Chapter Eight: Relics
Lorrik opened his eyes to find himself no longer within his apartment. He now stood on familiar, yet unfamiliar ground. The skies above and dirt blow suggested a Korriban landscape, but the exact spot he had never laid eyes upon before. The sky was still. No wind blew. Everything was silent. The inquisitor had been transported to the top of a rocky plateau, overlooking the surrounding bareness of the orange planet.
But what immediately caught the Human’s attention, was that he found himself standing in the shadow of three towering statues. Lining the opposite half of the plateau, three figures carved from stone looked upon him with their frozen gazes. The left statue was of a lithe figure, garbed in heavy robes that concealed much of its body. But its face was that of a Sith, tendrils and spurs sprouting from its cheeks and brow. The right statue was that of a larger, stockier figure. A warrior, clad only in a loincloth and battle-harness crossing its torso. Its unadorned face exhibited Sith traits much like its opposite, and in fact appeared to be the natural basis for the guardian Jresh had battled in the tomb.
The center statue stood taller than its neighbors, a magnificent representation of a Human aware of his own stature. Though he still did not know his name, Lorrik recognized the form. Before he could study his surroundings or his place within them further, the inquisitor’s attention was drawn straight ahead as a figure began to materialize at the foot of the center statue. The figure condensed until it was completely corporeal, an image without errors or flaw. An image of the holocron’s creator, more realistic than the real thing.
And yet Lorrik knew the figure and all his surroundings were a fabrication. A construct. But one of such detail that it astounded the inquisitor, whose last mental venture offered nothing but a white void. Alone within unfamiliar territory, the inquisitor found himself stricken with wonder, rather than worry or fear. The materialized figure that stood before him cast his stoic gaze upon the intruder.
“This one is the keeper of the holocron. What is your purpose?” he asked in monotonous fashion. The keeper offered a clearer image of the relic’s owner, a man in simplistic black robes that hid his body. His head was shaved and his face was cold, but there was little in the way of presence Lorrik expected of one of the first Dark Jedi to step foot on Korriban.
“I seek the knowledge held within this holocron,” Lorrik emphatically stated, not entirely certain how to converse with the keeper. From what the inquisitor knew of holocrons, the figure that stood before him acted as the interface between himself and whatever secrets the relic’s creator hid within. A program, but more than a simple artificial intelligence. Any Force-user that goes through the effort to create a holocron leaves a bit of themselves with it, a fraction of their psyche to act as a gatekeeper. An advisor. A judge.
“This one requires clarification. What knowledge do you seek?” the keeper asked in the same monotonous tone. There was no life within the figure, he was driven only by the set of instructions left to him by his creator.
“Oh, you know. Secret teachings. Techniques. Powers. Histories. Tales. Lessons. Errata and the like,” the inquisitor jokingly listed.
“This one requires clarification. Please make a specific inquiry,” the keeper clarified, steadfast in his presentation.
“Hey, you asked, I answered. Not my fault if you take everything seriously,” Lorrik muttered.
“This one requires clarification. Please repeat.”
“That wasn’t a… I wasn’t being…” Lorrik stammered.
“This one requires-“
“Yes, I know!” Lorrik shouted at the figure, still steadfast in his neutral stance and monotonous verbiage.
Whatever part of himself the holocron’s creator infused into the relic, it wasn’t one concerned with convenience. The inquisitor groaned and ran his hands through his hair. Lorrik found himself no closer to uncovering whatever knowledge rest within the artifact whilst the keeper continued to batter his senses, bringing about an increasing discomfort.
“Stop. Reset.” Lorrik directed, holding out his hands for emphasis, not entirely sure it would even have an effect. The keeper fell silent, staring off into the distance before reaffirming his gaze toward the inquisitor.
“This one is the keeper of the holocron. What is your purpose?”
Lorrik let out a bellowing sigh as he dipped his head, carefully searching for the right words.
Back within the confines of the apartment, Jresh had emerged from his shower. Stepping into the living area, the only covering he possessed was a black towel wrapped around his waist, Imperial insignia sewn into the cloth with trademark red fibers. His torso exposed, few blemishes graced his crimson flesh, most of his surface wounds appearing to have healed.
“Lorrik, I sensed something peculiar in-“ Jresh began as he saw his companion sitting at his desk. His speech drifted to silence as when saw the Human holding the acquired holocron within his hands, continuous streams of electricity arcing from his fingertips to the relic.
“Lorrik,” Jresh repeated, trying to get his attention. But the inquisitor offered no response.
The warrior took a cautious step toward his partner, slowly placing a hand upon his shoulder. Still no reaction. The Pureblood began to worry as he sensed something missing within his partner, as if he wasn’t whole. As hard as he tried, Jresh could not get a firm grasp on his companion's mind. He sensed no emotion, no thoughts, only emptiness. But more than emptiness. Nothingness. A void, created through displacement. Jresh realized that though Lorrik sat right in front of him, he wasn’t there.
Jresh slowly removed his hand from his partner’s shoulder before stepping away. He turned his attention to the meditation mat in the center of the living area. Kneeling, the Pureblood closed his eyes and focused his thoughts. Though Lorrik’s mind seemed elsewhere, the bond between him and Jresh still remained. Calling upon that bond, the warrior meditated. Though for the first time, he searched outward, rather than inward.
The Pureblood’s senses grew dark as he pushed out everything of insignificance. He reached out with his mind, searching for where his companion’s had gone. The warrior traversed unfamiliar territory, unsure of how to accomplish the task he had set for himself. He wasn’t entirely sure what that task was in the first place.
As he meditated, Jresh sensed something peculiar. There was a void amidst the darkness. And yet, that void distinguished itself from the surrounding emptiness. There was a barrier, beyond which rest something of substance. The warrior concentrated his efforts in pushing past that barrier, searching, wading through something darker than darkness. And eventually, he managed pierce that veil.
Jresh slowly peeled back the layers of darkness, cracks of light beginning to shine through. The cracks widened and stretched, until the shadows were no more. Regaining control of his senses, the warrior found himself standing atop a mountainous plateau, basking under the Korriban sun. Three statues graced the opposite side of the mesa, a robed figure standing in front of them, and in front of him an annoyed inquisitor sat upon the ground, face buried in his hands.
“This one is the keeper of this holocron. What is your purpose?” the robed figure asked once more.
“Oh don’t tell me we’re back to this,” Lorrik muttered. Lifting his gaze, the inquisitor noticed that the keeper had turned his attention elsewhere. Turning his head, he saw his companion standing somewhat dumbfounded behind him. “Jresh? What are you doing here? And where are your clothes?”
The Pureblood looked down to see that his mental representation reflected his physical form, naked aside from the towel wrapped around his waist.
“I just stepped out of the shower. I saw you with the holocron, and… well, you seemed a little out of it,” Jresh stated, a slight bashfulness slipping past his usual stoicism.
“Well, if we're being technical, I’d say I was quite literally in it,” Lorrik declared as he lifted himself from the ground.
“You mean… we’re inside the holocron right now?”
“Our minds are,” Lorrik nonchalantly explained, turning his back on the robed figure. “How did you get here? I had to practically push my way in.”
“I did as well. At least, I think I did,” Jresh admitted. “I was worried when I couldn’t sense your mind. Considering our newfound bond, I considered that troublesome. But it was because of that bond that I was able to eventually find my way here.”
“So you were able to use your connection to me to replicate my connection to the holocron and bring your mind in alongside mine… that’s awesome!” Lorrik exclaimed. The inquisitor’s momentarily high spirits were cut short as he noticed the keeper continuing its robotic chattering a short distance away. Letting out a low groan, Lorrik began to rub his forehead in frustration.
“Is everything… okay?” Jresh asked. “Are you trapped here? Are we trapped here?”
“No. At least… I don’t think so, I haven’t exactly tried to ‘leave’ yet,” Lorrik explained, no sense of alarm in his voice, only quaint exhaustion. “Been trying to deal with this guy.”
Jresh watched his partner jut his thumb toward the stern figure that was now patiently staring them down. “And who is that, exactly?”
“Well, typically, holocrons have a ‘gatekeeper’, a sort of Force-infused artificial intelligence that serves as the layer between a user and the item’s contents. Thing is, they’re supposed to come out of the holocron, we’re not supposed to go in,” Lorrik declared. “It’s all very interesting. And peculiar. But mostly interesting. Also, a little frustrating. I honestly think I got better results dealing with the spirit.”
“You want me to punch this one too?” Jresh asked, almost cracking a smile.
“Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think brute force will get us anywhere here,” Lorrik stated, his spirits once again raised by his partner’s presence. “I need to use finesse.”
“Finesse does not preclude direct action,” Jresh advised.
“I tried being direct. This whole thing feels less like an ancient relic and more like a datapad that refuses to read my datacard,” Lorrik mused. The pair fell silent as they stood atop the plateau, unsure how to proceed. The Pureblood scratched his chin as he pondered the situation, thinking of some way to aid his companion.
“You said this man is the holocron’s gatekeeper?” Jresh asked.
“Well, he just calls himself the ‘keeper’, but he should serve the same role,” Lorrik explained.
“A gatekeeper guards access to something. But if you’re in the holocron, wouldn’t that mean you’ve already been granted access,” Jresh stated. The inquisitor perked up, eyes wide as if a great revelation had been laid upon him.
“That’s it! Jresh, you’re a genius,” Lorrik exclaimed as he wrapped his arms around the Pureblood, squeezing him tightly. The warrior tensed within his partner’s embrace. Even if it wasn’t a true contact between their physical forms, their mental representations touching one another felt real enough. Lorrik released his grip and took a step back, hanging his head in embarrassment but still giddy with his newfound knowledge. “I’ve been going about this all wrong. I guess my head was in the wrong place, figuratively speaking. Then again, it doesn’t help that I seem to be physically and mentally exhausted…”
“You’re forced to maintain a physical connection to ensure a mental one,” Jresh stated. “If you overstay your welcome, it’ll completely drain you.”
“Things just keep getting more interesting,” Lorrik declared, completely ignoring the prospect of danger. “This is more than just some repository of knowledge. It has a hidden purposes, hidden agendas known only to its creator. I have so many questions… and I intend to find some answers.”
“Just be careful,” Jresh advised. “It’s one thing to overexert your body. There’s no telling what could happen to you in here.”
“I’ll be fine. I always ere on the side of caution.”
Jresh playfully balked. “Always?”
“Okay, not always. But I got this, you’ll just have to trust me.”
“Alright, I'll trust you,” Jresh admitted. “If you want, I could stay here, make sure everything goes okay.”
“That’s kind of you to offer, but I kind of find it hard to stay focused with a half-naked Sith Pureblood by my side,” Lorrik joked.
“I’m sure if I concentrated I could alter my appearance.”
“No, it's quite okay. You’ve already given me all that I need. Get some rest, I just want to try a few things before I'm done here. If I’m not back to normal in a few hours, I give you full permission to come in and drag me out of here.”
The warrior offered a firm nod of his head as the inquisitor turned his attention to the silent keeper. Jresh took one final look around at the remarkable landscape the holocron had constructed for itself before closing his eyes. After a few moments of concentration, he opened them, finding himself once more kneeling within the apartment’s living area.
Lifting himself from the meditation mat, Jresh saw Lorrik still connected to the relic within his hands. Conflicting emotions brewed within the warrior’s head, but he knew that he had to give his companion the same trust that had been imparted upon him. The Pureblood placed a gentle, comforting hand upon the Human’s shoulder before retiring to his own bedroom.
Back within the fabricated reality of the holocron, Lorrik approached the relic’s keeper, offering only a stern, determined gaze deep into the eyes of the robed figure. He, in turn, offered the usual cold look back to the inquisitor.
“This one is the keeper of the holocron. What is your purpose?”
Lorrik now knew that he had nothing to prove. He had already passed the test and gained access to the holocron’s contents. His mind was within the relic. All that surrounded him was a fabrication, a mere luxury, an attempt to deter the cognitive dissonance that would prevail in lesser minds. Lorrik knew that he could directly access whatever knowledge the artifact held if he chose to exert the willpower. But he also knew the nature of its creator. More appropriately, he knew next to nothing about him, only that he was conflicted, contradictory, and enigmatic. For all he knew, attempting to dig deeper would yield a threat to his mind on par with that of the Massassi. And even as he continued to ponder, he felt the exhausting influence brought about by his continued connection to the relic.
“Inquiry. What is the name of this holocron’s creator?” Lorrik asked, firm in his tone.
“This one does not possess adequate information on this topic,” the keeper replied. Despite the lack of information, it was an answer. Lorrik was making progress.
“Inquiry. What is the current age of this holocron?”
“This one does not possess adequate information on this topic.”
The inquisitor rubbed his chin, keeping his frustration in check. “Inquiry. List all topics available to keeper.”
The robed figure didn’t offer an immediate answer, staring off into the distance as it processed the inquiry. “This one has knowledge on one hundred and thirty eight topics. Would you like a full listing?”
Lorrik’s eyes sharpened as he stared down the robed figure. “Yes.”