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           “You gave the Emperor time to gather his strength.  We are all fortunate to be alive,” Scourge accused, his red eyes narrowing dangerously. 

            “We accomplished our mission, and no one was left behind,” Daesha Ven replied, powering down the holoterminal.  She looked up, calmly meeting his furious gaze.  “I told you at the beginning of this mission that we are all stronger together.  I did the right thing by saving Doc, and I would do it again.”

            “You wasted precious time; and for that, there is no excuse,” Scourge snapped. 

            “I would have done the same thing for anyone, Scourge.  Even you, had the situation called for it,” Daesha sighed.  How she tired of these debates sometimes. 

            “As if I would have needed your assistance in dispatching guards,” the Sith hissed.  “The good doctor, I fear, cannot say the same.”

            “Hold on!  I’ll be damned if I’m gonna take that from some creep who acts like he’s always constipa-“ Doc started.

            “Enough!” Daesha barked, moving between the two men.  She placed her hand on Doc’s shoulder, biting her lip to keep from laughing as she looked up at him.  “Doc, everyone knows what you mean, but I really don’t want to hear about that.  I’d rather keep my mind on more pleasant things, please.”  Turning her head to look up at Scourge, she sobered.  “Scourge, there is no need for this.  I helped him, and he’s alive.  If we cannot help each other, then why work together?  The mission was a success, and the Emperor is dead.  It’s over,” she smiled. 

            Scourge was silent for several moments, the ship’s thrumming being the only sound audible.  “Your recklessness will lead you to ruin,” he finally murmured, shouldering past Doc and heading for his cabin. 

            “It’s gonna be a long flight.  Someone wake me when we get there,” Kira said, rolling her eyes as Scourge left the room. 

            “That’s the best suggestion I’ve heard in a long time,” Daesha smiled, squeezing Doc’s shoulder.  “Why don’t we all get some rest?”

            “You can always come rest in my quarters, beautiful.  I know a lot of ways to help a woman relax.  After what you accomplished today, I’d say you’re owed quite a bit,” Doc winked down at her. 

              “Please, try to behave.” Daesha sighed, rolling her eyes.  “I’m glad you’re safe, though.   Try not to scare us like that again.” 

            “I’ll do my best,” Doc promised.  “You saved us all today.  Congratulations.”

            “Without everyone’s help, this victory would have been impossible.  But thank you,” she smiled, turning away and heading to her quarters.  Daesha was halfway down the corridor before she heard Kira’s quick, light footsteps catch up to her.  An arm slipped through hers, and she turned to look at her former apprentice.  Kira’s face was tired, and there were dark circles under her eyes.  They walked in silence to Daesha’s quarters and paused outside the door.  “You should rest, Kira.  Drommund Kaas obviously didn’t have a good effect on you.  The entire planet feels like a black hole.  I’ve never been in a place so infected by the dark side.”

            “It…brought back some bad memories.  I’m sure I’ll be fine, though.  Some sleep will do a lot of good.  I’m more worried about you.  Most people would be ecstatic that the Emperor is dead.  You seem preoccupied,” Kira admitted.  “Is everything all right?”

            “I’m still in shock, I suppose.  Killing the Emperor is not something one does every day.  I still can’t believe it,” Daesha said.

            “But that’s not all?” Kira deduced.

            Daesha’s gaze slid down the hall to Scourge’s cabin.  “I’m worried for Scourge.  I just…expected more of a reaction, I suppose.  He has worked for this for almost three hundred years, after all.  You would think he would be happy.”

            “The king of darkness, happy?” Kira smirked.  “Have you been smoking deathsticks?”

            “Not since Corellia,” Daesha snorted.  “If not happy, then maybe…I don’t know, satisfied, at least.”

            Kira shrugged.  “He has to deal with all of this in his own way.  Just like I’m about to.  Have a pleasant rest, Master.”

            “You as well, Padawan,” Daesha winked.   “See you when we reach Coruscant.”  Daesha entered her room and waited until the door whooshed shut behind her.  She felt Kira’s presence fade slightly, no doubt having gone into her own cabin across the hall.  Daesha leaned back against the door, her shoulders slumping in exhaustion.  She vaguely felt Doc’s presence as he turned into his own quarters further down.  She knew that for all his bravado, he wouldn’t have had the energy to perform his relaxation techniques.   All she could sense from the majority of her crew was a bone-numbing exhaustion.  Even Rusk, who could usually take on an army by himself, had already fallen to sleep.  The only exception was Scourge.  He, oddly enough, felt alive with energy.  Or at least, what little Daesha could pick up felt alive; Scourge was very good at masking what he truly felt. 

            Daesha crossed to her bed and pulled out the little silver mirror that Doc had given her for her last lifeday.  She slowly sat down on her bed, looking into the refection.  Her brown eyes looked unfocused, the dark circles and bags under her eyes a stark standout against her unusually pale skin.  Normally, she was two shades tanner, but she hadn’t slept well since Corellia; and it was showing now.  Daesha put down her mirror and undid the bun holding her dark brown hair in place.  She ran her hands through it a few times before pulling off her vambraces; then she began peeling off her armor until she was down to just her undershirt and leggings.  She rummaged until she found her sleepclothes, desperate to be out of anything that smelled like battle and that horrible, ashy residue of the dark side.  Once she had changed, she slipped into bed, grateful that this whole ordeal was over.  The Emperor was finally dead, and the Republic had a chance to turn the war in their favor.   All was as it should be, was Daesha’s last thought before the warm pull of sleep overtook her.


            He wasn’t really sure what he had been expecting.  After all these centuries of careful planning and total obedience to a corrupt Master, Scourge had allowed himself to think that he might feel…something.  Yet nothing had changed.  The world was still gray and void.  Emotions, with the exception of anger, were stamped down into his subconscious.  They were the faintest of echoes, recalled only with the most vicious concentration. 

He could hear the gentle noise of the ship’s environmental control systems switching on; he could see the way that they gently ruffled the sheets on his bed, yet he had no idea if the air was warm or cool.  There was no sensation…nothing.  After everything that he had done and sacrificed for this day, was this to be his reward?  The knowledge that his vision had succeeded, yet an eternity of nothingness? 

            Scourge began to pace.  Had he been able to feel emotion, he knew that his present frame of mind would have been panicked.  The disappointment would have led to heaviness in his chest and an elevated heart rate.  The fear would have consumed his mind, making following any rational chain of thought impossible.  He would have been sweating, perhaps even panting, at the horror of this situation.  To continue living in this manner - forever - would be terrifying.  But instead of the stirrings of fear or panic that should have come, all Scourge could feel was a burning in his chest.  His heart began to pound, but not in fear.  Anger, his one link to emotion, the source of his power, flooded him in its full intensity.  The heat of it spread from his chest outward, down his arms and legs, into the very soles of his feet and palms of his hands.  He relished the feeling it provided.  The ravenous heat flooded his veins, the anger’s intensity as beautiful and dangerous as the stars flying past the ship.   Scourge closed his eyes, channeling his anger in his mind and flooding it through the Force around him.  In his mind’s eye, he could see the waves of it flowing outward through the air, like ripples in a pond.  It was glorious.  He would never understand why the Jedi refused to embrace their darker emotions.  By ignoring a source of such incredible power, they weakened themselves.  It was little wonder that the Empire had crushed them in the early days of the war. 

Scourge stilled and dropped his hands.  As the moments passed, his anger slowly died.  It was replaced by the full realization of everything that had just happened.  The Emperor was dead.  With his death, the Dark Council would be in chaos.  At least for a time.  The Republic had an opportunity now to strike a crippling blow against them.  The vision was completed, and their mission was accomplished.  As the moments passed, he also realized something else, more personal.  He would never be welcome in Imperial space again.  When word of the mission spread, he would likely be the Empire’s prize bounty.  Although anyone that came after him would be met with a rather rude surprise.  If the Republic accepted him, he knew that it would be in name only.  He had yet to meet a Sith pureblood since he had joined Daesha’s crew.  Well, with the exception of Praven; but he didn’t count.  No pureblood that turned to the light was a true Sith.  He had finally accomplished his goal, only to be left alone in a muted, gray existence.  Scourge chuckled gruffly…such was the hand of fate.  Sitting on his bed, he sighed deeply.  Whatever energy his earlier anger had given him had disappeared.  He understood now why the others had all but passed out on the boarding ramp.  Lying down to stare at the ceiling, Scourge almost felt his age. 


              Daesha woke well before they reached Coruscant.  Upon glancing at the chrono, she groaned.  Only five hours had passed.  Ever since Corellia, she hadn’t been sleeping well.  Perhaps it had been the days of that campaign, being forced to catch maybe one or two hours of rest between seemingly constant battles.  Or perhaps it had just been the last few years.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had actually relaxed. 

            Sighing, Daesha climbed out of bed.  She padded down the hall and into the galley.  Using the Force, she slowly began heating a cup of water for some tea.  When it was hot enough, she pulled down one of the blends Kira had acquired on their last market run.  She scurried down the hall, dimming her presence in the Force so as not to wake Kira or Scourge.  When she reached the holoterminal, she set the power output on the lowest setting before drawing up a map of the galaxy.  At the fleet’s current speed, they should reach Coruscant within the next two days.  She deleted the fleet’s images, leaving a blank map of the galaxy.  Sitting down, she performed a simple meditation, focusing on the image and clearing her mind of all else.  As the hypnotic blue disc slowly turned, she sipped her tea.  The stars were like diamonds floating in water, and she wondered at the multitude of them.  To think that the Republic wouldn’t have to fear anymore, that some of those stars and their inhabitants might gain freedom again…

            “And here I thought that the Jedi did not believe in selfish indulgences,” Scourge’s voice sounded from behind her.  Daesha turned, craning her neck up to look at him.  She raised an eyebrow in confusion.  Pointing at her tea, he continued.  “I do not remember that being on the supply roster.” 

            “Its use is purely medicinal, I assure you,” Daesha replied.  “It’s jasmine tea, after all.”  The blank look on his face told her all she needed to know.  “Jasmine is a plant native to Corellia.  When the leaves are dried and crushed, they’re made into a tea that helps with insomnia.  It’s a sleep aid.” 

            “I cannot understand why you would need any help sleeping.  The doctor promised to help you relax, did he not?” Scourge asked, sitting down beside her.  The look in his red eyes was mocking. 

            “We all know the way that Doc relaxes,” Daesha smirked.  “It’s not really the kind of celebration I had in mind after what just happened.  Killing dozens of people, the Emperor included, isn’t something that speaks to my libido.” 

            “Quite a pity.  It would have been interesting to hear something exciting around here,” Scourge replied, his mouth turning up slightly when Daesha spit out a mouthful of tea.  She wiped her mouth before giving him a disgusted look.  A moment passed before he spoke again.  “That was a joke, Jedi.” 

            “You’re in an awfully good mood tonight.  Why?”  Daesha asked, finishing her tea before his next answer. 

            Scourge shrugged, looking up at the holomap.  “This is a day I have waited lifetimes for.  To feel again, to see the world as others see it, to smell again…small miracles like those have been worth the wait,” he sighed deeply, turning to look at her. 

            “You are…free of the Emperor’s hold?” Daesha asked, a smile springing to her face. 

            “Yes,” Scourge replied.  He studied her face for several moments.  “I had forgotten what strange colors humans could have for eyes.”

            “I have yet to meet a human who has naturally red eyes,” Daesha shot back. 

            “No, I suppose not,” he agreed.  Reaching a hand out, he hesitatingly ran two fingers down one of her cheeks.  “Your skin is like…vinesilk,” he finally said. 

            Her cheeks reddening, Daesha turned her head away.  “I never would have thought of that comparison,” she chuckled nervously.  She looked up at the map, hoping to change the subject.  Sensing this, he moved his hand to her shoulder. 

            “You fought well today, Daesha.  We are all in your debt,” he said. 

            “It would have been impossible without your assistance,” Daesha reminded him.  “I wouldn’t have even known where to begin.  Where will you go, now that the Emperor is dead?”

 Scourge shrugged.  “I do not know at the moment.  This place is suffi-“

            “Will you wake up?” Kira muttered, shaking Daesha’s shoulders.  “We’re supposed to be landing in half an hour.”  Daesha blinked in surprise, thankful when Kira finally stopped shaking her.  “I’ve been comming you for almost ten minutes, but you wouldn’t wake up.”

            “I was dreaming,” Daesha mumbled, pushing up on her elbows. 

            “It must have been one hell of a dream for you not to answer five comms.  Who exactly was in this dream?” Kira grinned. 

            Daesha sat up and rolled her eyes.  “It wasn’t that kind of dream, Kira.  Just a…dream.  I can’t remember the last time I slept well enough to dream.” 

            “Well, don’t get used to it,” Kira laughed.  “After we land on Coruscant, we’re expected at the Senate in two hours.  You’d better get into the refresher before Doc does.  You know how long he takes.”

            “I’ll be quick, I promise,” Daesha replied.  “Thank you for waking me up.”

            “Anytime,” Kira smiled before slipping out the door.  Taking her advice, Daesha quickly found a clean pair of robes before hurrying out the door.  As she walked, her mind wouldn’t stop replaying her dream.  What would it be like, to see Scourge actually at peace?  As a Sith, she didn’t even know if he believed in peace. One of the foundations of their code was that peace was a lie.  But Daesha was a Jedi, and they did believe in peace.  She highly doubted that Scourge would ever actually join the Jedi, but if his curse could somehow be lifted, who would he become?  Wasn’t it the least he deserved, after all the help he had given her?  Daesha was so wrapped up in her thoughts that, as she rounded the corner to the refresher, she collided with the very subject of her thoughts.  His reflexes were quicker than hers today, because he caught hold of her upper arms before she could fall backwards.  “Quite distracted this morning, aren’t you, Jedi?” he asked. 

            Daesha stared straight at him, shielding her mind for all she was worth.  Summoning all her training to keep from looking away, she nodded.  “Yes, very distracted,” she said evenly. 

            His eyes narrowed suspiciously, his years as an interrogator coming into play.  “And what exactly has you distracted on such a glorious occasion?” he deadpanned.

            “Just a strange dream,” Daesha said, knowing that it would be pointless to lie.  Best to just gloss over the truth.  There was no need for him to know the content.  His hands tightened slightly on her arms, and he inclined his head.  He took a breath as if to speak again, but Daesha spoke first.  “If you will excuse me, I need to prepare for the Senate.”  She stepped out of his grasp.  “I will see you at the boarding ramp.”  Striding past him, she made sure to keep her gait unhurried.  She had no need to run away from him.  But even without looking back, Daesha could feel him watching her.