glare from Mira dissuaded him. "Look, you knew what you were into when you dragged him inside the ship."

"Yes... and no." Suddenly, she looked so miserable that Atton no longer wanted to make fun of her. "It's just... he was losing all this blood, and I could just have watched him die, but... I won't say I wasn't tempted, but then I asked myself, do I really want to be that sort of person ? Do I want to let Hanharr turn me into that sort of person ? And the answer is, no, I don't. Don't get me wrong, I've killed before and I probably will kill again, but always where there was no other choice. My ethics is the only thing that set me apart from the other lowlifes on Nar Shaddaa, and I'm not giving that up. Not as a bounty hunter, not as a Jedi."

"Well... I guess I understand", Atton said, and to his surprise he really did. "It's just that, now we're kinda stuck, aren't we ?"

"Oh, so now there's a we ?"

Atton shrugged with affected casualness. "Guess there's nothing wrong with helping each other out when we can. But, look, he's mean and insane, and there's nothing you can do that will change it."

"I'm not so sure", she objected. "I mean, he wasn't like that to begin with. It's what he had to live through that made him that way. So it must be possible to fix it."

"Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of people who've lived through some nasty stuff. The people on this ship are a prime exemple - where else have you ever seen such a gathering of dysfunctional, misfit people ? I mean, look at us ! You, an ex-slave turned bounty hunter who now wants to save the universe ! Me, an ex-soldier and Jedi hunter with no morals, and I don't even know why I bother fighting for the Republic. The Miraluka, last of her kind, an ex-Sith and self-proclaimed slave to our local Jedi. And Arik himself isn't the most balanced person I've ever met - what, an exiled Jedi who hid on the Border for five years because he didn't know how to live without the Force. I could go on, but I think you get my point."

Mira had a bitter smile. "Yeah, thinking that we're supposed to be a new generation of Jedi... that's rather laughable, isn't it ? But, getting back to our problem - what's your point, exactly ? Because, if we're all broken, what's one more wookie to fix ?"

"The difference is that we haven't turned into bloodthirsty insane creatures", Atton said. "Sometimes life sucks, we all agree on that, but since when is it supposed to be an excuse ? And I can't believe I'm the one saying that."

"There are Jedi techniques that can help heal mental damage."

"Yeah, and I'm guessing that the people who know how to use these techniques are Jedi healers. Right ? That's too bad, but it so happens we don't have a Jedi healer with us. They're probably all dead, anyway."

"Arik is a trained Jedi - "

"I'm a trained soldier and I learnt first aid, that doesn't make me a medic, and I certainly couldn't operate a head trauma. If you see what I mean."

Mira looked away and back at her game. She moved her tauntaun out of the way, and the rancor attacked the kath dog. "That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. We can't really make things any worse." The rancor disemboweled the kath dog, and holographic entrails were smeared on the board.

Atton shook his head in disbelief. "Look, maybe that's none of my business, but... why is this so important to you ?"

"Because..." Mira turned her eyes back to him, and he could see she was troubled, uneasy. "I..." and then she looked away again. "I just feel like I should try."

Atton could tell she had been about to say something else, and had changed her mind at the last minute, but she was obviously not going to tell him now, so he gave up. "Fine", he said, and he crossed the hold to get to the Garage where Bao-Dur must be.
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