Faith V - Fraternization
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers for the video game, Knights of the Old Republic, are coming up early in this chapter. You have been warned.
Faith watched on with pride as the Imperial forces from the Jedi Temple were marched into prison transports by white-armored Republic soldiers. There had been a brief firefight, but when it had become clear that they were outnumbered and outmatched, most of the Empire’s soldiers surrendered. The Sith-in-training fought to the death, but after her encounter with Xydes, Faith couldn’t bring herself to pity them.
Back on what passed for ground level, Faith saw Major Cortland waving her over. Faith sauntered over to him and felt her mouth hang open at the ridiculous gun strapped to his back: it looked like a mini-gun, only larger and probably designed to fire laser bolts. Or maybe grenades. Or possibly high-yield warheads, the thing was so big.
“Compensating, much?” Faith asked with a smirk, gesturing to Cortland’s gun.
The bald black human chuckled. “I’ve had this assault cannon for years, and it’s gotten the job done on battlefields all over the galaxy. Sometimes, size does matter.”
“Oh, I can vouch for that,” Faith said lasciviously, looking the handsome major up and down without subtlety.
“Hey, hey now!” Cortland protested with a deep chuckle. “This is business here, okay? Force knows what my superiors would do if they found me flirting with a Jedi.”
“And what if it’s just the Jedi flirting with you, handsome?” Faith teased with a smirk.
“Call me Tal,” the Major said warmly. “As long as we’re speaking informally, that is.”
“Nice to meet you, Tal. I’m Faith, in case it slipped your memory.”
“Oh, I think you’re kinda hard to forget,” Tal Cortland said with a smirk.
The Slayer-turned Jedi groaned under her breath. “I’ll get back to you, Tal. Coming, Ralto!” she called to the Nautolan Jedi Master.
Ralto was waiting by a crumbling section of wall inscribed with writings of some kind in a variant of aurek-besh that was even more alien to Faith than the contemporary kind. “What’s up?” she asked.
The Nautolan master tilted his head curiously at Faith’s choice of words.
Sensing his confusion, Faith clarified, “What’s happening?”
“Ah. Well, I was just perusing these teachings here. These writings date back to the time of the Great Hyperspace War,” Ralto said calmly.
“Uh huh.” Faith didn’t know much about the Great Hyperspace War, save that it happened over a thousand years ago. “Does it say anything interesting?”
“It seems to be an historic accounting of a battle,” Ralto said softly. “And it might have been lost to us forever if you hadn’t taken action to reclaim our Temple. I don’t think you realize how deeply the Jedi Order is in your debt. Again, I might add.”
“Do the Jedi pay back debts in the form of spa treatments?” Faith asked in as serious a tone as she could maintain.
“I… I don’t know,” Ralto said, seeming to take her remarks at face value. “Why do you ask?”
Faith shuddered at the memory. “In order to get the Sith off his guard, I had to get closer than I would’ve liked.”
“Closer? Faith, what do you… Oh. Oh, my! Faith, are you all right?” Ralto asked, sounding very concerned.
Faith was touched by the Master’s thoughtfulness. “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just that I didn’t really understand about what the Dark Side does to a person. Seeing it up close, feeling it on my skin… I feel dirty, Master Ralto. And I’ve been in some dirty situations before, but this was different.”
“Evidently,” Ralto said humorlessly. “You just called me ‘Master’ for the first time in days. If the matter were not so serious, I would find it amusing.”
Faith shrugged it off. “Don’t worry about me, Ralto. I’ve been through worse. I just need a good bath, y’know?”
“I think that can be arranged, but not at the Order’s expense,” Ralto said with the barest hint of a smile.
“You’re not quite that indebted to me, are you?”
“No, not quite,” Ralto agreed with a full grin. “But we are indeed grateful for all that you’ve done. I’m sure Grand Master Shan will want to thank you personally.”
“Oh! That’s right!” Faith said. She pulled out of her jacket pocket the small journal she’d found earlier. “This was in the Sith’s study. I think it belonged to a relative of Satele’s. Ballista Shan, I think.”
“Bastila Shan?” Ralto asked eagerly. “Please, let me see that.”
“Sure thing,” Faith said, handing the journal over to the Nautolan Master.
Ralto gingerly opened the volume to its first page and read silently before turning the page after a few seconds. Faith guessed that he was only skimming it.
“This is a direct account of the climax of the Jedi Civil War,” Ralto said, his voice barely above a whisper. “A direct account of the Battle of the Star Forge.”
“Really? That must only be the first bit,” Faith said. “It was open to somewhere in the middle when I found it. Her husband, or was it his husband? Do you guys do gay marriage out here?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you’re implying that Bastila Shan was a man, then you would be very wrong. She was a human woman.”
“Right. So, she was talking about her husband having nightmares about some stormy world covered in shadow or something like that,” Faith said. “Does that have anything to do with whatever the Star Forge is?”
“Not much is known about the Star Forge,” Ralto admitted. “All that is generally known is that it was a factory that the fallen Jedi, Revan and Malak, used to create a vast armada to challenge the Republic three hundred years ago.”
Faith shrugged. “Was it on a stormy world?”
“No, it was in orbit of a world that I couldn’t tell you how to find. It’s been erased from galactic records, which says something about how dangerous it was,” Ralto said. “This journal might be able to tell us Revan’s final fate.”
“Revan? I thought you said he was a fallen Jedi?” Faith queried.
“He was redeemed by the Jedi, notably Bastila Shan, who would go on to become his wife,” Ralto explained. “Ironically enough, Bastila herself was briefly turned to the Dark Side by Revan’s friend and later apprentice, Malak. Revan later returned the favor and redeemed her, and together they defeated Malak.”
“Heavy stuff,” Faith said, though she truthfully wasn’t following Ralto’s history lesson all that closely.
Ralto closed the journal carefully and tucked it into a pocket in his robes. “Come, Faith. We should report back to the Senate Tower and take stock of the situation.”
“Right with you, boss-man,” Faith said.
Ralto shook his head and sighed at the strangeness of the Jedi Order’s newest Knight.
Faith was immensely enjoying the bath in her temporary quarters in a guest wing of the Senate Tower for VIPs. It had been too long since she’d been able to bathe in style, and Coruscant did style very well. The bubbles were of all different colors and scents, and the stink of Anev Xydes was almost completely forgotten.
Closing her eyes, Faith let herself sink underwater and bask in the warmth of the bath and the feel of the bubble jets massaging her skin.
A strange sound caught Faith’s ear, and she came up for air. She heard it again and recognized her holocom beeping.
Groaning in frustration, Faith knew that Ralto wouldn’t have called her unless it was urgent. Reaching over the edge of the tub, she picked up her com device and turned it on.
Unexpectedly, it was not Ralto on the other end, but Major Cortland.
Faith couldn’t help herself and flashed a sexy smirk at the handsome officer. “Well, hey there.”
“What the… Faith, what the hell’s going on?” Cortland said quickly, clearly flustered.
“Is there some kind of emergency, Tal? ‘Cause if there isn’t, I’m in the middle of some important me time. Enjoying the view?” Faith teased, letting her body rise just enough above the surface of the water to grant the Major a nice view of her cleavage.
“You could say that,” Cortland said carefully. “However…”
“Hey, Major!” a young male voice called from somewhere in the background on the other end. “Who is that?”
“Damn!” another very male voice said. “That is one fine-looking woman. How much is this call costing you?”
“Guys…” Tal Cortland said harshly, clearly trying to get a rein on his men.
“Hey there, hot stuff,” a man said, pushing Tal aside and coming into the field of view. “Lieutenant Tyrus Bentley. So very pleased to meet you.”
“Down boy,” a female voice said on the other end, and Faith smiled at the antics playing out in front of her. The view shifted to show a woman with a patch over her left eye. “Is the Major giving you any trouble? I can hit him if you want.”
“No, you can’t,” Cortland said, hauling the com unit back so that he was in the field of vision. “I see you’ve met my squad, Jedi Lehane.”
A collective cry of “Jedi?!” could be heard on the other end of the holocom.
Faith simply chuckled, more than amused by the soldiers’ antics. “Semper fi, ladies and gents!”
“Huh? What was that, Faith?” Cortland asked.
Faith mentally smacked herself on the head. “It’s the motto of part of the military back home. ‘Semper fidelis’ is a call of unity in the Corps. It means ‘always faithful.’”
“Ah. Now I see where ‘Lord Fidelis’ comes from,” Cortland said.
“You’re lookin’ at her,” Faith said with a smile. “So, what’s up? Why the call?”
“Oh, right. Well, my superior, Colonel Walburn, wanted to debrief you and Master Ralto on the raid of the Jedi Temple. Ralto said you were busy, but Colonel Walburn insisted that I talk to you directly.”
“Ah, so Walburn’s got a thing for hot Jedi chicks who look good in leather, is that it?”
“Oh, Force, no! Don’t even say that! He just celebrated his thirtieth anniversary, for goodness’ sake!” Tal said with shock. “Please, don’t get me demoted.”
“I dunno,” Faith said mischievously. “Do the penalties for fraternizing with a Jedi go down if you get demoted?”
Tal laughed. “If only,” he said with what Faith was certain was genuine lust. “Just hurry it up, please. Walburn’s not the most patient of officers.”
“Did you just give me an order?” Faith asked with mock astonishment. “Yo, eyepatch girl! You can hit him now!”
“Yes, ma’am!” the soldier said, and Tal was rubbing his shoulder a moment later. The woman’s face appeared in portrait a moment later. “And it’s Lieutenant Vira Septus, Jedi Faith. Not ‘eyepatch girl.’ Got it?”
Faith saluted Lieutenant Septus. “Aye, ma’am!”
“Good Jedi. Here’s the Major again.”
“Thank you, Vira,” Cortland said with a glare shot to his side. “So, Faith: get clean, get over here. See you soon. Cortland out.” The holocom flickered off.
Putting the device down, Faith got out of the tub and began to dry herself off. She’d been clean for a while, and had just been indulging in the niceness of the bath.
“Ah, well. Back to work.”
Faith met Master Ralto in a red-carpeted hallway between their two rooms. The Nautolan held a brown robe over one arm.
“Please put this on, Faith,” he said, sounding weary already.
“Everything okay, Ralto?” Faith asked.
“Yes, things are fine, but the brown robe of a Jedi is considered to be formal and proper, and for a military debriefing, I would like to maintain at least a semblance of propriety.”
“Huh? Smaller words, please?” Faith requested.
“I’d like you to look like a Jedi, Faith,” Ralto clarified. “And keep this robe with you. You can wear it over the nothing you call ‘your style’ easily enough, can’t you?”
“Yeah, sure thing,” Faith said taking the robe and putting it on. “Didn’t know it was that big a deal. Sorry for all the fuss.”
“Yes, well, it isn’t as much of a fuss as I make it out to be, most likely, but there are situations where it could become a bigger deal. Now then, please follow me.”
Faith nodded silently and fell in behind Master Ralto, who led them both to a small conference room one level below their accommodations.
When they entered, Faith saw Senator Kayl sitting at one end of the table. Major Cortland, Lieutenants Septus, Bentley, and two other male soldiers took up most of the other seats, and a man with shortly-cropped gray hair in a dress uniform sat at the end of the table opposite Senator Kayl.
“Thank you for taking the time out of your day to join us,” the gray-haired man said snidely. “We haven’t been introduced. My name is Colonel Wilhelm Walburn. Master Ralto, I trust the delay is due to your former apprentice’s business?”
“His former apprentice has a name, you know,” Faith shot at the old man. “Call me Faith, and don’t talk about me as if I ain’t here, got it?”
Walburn arched a critical eyebrow and glared at Major Cortland. “You were right, Major. She is not like most Jedi.”
“No, she isn’t,” Faith said. “What did I just say about talking about me as if I’m not here, jackass?”
“Faith!” Ralto exclaimed. “Mind your tone, please!”
“No, I want to hear what sort of beef the Colonel has with me,” Faith said, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I do not have any ‘beef’ with you, Jedi Faith,” the Colonel sneered. “I merely wish to run this operation with proper military efficiency. Since you are now all here, I would like for you to present the facts of the operation, as best you recall them, to myself and Senator Kayl. Since you were the first on the scene, Jedi Faith, it would be best if you went first.”
“That’s more like it,” Faith said. “About eight of your boys and girls in white and one Jedi were escorting me through the Works, treating me like a prisoner. I ‘escaped’ and made for the Temple. I told the Imp guards that I was Lord Fidelis from Imperial Intelligence, just like we planned. They let me pass, and I met up with the only actual Sith Lord there. Guy’s name was Anev Xydes, and he was a creep. I got him to give me info about all the troops and equipment and shit the Sith had stocked up in the Temple, and then I got him to strip so I could-“
“I’m sorry,” Colonel Walburn interrupted. “You what?”
“Did you go deaf or something? I got him to strip. Seduced him with my feminine wiles and such. Got on top of him and started to choke him. He started to call on the Force, and I snapped his neck. Called you guys, and you came running.”
“I see,” Colonel Walburn said carefully, stroking his bare chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Major Cortland, your report, please?”
Faith shot the Major a smile and then tuned out the retelling of the ‘battle’ that she knew by heart anyway. Cortland and a bunch of Republic troops had shown up in dropships, taken out the Sith acolytes and apprentices, and shot at a few Imperial soldiers before one of the officers called for surrender. Another officer had dissented, and he was promptly reminded that Republic courts were more merciful to criminals than Sith Lords were to failed troops.
After Cortland gave his report, Vira Septus told the same story from her point of view, and Tyrus Bentley after her, followed by the two troops she hadn’t met yet. None of it was news to Faith, but she could feel the camaraderie the soldiers had for each other. It was plain as day in the Force that they had each others’ backs no matter what, and that they were very proud of the operation they’d just pulled off.
“Very good, all of you,” Colonel Walburn said when the final soldier had given his side of the story. “Master Ralto, do you have anything to add?”
“Only that it is my fervent wish that the Jedi can begin excavating the ruin as soon as possible,” Ralto said.
“You’ll have your chance, Master Jedi,” Walburn promised. “But first we need to make sure that the area is secure. The Imperials might have left something behind.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Senator Kayl said, holding a datapad in her hand. A young page had just left the room. Faith figured she was too lost in thought to have picked up on him delivering the message. “Lab results just came back on a compound the Imperials had in a lockbox. If this is accurate, which I’m afraid it appears to be, the Empire was planning to unleash a new strain of the Rakghoul plague on Coruscant.”
“What?! Let me see that,” Walburn said harshly, snatching the pad from Kayl’s clutches. “This is… This is monstrous!”
“What’s the Rakghoul plague?” Faith asked, sensing a wave of unrest throughout everyone in the room.
“A deadly virus,” Major Cortland explained. “Anyone infected becomes a Rakghoul: a monster that preys on anything it can get its claws on, especially other sapient beings. And if one of them lands enough of a blow on you, then you get infected as well. I thought we caught a break with that?” Cortland asked Walburn. “Didn’t someone find a vaccine on Taris?”
“Yes, they did,” Walburn said. “But that was for the original strain. The Empire seems to be preparing for such a cure and are readying a more virulent strain of the plague.”
Faith felt the page return and saw him hand another pad over to Senator Kayl. “Listen to this,” Kayl said. “One of the Imperial officers confessed that they received the new strain from an Imperial outpost on Taris. The Imperial Reclamation Service was uncovering some sort of ruin and decided to take the time to ‘reclaim’ the Rakghoul virus and develop this new strain. If we want to cut this off at the source, I’d say it’s there.”
“I agree, Senator,” Walburn said. “Major Cortland, I want you to handle this, but I can’t spare too many of the Bloodhounds right now, what with the upcoming operation on Balmorra. Choose one of your officers to accompany you and put another in charge for the time being.”
“Yes, sir,” Tal Cortland said. “Vira, any objections to a trip to Taris?”
“No, sir,” Lieutenant Septus said. Faith noted that her eyepatch was made of metal and had no straps to hold it in place. Her skin looked burnt around the metal patch.
“Very good. Tyrus, the Bloodhounds are in your hands until I come back. You up to the job?”
“Yes, sir, Major,” Bentley said.
“Good man. Colonel, before we ship out, I’d like to request that Master Ralto and Jedi Lehane accompany us. Faith did an excellent job at the Temple, and I think we could use a Jedi or two on Taris. Force knows how many Rakghouls are on that planet.”
Colonel Walburn turned to Ralto. “Master Jedi, do you have any objections to Major Cortland’s request?”
“I’ll have to take it up with the Jedi Council first,” Ralto said patiently, “but I doubt it will be a problem. As to Faith’s participation, she is no longer under my tutelage and is not mine to command.”
“Hey, we do make a good team,” Faith said. “Count me in.”
“Then it’s settled,” Senator Kayl said. “The four of you will ship out for Taris as soon as possible. May the Force be with us all.”
I own not a thing. To be more specific...
Master Ralto: original
Tal Cortland: original
Bastila Shan: not mine
Tyrus Bentley: original
Vira Septus: original
Vanara Kayl: not mine
Wilhelm Walburn: original
Rakghoul Plague: not mine
Imperial Reclamation Service: not mine
My muse is hungry. She will work for reviews.
If anyone wants to beta-read, the invitation still stands.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy the story!