Join Date: Nov 2012
KoTOR 3 : Schism
Hello everyone !
A few words before posting the story ; I am new on the forums (very new indeed, as this is my first post). I am, shall we say, a little nervous about a Kotor fanfic I've been working on for a while, and I would appreciate hearing what people think, so where better to go than a forum full of fans ? (who will probably gut me alive for everything I've twisted in the game lore and backstory...) This is largely based on my own interpretation of the game, so it could be classified as alternate universe (especially concerning some key elements of Sith lore, and what Revan was doing all these years). Oh, and I'm looking for a beta, if anyone's interested, please PM me. Right, before I forget, English isn't my first language (here's to hoping people will be indulgent).
The story is primarily told from Atton's POV in third person, and focuses heavily on his relationship with the Exile (I'm talking strong friendship, no romance here). The Exile is a human male called Arik Keilas. And the story kicks off immediately after the end of the game "The Sith Lords".
EDIT : Forgot to mention, there is some mild swearing. Very mild.
Chapter 1 : Where our heroes discover this may be only the beginning
They had done it.
That was the foremost thought in Atton's mind as the Ebon Hawk plunged into hyperspace. They had done it, they had managed to escape the hell of Malachor alive, and that nightmare of a planet existed no longer. Gone with that bitch Kreia. The relief flooded into him, making his mind stagger. For once, he did not bother to hide his feelings. There was a time when he would never have lowered his shields - especially on a ship loaded with Force-sensitives - but things were different, now. At some point, their ragtag group of misfits had become, oddly enough, a team. Their mutual trust was fragile, and the only thing that held them together was the Exile. But they did hold together, at least for the time being, and that was all that mattered.
He leant back in his chair. He had not had time to think about their destination, so he had picked Onderon - which was closest - as a default. If Arik wanted to go somewhere else, they could always change course later on. For once, they had nobody running after them, nobody trying to kill them, and it felt rather good...
How long would it last ? A common goal - to some extent - was what had brought them together. That, and Arik, of course ; the effect he had on most people was... surprising, to say the least. Even Atton had felt it, and he was not usually influenced so easily. Be that as it may, Atton had a feeling that their adventure was far from over yet.
He stood up with a slight groan - he still felt sore after their last crashlanding - and made his way to the main hold, where he was met with an uncommon sight. Everyone was gathered there. Usually, they all stayed in their reserved part of the ship, taking advantage of whatever personal space and privacy they could keep - except for Arik who seemed to be accepted wherever he wanted to be (but then, it was officially his ship). But right now they were all there ; Mira, and the creepy Miraluka, and Bao-Dur, and Mandalore, and that bitch the Handmaiden, and the droids of course (pieces of junk, in Atton's opinion). Arik was seated in the corner, looking drawn and tired. Atton suppressed a wince when he saw the nasty lightsaber burn on his arm, and there was probably worse to find under his clothes. Mira seemed a little shaken as well, with a deep cut on the side of her face and dried blood on her cheek and neck.
"We should get you patched up", Atton said.
"Right", Mira said. "I hope we've got enough kolto left, we didn't really have time to resupply after our last stop."
She stood up, making her way to the infirmary. When Arik made no move to follow, Atton walked to the spot where he was sitting and waved his hand in front of his eyes.
"Hey, you still there ?"
Arik looked up, and gave him a wan smile. "Sorry, I was... lost in thoughts."
He accepted Atton's implicitly offered help to get up and leant heavily on him to get to the infirmary. While most of the others feigned a lack of interest, Visas watched them like a hawk. Predictably the Handmaiden came to help support Arik to the infirmary, blissfully ignoring Atton's glare. He did not trust her, especially since she; had run off with Kreia. They had never had time to talk about it, and she had never gotten the chance to justify her actions, but to be honest Atton was not all that interested in her reasons in the first place. He did not trust her, period.
When they got to the infirmary, Mira was finishing to patch herself up.
"I'm done", she said only a moment later, while Atton and the Handmaiden were helping Arik to sit on the one bunk of the infirmary. The Ebon Hawk had seemed big to Atton at first, but that was back when there were only three of them, plus two droids.
"All right, Arik, I need you to remove your shirt, and... could you ladies excuse us ?" he looked up to glare at them.
Mira rolled her eyes. "Seriously, I doubt I'll see anything I haven't before."
Atton did not relent. "That's not the point, and you know it."
"Oh, fine", she shrugged, and walked away.
Atton stared pointedly at the Handmaiden until she followed Mira's lead, still without a word - but then, she had never been the outgoing type. When they were finally alone, he focused back on Arik, and a slight frown crinkled his brow. The Jedi looked a little... out of it, to say the least, which could only mean that he was more tired than he looked, or more seriously wounded, or both. After a minute or two, Arik looked up at him, as if jolted out of a dream.
"Hm ? Oh, right." He began to remove his tunic, with the slow and careful moves of someone who is in pain and is trying not to show it.
Atton helped him get rid of the garment, then the undershirt, and he stared at Arik's chest. It was all he could do not to wince in sympathy. Kreia had done quite a number on him, considering the deep wounds on his ribs and shoulders ; there had been some really close calls.
"The bitch", he hissed.
"It was not all her doing", Arik said quietly. "I had to get past Sion, as well."
"Oh." That was an unexpected development... or maybe not so much. "Well, at least that's one less Sith to worry about. Now, they're all dead."
Arik said nothing, and Atton gave him a sharp look. It was not a good time to start enquiries, however, so he busied himself dressing the Jedi's wounds. Mira had been right to worry about the kolto, they did not have much of it left. Atton tried to use it sparingly, but even so, he thought, it would not hurt if they made a stop at a clinic on their next stop to make sure Arik received appropriate care. When he was finally done, he took a step back to look critically at his work. It looked good enough, at least for the time being.
"All right", he said as cheerfully as he could, "I'll go and get you a clean shirt, and maybe a bite to eat. You stay here."
He was back a moment later and helped Arik get dressed. It was all done in a disturbing silence. Though Atton knew Arik was probably too tired to speak much, he could not help but wonder if nothing was up. He dared not ask, not so soon, but it did not feel right to just leave without at least saying something. Subtle probing, however, had never been his strongest point.
"So..." he began awkwardly. "Was it hard ?" He could have kicked himself the moment the words crossed his lips. Of all the stupid questions to ask...
It did draw a smile from Arik. "You could say that, yes", he said with some of the old wry amusement back in his voice. "Although..." his tone turned thoughtful. "It could... should have been harder. Perhaps..."
That made about as much sense as one of Kreia's riddles.
"How about you try again in Basic ?"
"I am... not certain. Somehow, it's almost..." Arik's voice died down, but Atton did not press him, until he finished his sentence. "It's almost as if she let me win. On purpose."
Atton blinked and rubbed his forehead. "Right. I think I forgot to check you for a possible concussion."
Arik looked mildly annoyed. "Things may not be what they seem. Remember the Council's fears about the Mandalorian wars. They seemed groundless... and now it appears there was at least some truth in them."
"Oh, no", Atton growled. "Don't you dare make excuses for the Jedi Council. They let people die for some mystic reason they didn't even bother to explain, and after the way they treated you..."
Arik raised a placating hand. "Their actions were inappropriate, I am not disputing that. And they were not my favourite people, though I did not want them to die..."
"Die ?" Surprise deprived Atton of any more eloquent words. He could only stare dumbly at the Jedi.
"Did I not tell you ? But a lot of things happened after we left Dantooine. I suppose it is no surprise I forgot."
"What happened ?" So the Council was dead ? Not that Atton had much pity for them - they were everything he hated in the Jedi. Still, it came as a surprise. Had Arik killed them ? Somehow, Atton doubted it, though he would not have condemned him for it. He remembered vividly the holo archive of Arik's so-called trial, when he had been exiled, and it still made him seethe with anger. Not just on Arik's behalf, but as a soldier who had fought the Mandalorians. In their arrogance, the Council could not be bothered to care about the innocents who died in millions. Anything they got, they fully deserved.
"I asked them to tell me, at last, why they exiled me", Arik said slowly. "I am still not certain I understand their reasons." A flash of anger twisted his face, for a brief instant. "And I cannot forgive them, even after all this time. But some of the things they said..." he looked troubled for a moment, though he quickly schooled his features. "In any case, they said their refusal to join in the Mandalorian wars had to do with the Sith. They feared to expose themselves, only to have the Sith strike them where they were the most vulnerable. In the end, it only made matters worse - causing a civil war and countless victims - and still they were certain it was the wisest path. But the reason why they sent me away... I think they feared me."
"You ?" Atton laughed uneasily. It did not entirely make sense. "I mean, you're powerful and everything, but you're one Jedi. They had hundreds of knights and masters obeying them. Why would they be afraid of you ?"
"Not of me... that is, not of what I might do. It might be more accurate to say, they were afraid of what I was. Malachor changed me, Atton. Cutting off my link to the Force was only a side effect. It changed me, fundamentally. To quote their own words... in me, they saw the death of the Force."
Atton shook his head. "That's impossible. I mean, the Force is supposed to be a manifestation of life. So long as there is life, the Force will exist. Right ?"
Arik looked up at him, and Atton saw something disquieting in his eyes. "But does it work the other way round ? If life is the Force, and the Force is life... what would happened if the Force died out ?"
"That's impossib..." Atton's words died on his lips as he remembered Malachor, the sick feeling the planet had given off. He was still a novice in the Force, and better in the arts of combat than the mental disciplines, but even he could feel that this planet had been corrupted to the very core. And Bao-Dur, who was much more of an empath than him, had looked sick for most of the time they spent down there. "Malachor. Malachor was the key - that's why you wanted to have it destroyed."
"Yes", Arik admitted.
"But it's gone now. And the Sith are dead. That's it. We've saved the galaxy, hooray. Right ?"
Atton made a face. "Very reassuring."
Letting out a sigh, Arik swung his legs on the bunk and cautiously lay back. Understanding the dismissal for what it was, Atton stood up.
"Okay, I'll let you get some rest. We can talk more later."
Arik gave him a weary nod, his eyes already closed. Doing his best to ignore the unease stirring deep down inside him, Atton switched off the light and left sickbay, closing the door behind him. He almost stumbled on the Handmaiden on his way out, and he was going to ignore her, but she raised a hand to stop him.
"How is he ?"
Damn, she must be concerned if she was asking him. Atton did not feel very accomodating, but if he refused to answer she would go and bother Arik, and the Jedi could use some peace and quiet right now.
"He's fine. Well, he'll be fine when he gets proper medical attention."
"Can I go inside ?"
The Handmaiden said nothing for a moment, her face unreadable as ever. After a few seconds, she turned away without a word.
"Right", Atton muttered, "and you're welcome." Bitch !
After a last glare directed at the back of the Handmaiden, he made wearily his way to the cockpit. He could use some rest as well, maybe grab an hour of sleep or two.
He emerged from a half-slumber some time later, feeling all but rested, but restless nonetheless. The ship was eerily quiet, the silence broken only by the hum of the engines. Atton checked his screens, realized that they would reach Onderon in only a few hours, and that they would need to decide what to do then. Finally he got up and went to the main hold, stopping in sickbay on the way only to find out Arik was no longer there.
Everyone was still in the main hold, even Visas, even though she was her usual antisocial self and remained seated in a corner, not uttering a word. Mira was playing a game of dejarik with the computer, and Mandalore seemed to be cleaning up a gun. A big gun.
"Where's Arik ?" Atton asked to no one in particular.
Unsurprisingly, Visas was the one to answer. Despite her little sight problems, she always seemed to know where everyone was, and she always seemed to keep a particularly close eye on Arik, too. Creepy, definitely. "I believe he is in Kreia's quarters."
"The port dormitory, you mean", interjected the Handmaiden sourly. After being deceived by Kreia, she could hardly stand to hear her name.
"Whatever", Atton muttered. "I'll get him."
He was off before someone else could offer to go. It took him no more than ten seconds to get to the port side of the ship, and he was surprised to find the door closed. Although they did their best to respect each other's personal space on a ship as small as the Ebon Hawk, doors were rarely closed. He knocked tentatively, and was invited to enter almost immediately.
Arik was sitting on the floor, legs crossed under him in a typical meditating stance. He looked up when Atton entered, and Atton noticed that he did not look too well ; his features drawn and tired, his complexion grey, his usually ardent blue eyes now dulled.
"Hey", Atton said awkwardly. "Are you all right ?"
"Not really, no", Arik said. "I have the most dreadful headache. What about you ? I remember you were banged up more than a little when we... landed on Malachor."
"Oh, you can say 'crashed'", said Atton crossly. "But remember, if I wasn't such a good pilot..."
"...we would not have survived the crash, yes, I know." Arik had a thin smile.
"But I'm fine", Atton added. "It was nothing serious. Bao-Dur was hit worse, but he'll be fine too - he has a thick skull. You might want to talk to him, by the way. When we were on Malachor... he wasn't feeling too well."
"Quite right. I should have thought of it. Thank you, I'll do that."
For a moment there was an awkward silence, until Arik spoke again.
"I feel you have something on your mind."
Of course he would know. Atton always felt uncomfortable when he did that, though the one time when he had actually read his thoughts, Arik had owned to it and apologized for it. It had astonished Atton, and done a lot to change his view of the Jedi... or at least, made him admit that not all Jedi were bad. "Well, it's just that... I wanted to talk about it earlier, but you were tired. But now, we've killed the Sith and saved the day, so where does that leave us ? What now ?"
Although he had actually closed his eyes, Atton had the unnerving sensation that the Exile was observing him.
"That will be your choice, of course." Arik sounded vaguely surprised at the question.
"Yes, but what are you going to do ?"
He was silent for a little while, most likely gathering his thoughts before he replied. "There are many questions that were left unanswered, and I have only the slightest clues as to what it means. But perhaps we ought to discuss this with the others. It does concern you all."
Arik stood up, and Atton was not without noticing the slight wince of pain he betrayed as he did so. Maybe he should not have been moving around so much with his injuries, but Atton did not intend to start mothering him, so he said nothing.
They made their way back to the main hold, and Arik's presence worked its magic as usual ; those who were seated straightened up ; those who had been standing stood a little straighter. For an observer of people like Atton, these minute details spoke volumes. What truly fascinated him was not that a single man could induce such devotion, but that he could bind together people so utterly different in their sheer nature - and change them. And, strangely enough, Arik himself did not even seem to realize how incredible it was. Yet, somehow, it did not make him naive, just... oblivious. Atton suspected that he was so used to people reacting like that to him that he had never paused to question it.
"I think we need to discuss our projects", Arik said. "Well, I can't discuss yours, but I'll tell you about mine. Make yourselves comfortable, this may take some time."
"I don't know why", said Bao-Dur, "but I get the feeling we won't like what you're going to say, General."
"And you may well be right, but please let me actually say it before you get ahead of me. To put it in a few words, I think we need to consider the problem of the Sith."
"But we destroyed the Sith", objected the Handmaiden. "Or most of them." She gave an evil look at Visas, who did not seem to notice. Being blind - sort of - had its perks.
"Perhaps", Arik said quietly. "And perhaps not. I am heavily speculating, and I may be mistaken. But certain things Kreia told me..."
"Oh, please", Atton groaned. "Don't tell me you actually listened to that old hag, even after what she did to you - to all of us !"
"I don't trust her, if that's what you're asking. But as you may recall, she never outright lied to us. Of course, she misled us, and twisted the truth somewhat - but still, what she told me must be considered."
"Why don't you get to the point ?" Mira suggested with more than a hint of impatience.
"I might, if you stop interrupting me. As I was saying, I believe our main problem is the nature of the Sith, and the reason why Revan disappeared after the Jedi civil war. I think those two questions are more closely linked than anyone thought. Kreia was afraid - not of me, and certainly not of dying - she was afraid of something worse." Arik had his eyes on the wall, and Atton got the feeling that he was thinking things through as he spoke.
"When we talked, she hinted at certain things... and there are too many questions that were left unanswered. Why did the Mandalorians declare war ? Why was the Jedi Council so hesitant to act ? Why did Revan try to destroy that which he sacrificed so much to protect ? Who struck the Jedi after the Jedi Civil War ? None of this makes sense... unless there is someone else in the game. Someone who has been hiding, moving their pawns carefully all this time, to reach this point. Someone who may have deliberately caused the Mandalorians war and everything that followed, in order to weaken the Republic."
"What ?!" Even through the filters of his helmet, Mandalore sounded indignant. "Are you suggesting the Mandalorians may have been no more than a tool ?"
Arik gave him a steady look, and did not back down an inch. It was wise enough ; Mandalore would despise those who showed any weakness. "Do you truly think it impossible ? Manipulation can be subtle. They appealed to your sense of honour, your craving for battle. Would it have been so hard to whisper the idea and let it make its way into your people's mind ?"
Mandalore's indignation receded ever so slightly in front of that piece of logic, and, mollified, he seemed to consider the idea. He was nothing if not practical.
"We would have heard of it", he finally said, though he did not sound all that convinced. "If an unknown faction had made contact with my people, we would have heard of it."
"Not necessarily", Goto said, speaking for the first time. "There are things beyond the Outer Border that certainly have proven able to remain hidden for the past millenia." He pivoted slightly to face Arik. "So you believe that Revan has gone to look for this hypothetical unknown threat ?"
"And you want to go after him." That was hardly a question, but Arik answered it nonetheless.
"That is my intent, yes. That is what Admiral Onasi asked me to do, but more importantly, there may be more at stake than we realized until now. If this third party were capable of provoking the Mandalorians war, if they had anything to do with the wiping out of the Jedi, then they are both powerful and clever. Not to mention, without any qualms. If we don't find out about them now, we might find out later - the hard way."
"The galaxy is vast. How do you intend to find him ?" Goto betrayed nothing more than cold interest, in the most detached manner. Not unexpected, from a droid.
Arik had a strange smile. "Ah, yes. It is rather frustrating to think the answer may have been under our noses the whole time. As it is... T3, perhaps you would care to answer our friend Goto ?"
Atton's jaw dropped to the ground, or would have if it had not been so firmly attached to his skull. How could that little trashcan know anything about the origins of the Mandalorian wars, or Revan, or anything else, for that matter ? And yet, it rolled forward without hesitation and whistled an answer to Arik's demands.
"That is preposterous !" Goto said almost immediately. He was the only one other than HK-47 or Arik who could understand what the little piece of junk whistled.
"I believe that is precisely what Revan thought", Arik observed wryly.
"Hey, anyone mind translating for those of us who don't speak trashcanese ?" Atton demanded, a little annoyed.
"T3 claims he was with Revan when he went looking for that unknown threat", Goto stated. He sounded more than a little doubtful.
"It is not so surprising", Arik said quietly. "The Ebon Hawk used to belong to Revan, apparently. Or so told me Admiral Onasi."
Mira folded her arms. "It sounds a little too convenient that it ended up with us by chance."
"But chance had nothing to do with it. Revan told T3 to bring the Ebon Hawk to the Jedi ; except that the Jedi were nowhere to be found, of course. So T3 kept looking, until he found Kreia and me."
"In that case, why didn't T3 tell us about it beforehand ?"
"Yes, that's a good question. T3 ?"
The little droid's answer was longer this time, and Atton tried not to fidget with impatience.
"Apparently", Arik translated, "he did not want to risk it while Kreia was onboard. He was suspicious of her from the very beginning. And she... what ?"
"What is it ?" Bao-Dur asked.
Discouragement and weariness showed in the way Arik's shoulders sagged. "It seems Kreia was suspicious as well. She erased Revan's data from the Ebon Hawk and reinitialised its computer."
"Erased it completely ?" Atton shook his head in disgust. "Well, that's it then. If we don't know where to look, there's nothing we can do."
"At least until the Sith strike first", Mandalore observed. He sounded most belligerent.
"I'm not giving up so easily", Arik said quietly. "T3, you were with Revan all this time. He must have stopped somewhere. What was the very last planet he visited, that you know of ?"
The droid whistled a quick answer.
"Not so fast !" Arik said, raising a hand to slow down the flow of information.
"My... counterpart indicated that Revan's last stop before they parted ways was on Esus, on the outer rim", Goto said.
Arik nodded, grim but obviously determined. "That's it, then. Esus may hold the answers we seek."
"Wait", Atton cut in. He felt the blood drawn from his face. "Esus ? You can't mean Esus on the Outer Rim."
"How many Esuses are there ?" Mira asked snidely.
Atton glared and jabbed a finger at her. "You have no idea what you're in for. Next to Esus, Nar Shaddaa is a paradisiac holiday resort."
"Oh, so you're the expert, are you ?"
"I've never been there, but I've talked with someone who has been around, and what he told me was, do not go to Esus. The Republic doesn't exist, that far on the outer Rim. There's no law, only people who have gone that way because there was a bounty on their heads everywhere else. They'd kill their mother for a single credit, or even just for fun. It's just that insane."
Mira looked less than impressed. "And that's supposed to be more dangerous than looking for the guys who started the Mandalorians war and wiped out the Jedi ? We lead a dangerous life, Rand. Deal with it or get out."
"There's a difference between taking measured risks and going on a suicide mission !"
"Oh yeah ? And there's a difference between plain cowardice and - "
"Enough !" Oddly enough, it was Bao-Dur and not Arik who intervened. For once, the even-tempered Zabrak looked much less than happy. He looked hard at Atton. "If there are risks, we'll take them into accounts before doing anything." He turned his gaze to a snickering Mira. "That doesn't mean we should rush in front of the danger like empty-headed idiots. None of us have survived that long by being daft."
"Quite right", Arik agreed. "Although the shouting contest was somewhat amusing." Atton scowled at him, and the thin smile on Arik's lips widened. "That being said, I fully intend to do this because I do believe there is no running away from this particular fight. And I'd like to find Revan, if only because we could use his help rebuilding the galaxy. Nevertheless, this is my commitment only." His eyes swept over their little ragtag group. "And now, the time has come for me to ask each of you what you want to do. You have followed me this far, all of you, and we were successful thanks to our teamwork. But what I propose to do will be dangerous, and may take a long time. If you wish to leave now, no one will have any right to judge you for it."
An odd silence followed. It was all going a little too fast, Atton thought. They had barely survived over the last few weeks, his life had been turned upside down, and now he had another, life-changing decision to make. Why could things not calm down long enough for him to catch up with the way his life was going now ?
From what he could see, the others were having similar thoughts, although it was hard to tell what was going on under Mandalore's helmet, or what Visas was thinking at any given time. With those two, even Miss Icecube came only third as the most unexpressive face of the year. Atton risked a look at Bao-Dur, and surprised a shadow in the Zabrak's eyes. He looked... weary. Well, Atton could definitely sympathize with that.
Visas was the first to speak. "As I have already said, you are my new master. My life belongs to you."
Arik sighed and crossed the three steps that separated them to stop in front of her. "Your life belongs to yourself, Visas. No one else, and certainly not me."
But the Miraluka shook her head. "It is too late for that", she whispered. Before anyone had time to object any further, she turned away and left the main hold. A rather awkward silence followed her exit. None of them knew what to think of it - but then, Visas had always acted in this odd, unpredictable manner. As far as Atton was concerned, he thought it was a mistake to have brought her along, but she had proven useful before, and the decision was not up to him.
"I shall remain with you also", the Handmaiden said, breaking the silence. "I want to stop those who were responsible for the death of the Jedi, and... and the downfall of Atris."
Atton tried not to make a face. He had vaguely hoped she would decide to go her own way, though he had never truly believed she would. Her feelings for Arik were somewhat obvious, at least to him. He could not tell what Arik's feelings were, however.
"Well, I guess I'll tag along too", Mira added. "That's not a commitment, mind you."
Arik looked mildly amused at her reservation.
"You know you can count on me, General", Bao-Dur put in. He looked his usual cheerful self now, but Atton knew better than to stop at appearances.
"That's all very good and well", Mandalore said. "But I have responsibilities as the leader of the Mandalorians, and I've been away too long as it is. If you'll drop me off on Dxun, that would suit me fine."
"Naturally", Arik said. "I understand."
"Nevertheless, I should like to have a representant onboard", Mandalore added, as if moved by an afterthought. "I'll send one of my men to accompany you."
Arik nodded, unsurprised. "That will be much appreciated." He looked around. "Well then, Goto ?"
"I have considered my options", the spheric droid said slowly. "I will want to see this through."
"No doubt your connections will be helpful", Arik nodded. He then turned to look expectantly at Atton.
Atton was divided. He wanted to go with the Exile. He had nowhere else to go, nothing else to fight for, not to mention the Jedi training he had begun to undertake with Arik's help. He had never cared all that much about the Sith, about good or evil - the Force knew he had not always been a very nice person himself - but he had to admit, the fight gave his life purpose. He had, somehow, assimilated Arik's ideals, and now he found it hard to face a life without those ideals ; a life without objectives, a life of drifting, deprived of significance. Besides, he had always been on the front lines, be it in the Mandalorian wars or during the Jedi Civil War - why break a good habit now ?
He had grown stronger along the way, somehow. Being with Arik had made him want to rise up to the challenge, to show that he could be a greater man, and later he had proven to himself that he did draw this strength from within himself, when he had entered the Sith tomb and got out with his soul intact. As intact as it ever was.
But at the same time, the strength of his craving for all of this frightened him. It was not like him, to rely on someone else, to trust someone else to that extent. He felt a cold shiver of fear when he thought about it. He had come to rely on the Exile’s moral compass to guide him through and beyond his somewhat agitated past, and the more agitated future that awaited him. He believed Arik was worthy of that trust, and yet - there was always this tiny sliver of doubt, of second-guessing himself. Maybe it would be better to keep some distance until he had it figured out...
Yet, he found he could not. It was too much to give up. And that frightened him even more, although he would admit it only in the deepest recesses of his mind.
"I'll come with you", he heard himself saying, and it felt like it was someone else speaking.
Arik looked pleased. The others looked surprised it had taken him that long to make a decision. Atton only wanted to bang his head on the walls.
"That's settled, then", said the Exile. "Atton, if you can set a course to Dxun, we'll drop off Mandalore and then make for Esus."
"Sure", Atton said, somewhat mechanically.
He went back to the cockpit, although he did not really have anything to do since the ship was already going to Onderon. He wanted some time alone to think.
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