Disclaimer: I own not the awesomeness of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, any of the Star Wars-created ideas such as Manda, nor some of the songs that will be featured in this piece (although I have made some changes to them to keep with the cannon of the plot). I will also give credit to Paul Brady because the title was taken from a stanza of his song “The Island”. (Spoiler: that song is pretty salient to this piece. I’d even go as far to say it is a motif.)
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Carving Tomorrow from a Tombstone
Chapter 1: Beginnings and Rebeginnings
“Don’t struggle; this will be easier if you don’t.” They watched as she trashed about. The blow to her head was very traumatic. Her rational brain was not the prominent entity in her mind. The Dark side was manipulating her. Of course, she was severely angry. Her own apprentice had shot her ship out of the sky while she was aboard. Although her conscious mind had shut down to protect her, she flailed and tried to kill the Masters of the Jedi as they worked on healing her.
“Don’t touch me! Let me die with honor!” She just kept screaming those words. Something had changed within her. It was not only the Dark side, but Mandalorian ideologies that presented themselves as troublesome to their efforts. Her heritage and culture screamed out with angst.
As they healed her, they stripped away her memories and started to create a new identity. Her home planet became Deralia and she became a skilled mercenary who had trained with the Republic and had done serious work on Nar Shaddaa. She had no father she remembered and her mother died from an illness when she was young. She had no siblings to take care of and so she had been on her own for a while. Her friends were just hired guns and left as soon as the job was done. So many lies were woven inside her mind and she began to believe them. One of the Jedi Masters broke a connection, severing her ability to remember things past a day. Forcing a pill down her throat, he made sure it remained that way by putting the action of breaking the connection within the pills themselves. She screamed again, crying out “Manda!” Her voice became hoarse and she lay in tears before the council. “Give me death… Please,” she sobbed.
“You will receive no such mercy. Just remember the shrieking of millions and the crying of the Force as you ravaged Malachor V.” And she was left. Her mind was merciful and shut down. Every previous memory was gone and replaced. She would not even remember begging for mercy. And it was better that way.
X~X~X~ Many months later ~X~X~X
“Master Vandar, are you sure this is going to work? I’m afraid she’ll be recognized. She was one of the generals for the war. Surely someone will know her…” I laid all of my doubts in front of the wizened Jedi. To calm my nervous mind I kept reciting the Code: There is no emotion; there is peace…
“Padawan, do not have fear. Fear is a taint of the Dark side. There is no chaos; there is harmony. Let this mantra dissuade your doubts and fears from blinding you from your task. She remembers not and if someone by chance recognizes her, tell them that they are mistaken. I trust in you and your mission; do you do the same?” He released me from meditating with him. Opening the blinds to let the light shine through, I could see the sun setting. And then I could hear her disgusting voice, laughing enjoyably at some joke or having fun playing with the children. She was the Dark Lord of the Sith? I snorted with the thought.
Returning my gaze to Vandar, I answered, “Yes, Master.” I moved to leave, my robes falling ceremoniously about me, hearing the soft tink of my lightsaber scraping the ground as I moved. “Though it is not my doubts that blind me from my task, it is the lure of the Dark side. Her energy reeks of it. How am I to focus when all I want to do is to smother the Dark side from my presence? How do I work with someone so tainted?”
“By acknowledging it. Take her on in battle. Practice meditating near her. Do whatever you feel is right to make sure you understand the Dark side that haunts her. When you fully know how it feels, push a cleansing force through your mind. Clean the darkness from her. But in order to do this, you need to be able to know your limits and keep true to the Light side. If you struggle against it, push yourself away and regain you strength. Soon it will be a nuisance at most. It will not bother you.”
“I understand, Master. I will try to do this.” I was not focusing on him. I was concentrating on wrapping myself in the Light side, creating a protective cover with my mind.
His stern look surprised me as he narrowed his eyes. Correcting me, he raised a finger and pointed. “Do or do not. There is no try.”
“Yes, Master Vandar. I will.” I bowed and left, heading for my quarters, wishing not to pass her. Unfortunately for me, she was coming my way, possibly to speak with Master Vandar.
“Bastila,” she greeted me happily. “Are you turning into bed so soon? I thought maybe since you’ve been so kind to me I could invite you to see the fireworks happening tonight to christen our departure on the Endar Spire.” She didn’t look like the Dark Lord of the Sith. Her long, curly mess of auburn hair looked more like a rat’s nest on her head, the thick coils bounced relentlessly against her head every time she walked. Of course, during the Mandalorian War she had cut it ridiculously short. Now it was to the middle of her back.
“Kasra, I’m sorry, I’ve had a rough night. I appreciate your offer, but we have a long day tomorrow. I also suggest you go to sleep as well.” I started off again, only to hear whisper.
“These may be the last fireworks you’ll ever see.” I turned around and saw Landyr’s green eyes downcast and her head bowed in defeat. Rather than being compassionate or at least have some understanding that she was thinking about me, I shot back: “I’ll just pretend the blaster fire from our enemies are fireworks…” I left her in the hallway, stalking off to my room. If someone greeted me on my way back, I paid no heed and soon enough I was able to begin my meditation.
Pushing my hair out of my face, I nervously approached Master’s Vandar’s room. “Come in, child,” I heard from behind the door. Shit, he can sense me! Ah, he knows I’m nervous!
I pushed the button to open the door and entered. “Master Vandar? You wished to speak with me?” I glanced to the side and saw Master Zhar standing near the windows. “Master,” I nodded to him.
“Landyr, please come sit. We have much to speak of.” As I sat in front of him, Zhar joined him, sitting in a meditative position. “First things first: how is your head feeling?”
I touched my head unconsciously. “There is only a dull pain. I haven’t had hallucinations in a while.” Before I had come to the Jedi, I had had an accident. I had taken a bad blow to the head. My friend had taken me to the Jedi, hoping they could reconstruct my mind. I had been taking pills prescribed by Master Vandar that would keep my hallucinations of Jedi and Dark Jedi and the Sith away. The pills would also prevent my headaches. The only side effect of them was minor memory loss. I had a hard time remembering yesterday. But it didn’t really faze me; after the accident I remembered nothing about my pass and my friend who had taken me to the Jedi left me. My philosophy has always been: make the best of everything you have. It’s sort of like the fireworks tonight; they may be the last fireworks I ever see and I won’t remember them by tomorrow, so I better have a lot of fun watching them tonight.
“That is good. Very good in fact. Sooner or later you’ll stop having pain, but you’ll still need to take the pills. You’ll need them until the day you die.” He huffed a sigh of encouragement as I thought about death. Had I not faced it and lived once? Plus, I’m a soldier, if I died it would be because of my job. “How much do you remember?”
“Um, I’m not for sure how to answer this.” I closed my eyes to think. As I tried to connect my thoughts together, I noticed my finger was moving as if physically linking my ideas together. I stopped it and opened my eyes again. “I remember what you’ve told me, but I do not remember little details about what I did yesterday and my memory gets vaguer from there. I remember how to fight and what my name is and what my morning and evening routines are and who Bastila is. But I find myself using a Datapad to keep track of what I’ve done and who I’ve met and if I’ve taken my pills.” Thinking that was sufficient enough, I looked up, waiting for a reply.
Zhar shifted softly, drawing my attention rapidly. I had forgotten he was there. I let my eyes relax after noticing they had gone wide in fright. I tried to slow my heart that the adrenaline had sent pounding away. Something I had forgotten: the pills also cause paranoia, or what Master Vandar called heightened sense. I returned to looking at Master Vandar after hearing his voice being cleared. “Landyr, you’re making progress and you are taking it upon yourself to keep your mind clear and focused on important pieces of memory by putting them on a Datapad. Zhar, you have something you wished to say, am I wrong?”
“I do have something. Landyr, I’ve made enough pills to last you six months. If you need more, I have programmed the directions in a Datapad. You can convert the file to your personal Datapad. I used common materials so you would be able to recreate it at a low price. All of the information you need is in this Datapad.” He handed it to me and went back to meditating. I didn’t quite understand him. He was mysterious and barely talked. Maybe he just didn’t like me, but I felt estranged to him every time we had a conversation.
“Please continue to take your pills. There are very severe side effects if you stop taking them and it could result in your death. Soon enough though it will just feel natural to take them. But to make sure you take them I have provided your superiors with the information. They will make sure you take the pill. The better health you are in, the more successful you will be protecting Bastila.” Vandar stood, touching Zhar’s shoulder softly. He looked out of the window to see the brilliant flashes of colored light. “You should go enjoy those. They are for you and your company. I wish you good luck and farewell.” He ushered me outside and then closed the door again.
Not knowing what I should do, I wandered outside. Bastila could not enjoy them with me; why should I enjoy them? Deciding it would be better to sleep instead, I turned to go back inside. I ran into the hard chest of another soldier. Looking up at him, I smiled and apologized.
He remained unthreatening and patted my head like I was a child. “Little woman, you should listen more. I was talking to you.” I took in the sight of his armor. Mandalorian.
“My name is Kelborn. I was wondering if you knew what these fireworks are for.”
“A departure of crew and ship.” Mandalorians could not be trusted, although I’d rather work with one knowing they were untrustworthy than work with someone who had gained my trust and then spent it.
“Fireworks are seen often on Core worlds?”
“I heard that they are shown often enough here on Coruscant.” I leaned against the banister of the balcony I was on. “What brings a lone Mandalorian to Coruscant anyways?”
“Bounty hunting?” It was a good enough guess. Many Mandalorians became bounty hunters after the war.
“No, my wife was imprisoned for killing a Republic soldier after he murdered our son after the war ended. I am here to testify for her. And I am staying with the Jedi as they offer asylum.” He lifted an arm to her, waving. “I grow tired of conversation. Good luck in your travels… I didn’t get your name.”
“Farewell, Landyr Kasra. I do not forget faces. I will remember you, little woman.” He ventured back inside and left me standing there. A cold burst of wind swept past me as a speeder went by. Unconsciously, I thought, I will not be able to remember you, Kelborn the Mandalorian. I hope your wife lives.
X~X~X~ The next morning ~X~X~X
“Pills!” my mind screamed, but the thought was so urgent I must have uttered it as my dorm mate, a woman by the name of Shaleana, glared at me for the noise. Turning over again, she ignored me and must have thought I was a crazy drug addict. Reaching into my bag, I pulled out the canister and took one of the small pills. For something so small, it had a lot of power. Maybe it was just the plants used to make it, but they were pretty common.
As I stood in front of the mirror I debated with my hair. There was only so much I could do. It draped over my head like ivy. There was going to be a sending off with many reporters and such so I decided it would be better to take a shower and then manage it.
I let the warm water pour down upon me, rinsing my hair of impurities and conditioning it with olive oil. I heard my comlink bleep as I was toweling off. And then I heard her voice. “Kasra, it’s Bastila. The opening ceremony is in fifteen minutes.” I stumbled out of the shower, banging my elbow on the doorframe. Scowling at the metal support, I cursed it in Mando’a. I dressed in my normal clothes: small black leather shorts, a white tee-shirt and a dark gray sleeveless robe. Little black military boots finished it off at the bottom while I pinned my hair up into a high ponytail after creating a braided headband that encircled my head. It would keep my hair from getting a little frizzy. I checked my Datapad to see if I had forgotten anything. I had taken my pill, which was the most salient thing on my checklist. I left Shaleana alone and asleep.
I watched her weave through the crowd, moving unnoticed like a shadow. Force manipulation. She didn’t look like any other soldier on board the Endar Spire. But I suppose that would be because she’s a mercenary. She moved to the front and stood off to the side near the end of the line of soldiers, not wishing to receive attention from the crowd. And then I sensed it. A sense of familiarity arose in her. As Admiral Dodonna was wishing us safe travelling and easy victories I watched her look into the crowd. She raised a hand symbol to the audience, to one member in particular. To the Mandalorian, Kelborn. She’s showing signs. Surely she would have remembered him.
“Bastila,” Dodonna called me back. “As you know, you have taken on a grave mission. Understand that the lives of my soldiers are in your hands and it will be on your hands that their blood is spilt. Do not feel guilt for it is their duty and their job. Just do not waste such precious life if you do not have a need to. I am sending my best men with you. They are experienced enough to fight with exceptional prowess even without your Battle Meditation. I hope you understand the position you are in and your mission. You may just be a Padawan, but we are entrusting you with a mission meant for a Knight. Go forth and let the Force be with you.”
I bowed to her and to the troops assigned to me and the ship. This was the time in which I was supposed to give my speech. Force! I had not practiced one or even thought of one. I am going to make a fool out of myself. I guess this is what I deserve for worrying and not having my priorities straight. “Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the Jedi academy, crew of the Endar Spire, and all of you gathered here, I bid you farewell with these words.” Infusing some Charisma into my words, I continued, “We have overcome dangerous obstacles before. We are now starting to rebuild Telos and many of the other planets destroyed by the Sith and the Mandalorians before them.” I looked to Kelborn in the crowd. He knew I was accusing him. Good. “There is no failure of the Republic that will not be solved. Whether it is fixing a hyperdrive on one of our ships to enduring a reign of the Sith, we will overcome it! I can assure you that these men and women standing before you have dedicated their lives to keeping you safe and they will keep their oaths they made to you, even if they must accept death. The Force lives on, whether we die or we live. Life goes on. No matter the circumstance we will prevail in the end. It is our destiny.” I ended my speech and acknowledged the thunderous applause from my audience and war cries from my crew. But I was not happy. I had been overconfident and proud. It was not the Jedi way. It would lead to the Dark side. I could feel the disapproving stares of my Masters, but I knew I had accomplished one thing: I had won the hearts of my crew and more importantly, the Republic.
The next speeches made Carth Onasi and one by Master Vandar were long but I did not have the desire to pay attention. I was focused on my charge, Kasra. What all had she remembered? Had she recalled that she had saved the young Mandalorian man from the destruction of Malachor V, saying that it was dishonorable to kill a wounded and unarmed man?
Applause stirred me from my ponderings. It was time to board. Onasi pulled me off to the side so that we could welcome all of the crew aboard, shaking their hands. As the line dwindled, I could tell Kasra was going to be the last one. I watched her reattach her blaster to her hip. She had killed someone?! As the person before her left, she smiled sweetly and stuck out her hand. “Landyr Kasra, mercenary.”
I could see the blaster scorch mark on her hand. I accused her. “Who did you kill just now?” Carth looked surprised and shook her hand for show.
Admiral Dodonna and Master Vandar came up to flank us. I repeated my question, “Who did you kill?”
Pointing a finger at the Admiral, she laughed, “The Admiral said I was on security today. During your speeches, Bastila and Carth, you had snipers pointed at you. I took care of them. Be thankful.” She started leave and board the ship. Turning back around, she drew her robe to the side, exposing the left side of her chest, where her heart was. There was a small blaster hole in her white shirt. “You owe me a new shirt.”
Ending notes: Do you think I over-exaggerated Bastila’s haughtiness and pride? What do you think of the use of the Force pills?