Chapter Eighteen: Happenings
Lorrik and Jresh had lived a full, eventful day. For once, Jresh had no aversion to a little bit of rest for himself and his companion. The two acolytes filled out the remainder of their day with tasks of the mundane. Lorrik did a little bit of light cooking. Jresh studied his partner’s action and reflected upon his own thoughts. Their day continued with little in the way of intrigue. But whilst the duo rested, the rest of the Academy remained constantly in motion.
At the requisitions counter in the bowels of the Academy, the quartermaster unwrapped a boxed meal in front of him. The Human lifted the white folds of the flexible container and laid his eyes upon the delicious foodstuffs that rested inside the unremarkable box. Using the disposable utensil that came with the meal, the quartermaster poked and prodded the various foods inside, examining what rested beside and underneath each item. Stabbing at one of the round balls of dough, the quartermaster skewered the sweet dumpling. The Human’s usually dulled expression changed to a pleasant surprise as he took a bite.
“What are you eating?” an approaching Human asked. Stopping in front of the quartermaster, the tender of the counter looked up to see his twin brother, the weapons master. The two Humans matched each other in overall appearance, including image and demeanor. The two tenders of the Academy underhalls were still in their youth, resting between the typical student and typical instructor in age.
“Don’t know,” the quartermaster admitted. “Some kind of cooked dough. Tastes sweet. Everything here looks sweet. Not sure the guy knows how to make anything but deserts and sweet stuffs.”
“The one I sent to you to get me my saber.”
“Oh, the one you sent with the… uh… messed up face?”
“I thought he got those bruises after meeting with you.”
“Nope, came to me asking for your weapon, bleeding all over my workplace.”
“You work next to the dueling circles, it was meant to be bled all over.”
“Beside the point. Made me think you had beaten one of the students into doing your errands.”
“He wasn’t just another student. Didn’t you see his robes? Better yet, didn’t you recognize his face when he and his fellows got their personal training sabers?”
“Again… messed up face. Plus, I make a point to never commit any of the students to long term memory. If I did, I’d just end up holding grudges against the majority of punks that came my way.”
“The students that intolerable?”
“Well you know them. They’re not any different over here are they?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Thank the Emperor, I thought being near the dueling circles gave them a case of the stupids.”
“Come on, we were young once. Students who had the same indignant attitude toward everyone around us on our journey to ‘power’.”
“Then we got stuck with these positions.”
“Better than being dead, which in all likelihood was a very real possibility for us.”
“At least we have access to Academy supplies, even all the way down here,” the quartermaster admitted, taking another bite of his meal.
“Speaking of which, how do you like your saber?” the weapons master inquired.
“Haven’t really had a chance to test it out. Been stuck here. How’s progress on yours coming along?”
“Went back to the drawing board, did some redesigns, thinking of doing something different.”
“Why would you pick a different design? I thought we were going to both try using a lightsaber pike.”
“Well, I was messing around with yours before your lackey came to pick it up, and it didn’t really suit my combat style.”
“That wasn’t the point. When do we ever have to actually combat anything. I thought we were just doing it to stand out. Keep ourselves entertained. Be different.”
“Now you’re the only one here with one. You’re unique.”
“I don’t want to be unique. I wanted us to be unique. Now I’m just going to be the target of all the snide comments over an unorthodox lightsaber.”
“Oh, so if we both were the targets of snide comments, it would have been totally okay…”
“Yes! We would be brothers, using these awesome weapons.”
“Which we wouldn’t actually be using.”
“No, wait, that was MY point.”
“Well, for now, at least you’ll have something in common with the Imperial Guardsmen stationed throughout the Academy. Although, from what I’ve noticed, only the honor guard seem to use pikes. The ones who actually fight use something more resembling a double-ended saberstaff.”
“Great, that’s all I need is flak from those guys. ‘Oh take our ceremonial weapon and put a laser on the end of it’.”
“You seriously think that’s how those guys view our lightsabers?” the weapons master inquired.
“They’re not Force-sensitive. There’s got to be some strange feelings amongst them whilst they dedicate their lives defending the Dark Council and all the students running around the Academy.”
“Yeah, but they're conditioned to throw away their lives for us ‘betters’. They might take it as a sign of respect. Usher in a brand new venture in peaceful relations between us Force-sensitives and the ‘normals’.”
“Those guys are anything but normal. I mean they’re trained to kill anything, even Sith. They’re the Emperor’s chosen.”
“That’s a shame. They have every reason to feel superior, and yet they’re quiet and obedient. Wish that was the norm around here.”
“Just ignore the troublesome students, I mean, honestly, what can they do beyond offering an ungrateful comment here and there. Ignoring the actual status of the lower classrooms, we still technically outrank the acolytes, so they're bound by the Academy rules. And not the ones that go away once everyone closes their eyes and turns their heads,” the quartermaster explained, mouth full of food.
“So there’s obviously a story with this food…” the weapons master prodded.
“Yeah, made a deal with an acolyte, Lorrik, you know, one of the students Lord Syrosk snatched up. Nice guy. You’d like him. Doesn’t do that think those other acolytes do.”
“Yeah, that. At least, from my conversations with him. He wanted some extra supplies beyond the allotted provisions. Says he interested in cooking. He fetched me my saber and promised to make a meal once in a while. And if this is what he can do with the typical stuff, I can’t wait to see what he makes with some nonstandard ingredients.”
“So it’s come to this. We’re so dissatisfied with our jobs that we’re getting our kicks out of something as menial as new foodstuffs every once in a while.”
“If you’d like I could ask him to make you some,” the quartermaster suggested. The weapons master stared at his brother with a long, drawn out stare that bordered on a scowl. He eventually looked down with a heavy sigh.
“Fine. Might as well get something out of him, before… well, you know…”
“Taken by a Sith Lord or not… no one leaves the classrooms…”
With the day fading into night, the students of Lord Syrosk retired as they completed their training. Following the departure of Jresh and Lorrik, the other pairs repeated the exercise of spirit, throwing themselves at their immobile master who bombarded them with oppressing telekinetic forces. With only three of the four duos remaining, the Sith Lord’s focus intensified, bringing his students to their knees in no time at all, and forcing them to draw upon even greater strength than before.
The next pair to succeed was Isorr and Arlia. The Zabrak endured his master’s test, and eventually laid hands on Syrosk with the aid of his partner. The next to succeed was Kar’ai and Ryloh, the two inching forward together with one advancing after the next and supporting one another along the way. Eventually, through strife and perseverance, Nesk and Vurt completed the challenge. With no visible signs of the duo helping one another, it appeared that the brutal warrior and inquisitor moved forward of their own accord, utterly selfish in their determination, each simultaneously laying a hand on their watching master.
What would have normally prompted a scolding from their master for not accomplishing a goal in the prescribed way, was accepted without a word. In the end, Syrosk could not deny the success of the stubborn pair. The purpose of the challenge was to test the students’ spirit and resolve, and it was thoroughly tested. As the last duo left his presence, Syrosk stood amongst the slowly falling Korriban sun. His cloak slowly wafted in the flowing winds, tickled by the dust that swirled beneath him. In silence matching the scenery, the Sith Lord walked the winding path back toward the Academy by his lonesome.
Passing through the main halls of the Academy toward his residence, the alien Lord possessed a pace similar to that of a sluggish march. His eyes eternally directed forward, he offered little attention to the Imperial officers and fellow Sith that populated the areas near his dwelling. Garnering little esteem from his compatriots, Syrosk possessed little incentive for conversation. About to turn down a hall, a hastily approaching figure managed to catch his attention.
“Syrosk!” the borderline exhausted Human called out, drifting between certainty and hesitance. The Sith Lord halted his pace, and directed his sharp gaze toward the speaker. He was garbed in official robes, those of one of the Academy instructors.
“Yes, can I help you?” Syrosk stoically asked.
“Are you aware of the actions your students’ have recently carried out in my classroom?” the Human inquired, bordering on an accusatory tone.
“That all depends on your definition of ‘aware’, however, given your tone I can only assume you disapprove of some of the actions taken by my student’s during their free time. Am I correct in assuming such?”
The instructor’s face twisted into a thing of hate, nostrils flaring as he stared up into the alien’s cold eyes. “They never should have been pulled from the classrooms in the first place, but one of your students you took from us returned!”
“So which is it instructor? Should they be there or not?” Syrosk asked, raspy voice oozing with snark. “You really ought to make up your mind.”
“Do not get smart with me cur!” the Human said with a hushed shout. “You have no right to be here. You have no right to interfere.”
“What’s done is done,” Syrosk bluntly stated. “I have no further interest in yours or the other classrooms in the underhalls.”
“Really? Because that obviously isn’t true of your new students.”
“Well… this does, in fact, come as a surprise,” Syrosk admitted, almost taking an interest in the instructor’s words. “Well, go ahead and speak your mind.”
“One of your students, the Pureblood, barged into my classroom in the middle of a session.”
“You certainly had the power to make an example of him, did you not?”
“He spoke to me, said he was acting as an agent of a Sith Lord’s will, said that he needed some alone time with a student of mine. At first, I didn’t recognize his robes…”
“Are you implying that a Sith spoke a mistruth? Surely you jest, instructor,” Syrosk joked, completely deadpan.
“The actions of you and your new ‘students’ are a mockery of this institution!”
“It is not us who are the mockery,” Syrosk coldly rasped. “Pray tell, what exactly did my student accomplish after you bent yourself to his will out of fear of retaliation from some unknown Lord?”
“He deliberately beat down four students.”
“Then honestly, instructor, I am not comprehending the source of your contiguous ire.”
“There are rules in place. And as bendable as those rules are, it is done in ways founded in tradition. It is not the place of an acolyte to strike against his fellow in front of an instructor.”
“I was under the impression that you were absent during the event.”
“He informed me that-”
Syrosk leaned in close. “So which was it instructor… were you an imbecile, or a coward? You either fell victim to a ruse out of ignorance or fear. Tell me, do you know the reason why your students were assaulted? Hmm? I wager toward the option of no, you did not. You made a bad judgment, don’t act as if you are owed anything from me, whether it be an apology or an explanation. My student showed capability. He showed strength defeating four acolytes. He show intelligence outwitting an instructor. He showed determination following through with these actions of his own accord, on his free time, after his training for the day had finished. Tell me, what is it that you truly feel? Is it anger? Fear? That I plucked a student from the sea of utter worthlessness that persists in the classrooms of you and the other instructors? That within a few days my student has progressed to a point of overshadowing anything you could produce? Is it my student that you take issue with? Or is it me? Raging against the mere prospect that some alien, some debased life form that hasn’t been ‘touched by the great Sith peoples’, is capable of creating something of greatness? Tell me.”
“These students were never meant for greatness! And you knew that! These classrooms, these teachings, they served a specific purpose. These acolytes, they weren’t meant to be true Sith. They are tools. Meant to be utilized by a Sith of actual worth. They had a specific purpose, to be used against the Jedi. To throw their lives away. Aliens. Slaves. Impurities. Blights on the good name of the Sith Empire. Then you came along and start pulling ‘warriors’ and ‘inquisitors’ from the refuse. You are actively working against the war effort-”
The instructor’s speech was immediately cut off. He felt an unseen force softly clenching itself around his throat. Slowly, the pressure spread to his torso. Then his limbs. The instructor found himself unable to move a single portion of his body, all while the Sith Lord continued to cast an intense stare into his eyes.
“The war… what do you know of the war?” Syrosk muttered, showing the first, but still slight, sign of emotion. His voice growled and his eyes sharpened. “You dare speak to me of rules and traditions? You’ve done nothing but walk around this Academy, pushing students toward their inevitable deaths. You are weak, and take solace in the fact that the only people you encounter on a daily basis are even weaker than yourself. All it took was one individual, one student, to display a genuine feat of strength and the fragile world you’ve built for yourself comes crumbling down. And as you look at the shards that lie piled at your feet, you don’t know how to respond. All you know is fear. Fear of strength. Fear of power. You… you are not Sith. I have seen the past, through the code, through the histories, through the struggles. I have seen the present, through the battlefield, through the conflict, through the war. I have seen the future… You and your kin have your intentions. Now, I possess my own. I am doing what is best for the Sith. What is best for the Empire. Now, if in the future, you wish to challenge me or my students again, gather yourself some actual fortitude and actually CHALLENGE us!”
Syrosk released his grip on the instructor, causing him fall forward and struggle to catch his breath. Breathing heavily and clutching at his chest, the instructor snarled as Lord Syrosk continued his journey home.