Chapter Eleven: Expectations
Nar Shaddaa. A place of vices and the means to fulfill them. Tucked away, beneath the casinos and marketplaces that captured the attention of the usual tourists, was a particular shop known only to a few particular figures. Nondescript. No vibrant neon signs announcing its presence. No accompaniment of Hutt enforcers guarding its borders. Just a plain door that led to a small waiting room from the shadowed passageways of the seedy ecumenopolis exterior.
Within the quaint waiting room, a single figure sat. Young. Human. Male. Garbed in a vibrant red coat over a simplistic set of battle armor. Vai Thorel. Sitting. Waiting. Legs crossed, arms neatly folded upon his lap with a content smile across his face as his gaze politely panned across the empty room. His scanning ceased when a door deeper within the shop opened up and a woman stepped through. Dressed with an exotic regality, fine white clothes wrapped around and flowed from her body, an enticing amount of pink flesh remaining uncovered. The length of her deep purple hair was restrained in a well-kept braid, taking care not to hide a single portion of her soft, yet mature face whilst also giving her an overarching sense of decorum.
Thorel raised himself from his seat just to bow his head in respect to the Zeltron woman. “Matron. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine,” the Matron warmly replied. “I must say, our Sith clientele are usually much older… and much less handsome.”
Thorel let a soft chuckle out of his growing smile. “That’s kind of you to say, though to be honest I am here on behalf of my master, who is much older… but only slightly less handsome.”
“Well, a pleasant face is always welcome here,” the Matron stated. “Now, did your master convey our policies to you?”
“I’m afraid I’ve only the barest of details, but there is something in particular he is looking for. Something quite specific.”
“I see. Well, let us see if we can satisfy his desire.” The Matron offered a dip of her head as she beckoned for the apprentice to follow her.
Passing the threshold of the door she had first entered in, the two walked amidst the tight halls of the shop's interior. The matron lead Thorel as they traversed the constricting corridor in a single-file line. On either side of the advancing duo, a series of doors led to unmarked rooms set an equal distance apart from one another. Judging by the gap between them, the apprentice surmised that behind each rest only a single, isolated chamber.
“It is important that you and your master know that we are in the business of, not products, but services,” the Matron explained as she walked and talked. “The companions have been conditioned to serve particular needs, but they must be returned in satisfactory condition. Stay within the guidelines of your contract and you will be afforded the chance for longer periods of use, greater sovereignty, multiple companions, up to five for trusted patrons. If they are lost or if they are broken, you will be subject to penalties and limitations upon subsequent visits. Are you following so far?”
“Yes, very much so,” Thorel stated. “However, my master is interested in a… permanent arrangement.”
“You must understand that we do not readily part with a companion under such circumstances,” the Matron declared.
“I understand,” Thorel replied. “But my master is not without resources. Credits and manpower. I’m sure that we can reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
“We may. What are some of the particulars your master is interested in. Boy? Girl?”
“Girl,” Thorel answered. “Twi’lek. Purple or violet skin tone. Around ten years old.”
“You weren’t kidding about wanting something specific,” the Matron joked. “I’m not sure we have a companion that could satisfy your specifications.”
“Really? No one?” Thorel asked, a seeming disappointment in his voice.
The Matron paused, slightly dipping her head. “Well, there is a girl… a new arrival. She’s not yet been raised to the standards we come to expect from our companions.”
“Then perhaps you’ll be more open to making a permanent arrangement,” Thorel offered. “Well pay full price, and take her off your hands.”
“More than credits, we value the integrity of our business,” the Matron explained. “We cannot allow word to propagate that we allowed an unsatisfactory arrangement to be made.”
“I understand. However, I think if I could meet her, I could make a proper judgment on behalf of my master.”
Vai Thorel once more found himself sitting alone in a compact room, one even barer than the first. Unadorned floor, ceiling, and walls. Two chairs set upon opposite sides of a single table. The apprentice had expected multiple targets fitting the description Tash had given him, but it would seem there was only one. He hadn’t yet decided whether the current situation would prove to be an easier or more difficult recruitment.
After a few minutes of silence, the door opened across from him, revealing the Matron and a young Twi’lek girl standing in front of her. Softly, the woman guided the girl into the room by her shoulders until all three occupied the small area. The girl kept her head low, more out of submissiveness than discomfort.
“Hello, mister,” the girl softly muttered.
Thorel offered a comforting smile before raising his gaze toward the Matron. “Might we have a few moments alone, please?” The woman tried to hide her trepidation, but the slight tilt of her head revealed her hesitance. The apprentice raised both of his hands, flashing his empty palms. “Don’t worry. Just want a little chat.”
The matron offered a subtle nod of her head before vacating the room, shutting the door behind her. Now, only the Human and young Twi’lek remained. The child remained standing in place, unable to budge physically or mentally, adamant in her current position. Reaching his foot beneath the table, Thorel nudged the chair across from him slightly away.
“Please, have a seat,” Thorel directed, voice soft and inviting. The girl was hesitant, but eventually followed the directive, hopping into the seat across from the Human. The Twi’lek kept her head low whilst the apprentice continued to study her. The room was consumed by silence. Seconds passed, perhaps even minutes, with neither of the two figures uttering a word. The silence was only broken when the Sith reached below the table and returned with a lightsaber in his hand. Slowly, he placed it in the middle of the surface resting between the man and the girl.
“Do you know what that is?” Thorel asked. Silence, but the Twi’lek did lift her head to briefly gaze upon the metallic hilt. “That’s okay. You don’t have to answer, you can just listen. How is it, you suppose, that you came to be here? Not this room, mind you, but this place, with these people. What exactly, are you? Alien? Child? Slave? No, not a slave. That’s what you’ve told yourself, no? Slaves wear chains. Slaves are bought and sold to be gawked at by gluttonous crime lords. Slaves are powerless. But here, it’s almost as if you’re afforded some semblance of power. Of control. The Matron sets arrangements that even the most powerful figures fear to betray. She holds power over those with wants, desires, and needs. But she and she alone holds that power, doesn’t she? You don’t have to be a slave to be bound. You don’t have to wear chains to be shackled. True freedom only comes to those who take it. And the only people who are capable of taking it… are Sith.”
Looking upon the item placed between herself and the Human, the girl’s eyes widened as the lightsaber began to lift itself from the surface until it was hovering of its own accord. Raising her gaze, the Twi’lek saw the Sith effortlessly eyeing the floating weapon, controlling it with his mind.
“How familiar are you with your lineage?” Thorel asked, still focused on the lightsaber. “Does the name Jerok’arra mean anything to you? That is the name of your great grandfather. That is the name… of a powerful Sith. Many years ago, a young Twi’lek stumbled into Imperial space, long before we had revealed ourselves to the galaxy. He should have been killed, and yet he survived. Because he had something within him. A gift. A special power. He had turned his back on his past to train in the ways of the Sith. And despite being… accused of spying for the Republic, he would eventually rise to a place of prominence. He would understand true freedom. He could not, unfortunately, afford that understanding to his descendants. You may have fallen back into the chains imposed by lesser beings, but you have the potential to raise yourself to where Jerok’arra once stood. To surpass him, even. We, and we alone, know that within you rests the same power he had. But the first step toward uncovering that power, is to come with me, to an Academy where you can be trained in the ways of the Sith. Is that something you would want?”
The Twi’lek continued to stare at the lightsaber. She had never been asked that question. She had never thought to truly contemplate her own wants and desires. Slowly, she extended her hand, attempting to take hold of the hovering item. As she reached to grasp at the metallic cylinder, the apprentice released his control of it, allowing it to drop into her hands. She caressed the weapon, studying its every curve and contour. Admiring its magnificence.
“Someday you’ll hold in your hands one of your very own,” Thorel declared. “There is, of course, the matter of convincing the matron to release you into our custody. Though she is the one who controls you, she has inadvertently given you the tools to secure your own freedom. She has taught you the value of the facade. The face. That lightsaber, it is but only one means to accomplish a goal. The spoken word, when trusted, is the most powerful weapon of all. Now, are you ready to depart?”
The Twi’lek nodded, and politely handed the apprentice back his lightsaber. The two exited the room, one right after the other, into the presence of the Matron. Thorel was all smiles and seemed extremely satisfied with his conversation with the girl. The Twi’lek adopted a serene demeanor, one of utter dedication and duty. The apprentice offered his own set of terms for the release of the girl into his custody. The girl gave no impression of the knowledge she had gleaned from the Sith over the course of their conversation. The two, working in tandem, were able to secure the Twi’lek permanent release.
Thorel and the girl walked side by side amongst the higher levels of Nar Shaddaa. The Twi’lek gazed upon the lights and sign for one last time as she followed the apprentice back to his shuttle. Arlia was heading for the Academy.