Aria left suddenly from the room, claiming she needed air when Yerbol knew his wife was bound to escape into the nearby wilderness. He hoped that she wouldn't get far enough away to where she couldn't make it back. A minute concern, yes, but now without any way to reach out to her, small, trifling worries that he dismissed under normal circumstances loomed large in his Force-stripped mind. He nodded at Revan's assertion that they would indeed "fix" whatever had happened to him, like he was one of the many droids that they had fought on Zakuul. Was that what the Force boiled down to? A component that could be taken out and reinserted as needed? His dealing with Illesia had shown him that one's connection to the Force could be altered, but with enough training, meditation and guidance, one could be restored to the Force. This vacuum of emptiness inside of him was completely different, potentially "unfixable' to use Revan's terminology.
"She'll be fine." He looked between the duo, sitting up stiffer only to wince at a shooting pain that cascaded down his ribs.
"Needs to probably process everything that's happened. Just like I need to." Blowing out a sigh, his shoulders slumped forward, eyes cast on the weight Revan had laid on a nearby end table.
"Of course." Yuno looked to his Master with a knowing glance, telling him:
"Master, I will await your return in the Meeting area. I believe that my research in this matter can finally be acted upon to defeat Vitiate. I shall summon a few others who can aid me in constructing what I believe might be a potential solution for Yerbol as well." With a nod, the Sith swept out of the room, stride hastily foreboding. Revan followed him, leaving the Champion alone with his thoughts. When he had a moment of solace such as the one granted to him now, he would try to slip into a meditative state, attune himself with the Force. Maybe if he tried...
He closed his eyes, taking deep, meaningful breaths. Yerbol could feel himself sinking deeper into the cot, almost as if he could slip through the furniture, into the planet's core, into-
He was brought back into the realm of consciousness by very concerned green eyes who was examining him closely.
"Asleep? I think so. Muttered a bit when I was sitting here, eyes closed. Were you expecting something else?" Swearing under his breath, he sat up, prompting yet another swear as the familiar rib pain greeted him.
"I was trying to meditate."
"Doesn't meditation normally look like sleep to us 'normal' folk?" He shot her a sideways glance, responding:
"Meditation when connected to the Force is a...surreal experience. One that isn't just resting the eyes for a nap." His tone was sharper than normal, softening slightly as he told her:
"I hate this, Neta."
"I know you do. Everything you've ever known just got suddenly, inexplicably ripped away from you. Got nothing except anger, desperation and hopelessness churning inside your gut...or something like that, right?" A half-hearted nod.
"Figured. Never had the Force myself, but...wait, did I ever tell you about the time I was a galactic fugitive? No?" Yerbol turned to face the pilot, his brow furrowed.
"I mean, Roan described you as a freelance mercenary that was former spec ops, but..."
"Ever wonder how I became 'former' spec ops?" In their entire relationship, not once did Yerbol question that label. Odd. He did remember something about a retirement...
"Didn't you just decide to retire?" The pilot snorted a chuckle, leaning back in the creaky wooden chair Aria had occupied before she left.
"Wish it had been that easy. Nope. Long story short, I was sent to a planet for a simple pop and lock."
"Pop and lock?" She chuckled again.
"Slang for retrieving an asset or cargo that the Republic wanted, then shutting down whatever or whoever would go after it. Anyway, I get deployed with my team and, come to find out, the 'asset' the Republic wanted was a team of Imperial scientists who were doing work on some mega-weapon. Problem was, these scientists hadn't contacted the Republic."
"You were sent in to kidnap them?"
"That's the long and short of it, yeah. Had a bad feeling about that op from the start, but no love lost for the Imperials, right?" She started twirling the ends of her hair, crimson locks wrapped around her index finger as she continued:
"We get to the planet, some backwater hole. Sneak through the security detail, get to the scientists in the base. About ready to tranq them with sedative when one of them sees us, panics, reaches under his lab coat. One of my squad is itchy, decides to shoot first. Sets off alarms, scientists are armed (of course), which means we scrap this thing and get outta there." A light sigh.
"Security detail we got by storm in, we get in a firefight. I manage to get a smoke grenade off, one team member and I sprinting back to our ship. Hit the ground with five of us, two leave alive. When we got back to base, Republic SIS commander brought us into her office and chewed us out for such a 'botched' operation. Apparently the Imperials found out about our failed kidnapping, wanted some kind of recompense in return or they were going to blow the whole thing up, which would have violated one of the five million temporary 'treaties of peace' we had entered into. Had two choices: get throw into prison by the Republic for life or allow myself to be surrendered to the Empire as a political POW."
"Both those options sound terrible."
"I thought so, too. Chose the second option to buy myself some time. Once they threw me in a holding cell, I broke out with a little help from a guard I knew and didn't look back. Had a few safehouses I could go to, raid supplies and then...well, I said 'kark it' and went freelance. If my government wanted to give me up over their screw up, then why should I be loyal to them, let alone submit to the Empire?" A snort.
"So then I get branded a fugitive by the Republic AND the Empire, which is probably why I got so many calls from the Sith to do their dirty work. Transporting prisoners, Dark Council members and the like along with security. I was an expendable cog that they could throw away, a gun without a purpose." She sat forward now, half-smiling as she took one of Yerbol's hands in hers.
"But what I had to do, Yerbol, was adapt. I knew that my entire life, my purpose had been stripped from me. I could have sat there, pouted and sulked, but that would have gotten me killed; instead, I chose to adapt, to embrace the discomfort I was experiencing. Yeah, it's terrible that this happened to you and I hurt for you, I really do, but you gotta do something to help take down this...guy, thing, whatever you're trying to kill this time."
"Ancient Sith entity..." Yerbol mumbled.
"Right, sure, whatever. Point is, you can STILL help, even without the Force."
"Well, you know how to use a blaster, right? And you're not a total moron when it comes to hand-to hand combat. Combine those two things along with some tutoring from me and you get to be a part of an infiltration team to take down...something. I can almost guarantee that we'll be asked to do something important to help and you, Champion, need to be ready to answer the call. Just like you always have." She gave his hand a squeeze.
"I believe in you, kid. I always have."
"Always?" She smirked.
"Ok, not ALWAYS. I mean, come on, the first time we met? Really? Some wide-eyed Jedi from Taris who was an emotional powder-keg?"
"Powder-keg is a bit of hyperbole." They shared a laugh, Neta withdrawing her hand as she rose just in time for Yuno to appear with Desun and Kyla behind him.
"We would like for you to join us in the Meeting area. There is much to discuss." Neta quickly looked to Yerbol with a trademark glint in her eye.
"What'd I tell ya?"
The Meeting area was the same room the Qyaari party had met Revan for the first time, although now in the middle of the room/area was a square shaped table that had holographic images of planets and datapoints plotted on those planets suspended right above it. The others had assembled around the table when Yerbol and Neta arrived, the Champion spotting his wife before sidling next to her, a hand planted on the small of her back as he looked down with a small smile. While this was not the time to be dwelling on such things, but when her dark, full eyes met his, there was a very big temptation to scoop her up in his arms and kiss her with a kind of passion that he didn't think possible without the Force. That, he felt, was an encouraging sign: their marriage wasn't based solely on their bond...or at least he hoped that was a sign.
He pushed aside the train of thought as Yuno spoke:
"Master Revan has allowed the Heralds to scout this part of the galaxy in search of ways to banish Vitiate completely."
"Uh, Yuno..." Ethan raised a hand meekly as he asked:
"Did you just say 'banish'? As in, make him 'not exist' any longer?" The Sith nodded.
"Indeed. Vitiate's existence has been embedded in the Force for so long that there is no conventional way to 'kill' him. We must, quite literally, excise him from this plane of existence." Ethan's brow shot up.
"To continue, what you see before you are three planets that Desun, Kyla and I have scouted as best as possible while avoiding detection from the Eternal Throne. These three locations were discovered through many an expedition to various moons surrounding them. True Sith artifacts, records and holo-logs were examined from these moons, the data extracted pointing to these planets as being extremely important."
"How so?" Yerbol's question was answered by Kyla, her light, airy voice responding:
"Each planet holds a very specific weapon created by the True Sith masters thousands of years ago. Each weapon has the ability to absorb one's Force energy."
"That's some crazy bantha sh-" Neta silenced the boy with a firm nudge as Desun picked up where his sister left off:
"The True Sith masters seemed to believe that these weapons would serve as a countermeasure to any one master throwing off the balance of the Force. In short, if one master became greedy for power, the others would retrieve the weapons and use them on the power-hungry individual." Yuno wrapped up the exposition:
"Force crystals are embedded in the hilt of each weapon that can store energy. How much is uncertain, but what we speculate is that if we use these three weapons against Vitiate, they can weaken him enough to where we can defeat him once and for all."
"But couldn't Vitiate remove himself from Arcann's body?"
"Not if he's weakened. Vitiate feeds on his host's Force energy. If the host is drained, then Vitiate will lose a valuable power source. We use these weapons, we have a chance."