"I'll… I'll put in your requests at once, my lord," said the dutiful Imperial. The uniformed woman took a step away from the burned Sith, datapad cradled in her arms, eventually disappearing into the rear folds of the Executor base.
With a brazen smile upon his face, Asher turned to face his partners, who offered only their silent judgment.
"Looks like our new home's getting some upgrades," said Asher, oozing with accomplishment.
"Hopefully Syrosk doesn't take them all away when he gets back," Graves replied.
"It's all for the good of the organization, right?" Asher casually stated. "Besides, the officer didn't offer any objections."
"That's probably because she was approached by a charred Sith in blood-soaked wrappings," said Fay. Asher's eyes went wide as he brought a finger to his mouth. Prodding the material beneath his nose, he noticed that they possessed a copious amount of dried blood wrought from his previously busted nose.
"Oh..." Asher muttered. "Does it look stupid or menacing?"
"Does it really matter?"
The burned Sith looked around before leaning in close to his partners, whispering, "I don't want to look bad in front of the Imperials."
"You care about what they think?" Fay asked.
"He cares about what everyone thinks," said Graves.
"Shut up. No I don't," Asher mumbled.
"Do you care about what we think?" asked Fay.
Asher ducked his gaze. "We have to work together. You two are different."
"So is that a yes, or a no?" Fay pressed.
Asher averted his gaze, crossing his arms. "Well…"
The burned Sith was cut off by a harsh chirp emanating from the room's central holoterminal. The motions about the cramped headquarters went into overdrive as the officers and coordinators swarmed around the terminal.
"We're getting a distress signal!" one of the attendants called out. Another of the uniformed Imperials rushed to the central terminal's controls, inputting a series of quick commands. All errant information was purged from the three-dimensional display above the device and it was slowly replaced with maps and ship diagnostics.
"It's the freighter X1 is stationed aboard," another voice called out.
"Open a secure channel," a female instructed, instantly firm in her delivery. Pushing her way past her fellows, the datapad-carrying Imperial from before approached the holoterminal, a determined glint in her eyes. She was composed, even in the face of trouble, marking her demeanor as more than simple Imperial conditioning.
Meanwhile, the three Sith stood near the chamber's entrance, watching the small collective of officers rigorously tend to their duties. Amidst the ordered chaos, amidst the constant motion and flow, they were stilled, wearing dumfounded expressions upon their faces.
"Syrosk is probably still in the building… should I go get him?" Fay asked of no one in particular.
"We can handle things ourselves, my lord," the woman replied, balancing candor with respect, eyes glued to the blooming stream of data being projected. The image of a stock Imperial freighter appeared above the terminal, a sturdy, stocky vessel designed for the transportation of cargo. Limited offensive or defensive capabilities. The current stream of data spoke of even greater limitations.
"Channel secured," a man called out from one of the wall-bound terminals. "Communications opened."
The maps and models above the central holoterminal parted, giving room to the image of the freighter's primary pilot. The electronic figure was seated, encased in an all-encompassing flightsuit, arms darting across the controls in front of him.
"This is LTF-5993," said the pilot, frantic yet methodical in his delivery. "Our ship was intercepted between hyperlanes by a lone pirate vessel. We lost primary and auxiliary power. They hit us with some sort of ion cannon."
The Imperial woman narrowed her gaze. "Acknowledged. Can you repair the damage?"
"We could barely get communications and sensors back online," the pilot explained. "The engines could take hours."
"And Executor One, is he with you?"
The pilot looked over his shoulder before returning to his console. "Yes, he's-"
"I told you, I can handle it," a soft voice called out over the communications channel from off-screen. Executor One. Male. Utterly calm. Almost flippant. "Tell them everything's under control."
"The pirates are closing in," the pilot relayed, ignoring the voice behind him.
"Do they intend to board you?" the woman asked.
"I don't think so," the pilot muttered. "They aren't directly aligned with any of our ports. I think they're going cut into our hull and space the cargo. Salvage what they can from the outside."
"Well, I guess they're screwed," Asher declared. "It's not like a Sith escort is of much use now."
"Who said that?" the off-screen voice called out. The burned Sith froze, unaware his voice would be picked up on the communications channel.
As the eyes of nearly a dozen Imperials fell to him, Asher released a light scoff and haughtily stepped toward the holoterminal. "Executor Three."
"Curious. You don't sound like Dev," Executor One said, his voice containing not a sliver of worry.
"Don't know or care who that is," Asher replied.
"My lords, please," the datapad-toting woman interrupted, trying take control of the conversation whilst affording the Sith some measure of respect. "This is not the time to lose focus."
"Like I said, I've got things handled over here," said Executor One. "Just ask my handler or Syrosk. They'll vouch for me."
Just then, the officers huddled around the holoterminal focused on one of their brothers, one of the nondescript Humans amongst nondescript Humans.
"Uh…" the handler mumbled. "Syrosk says he's pretty good."
"'Pretty good' doesn't mean much when you're stuck in a depowered ship," Asher snidely offered.
"Was that 'Three' again?" Executor One asked. The off-screen voice then release a soft chuckle. "Don't worry about us. I'll call after I've handled the pirates."
Another figure appeared in the holoprojection for only a brief moment, reaching past the seated pilot. Afterwards the transmission ceased. The image faded, and the gathered Imperials were left with only maps and the freighter's model to look at.
"Sir, he closed the channel," the handler nervously spoke up.
The datapad-wielding woman released an almost inaudible sigh as she gently rubbed her brow. "Everyone, return to your stations, but stay alert. We'll wait for X1's call."
One by one, the uniformed Imperials dispersed, until only the woman and the mysterious Executor's handler continued to monitor the central holoterminal. The three Sith were once more left to themselves.
"Do you make it a point to antagonize everyone you meet?" Fay asked the burned and bloodied Sith.
"Whatever, it's not like he's coming back," Asher muttered. "Remember what I said about most Sith fatalities occurring in space?"
"We seemed to do pretty well against our batch of pirates," said Graves.
"That's because we were in the same ship as them," Asher replied. "A Sith can't do anything with a vacuum between him and his targets."
The flightsuit-encased pilot stared speechlessly at the hand that had intruded in front of him. The one that had just cut off communications.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the pilot barked, dropping all pretense of respect.
The Sith slowly pulled back and the pilot could only watch as the red sleeve left his view. Spinning around in his chair, the Imperial had hoped to see something upon his escort's face. Some measure of hate or fear or expressiveness befitting a halted craft sitting in the sights of a band of pirates. Instead, he only found a calm, gentle smile upon the Human's visage.
A man in his mid-thirties, the Executor possessed an oddly vibrant youth about him. His complexion was flawless, absent of any scarring or corruption expected of a man in his line of work. The golden hair atop his head was worn short and clean, parted with a casual formality. In all things he was smooth, but never soft.
"We're stuck out here," the Executor calmly stated. "There's no chance of reinforcements arriving before the pirates rip us apart."
The pilot froze. There was nothing more he could say. Nothing more he could do. With those words, the Sith had confirmed his fate. And yet, there was something soothing about them. The Executor carried an unwavering charisma that seemed almost capable of overcoming the dread steadily consuming the stilled Imperial.
"I can handle this, but I need your help. Do you understand?" the Executor asked, tranquil in his delivery.
"I… of course, my lord," the pilot whimpered, dipping his head.
"Alright. Which hatch are the pirates nearest?"
"My lord, unless they dock, there's nothing-"
"You just have to trust me," the Executor assuaged. The pilot paused. Only after gazing into the Sith's steady eyes for a few seconds did he spin his chair back toward the cockpit's console.
"Hatch number four. Rear of the ship. Port side," the pilot stated.
"The hatches still work under emergency power, correct?"
"Good. Stay here. I'll be back in a few minutes," the Executor declared, stepping away from the pilot.
"What… what are you going to do?" the pilot asked.
The door leading out of the cockpit parted, granting the Sith access into the freighter's central corridor. There he stood, clad in black armor beset by a vibrant red coat, shooting a quick glance back to the sitting Imperial.
"I'm going to kill some pirates."
Back in the dark halls of the Kaas Citadel, two figures slowly made their way through the oppressive corridors. Syrosk and Nami. The alien and the Jedi.
The elder Sith set the pace with his uneven gait, the girl following closely at his side. Whilst Syrosk kept his focus unerringly forward as he trudged along, Nami couldn't help but observe her unfamiliar surroundings. The nearby walls and fixtures spoke of a rigidity baked into their aesthetic. It was an unwelcoming place for unwelcoming peoples. As evident by the cold stares cast their way by all they passed. The girl visibly shrunk under the burden of sharpened eyes and sideward glances, ducking her head and shielding her face.
"Should I have changed into something different?" Nami whispered to the Sith at her side. The Jedi was garbed in her Padawan's robes, simplistic and of earthen tones. Drab, yet still a contrast to the Imperial designs that surrounded her.
"Don't worry," Syrosk curtly replied, more a command than appeasement. "They're not looking at you."
"Really? 'Cause it doesn't seem that way," Nami whispered, still shielding her face.
"You've no reason to stand out so long as you act as if you belong," Syrosk rasped.
"What, is that supposed to be my first lesson?" Nami quietly asked.
"If it means you take it to heart, then yes," Syrosk begrudgingly replied. "If you don't wish to be perceived as weak, as an outsider, as a Jedi… don't give anybody a reason to do so. So stop acting like you have something to hide."
Nami dropped her hands to her sides and straightened her posture as well as she could. Putting on a strong face, the girl tried to shut out her surroundings, but couldn't help but notice every errant glance sent her way. However, as more did, she slowly realized her new master was correct. They were primarily focused on him, not her.
"They're staring at you. Why?" asked Nami.
"Because no matter how much I act like I belong here, I can't disguise my being an alien."
"Which they don't like?"
"They don't care for it, no," Syrosk bluntly stated.
"But you choose to endure their… distaste?"
"Correct," Syrosk plainly answered.
"I see," Nami mumbled. "I'm sure you've your reasons for doing so. I'll not inquire further."
The Sith Lord turned as he walked, casting an arch of his brow toward the young Jedi. "Perhaps you are less like your former fellows than I previously thought."
The pair moved beyond the threshold of the Citadel, stepping into the open air of Dromund Kaas. Landing platforms and walkways stretched out in front of them, ready to welcome the best and brightest of the Empire into its coldly warm embrace. Beyond, a deep and cavernous ravine separated the two travelers from the rest of the city. Above, the dark and crackling sky of the perpetually storming atmosphere filtered the light from the stars beyond. The shadowed haze kept the grounds below subjected to dim days and harsh nights.
In the distance, to the rear and the sides of the Citadel, skyscrapers lay nestled within the various valleys and ridges that populated the area. Amidst the planet's natural chaos and disorder, there was control. The denizens had dug a home for themselves upon the surface of the dark world. They had conquered the harsh jungles that surrounded them. It was not merely a place for Dark Lords to preside over and call their sanctum. There was life here. Citizenry. People who knew nothing of the Force living amongst the shadows, unburdened by the planet's darkness.
"Wow…" Nami whispered to herself, stopping to take in the sights.
"There'll be time to admire the view another day," Syrosk rasped. "We need to keep moving."
The Executor marched forward, his cold eyes set upon a taxi docked at the end of a nearby walkway. Snapping out of her momentary daze, the girl rushed to catch up with the Sith Lord.
"Hey, wait!" Nami called out.
"Wait, you can't be serious!"
The sharp voice of the freighter's pilot spilled out of the room's speakers, filling the compact chamber Executor One found himself in. The Human stood alone, lit only by emergency lighting. Behind him, a simple lever. Ahead of him, hatch number four.
"We can still open and close this hatch right?" the Executor shouted toward the ceiling.
"Uh… yes," the pilot relayed through the ship's comm.
As the panicked words of the pilot graced his ears, the Human in the red coat was growing increasingly calm. Pulling a simplistic hilt from his waist, the Sith firmly grasped the lightsaber in his right hand, reaching his left toward the switch behind him. Planting his feet, the Executor closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath before evacuating the air from his lungs.
Just as the pilot was about to throw out another query, the Sith tugged on the lever behind him. As it flipped, the exterior hatch of the Imperial freighter quickly opened. In a matter of moments, the wall opposite the Executor had parted, exposing the chamber to the vacuum of space. The air swiftly left the once-sealed chamber, threatening to drag the Sith along with it. But through sheer force of will, the Human managed to keep his feet planted. And it was that same will that would protect him as he drove himself forward.
Kicking off the wall behind him, the Human launched himself past the open hatch and into the cold void of space. Soaring weightlessly through the vacuum between the freighter and the nearby pirate vessel, the Sith ignited the hilt within his hand, extended its crimson blade. With a lightsaber and the Force, he had his weapon and his shield.
To the Sith's right, pirates encased in deep-space miner's suits had maneuvered beside the freighter's hull, modified laser cutters in hand. As the thieves magnetically secured themselves to the Imperial ship's exterior, they were attached to their own vessel by way of cords and tubes that served as their lifelines. So focused on cutting their way into the cargo bay, the team didn't see the unprotected Human fly past them toward their vessel.
The pirate ship was little more than a large brick with aftermarket weapons attached to its belly. At one point in its life, it might have served as a freighter similar to the Imperials' own, hauling cargo across the vastness of space. But its current crew had repurposed it into an assault vessel. A capable craft, its most notable feature was the open bay on its left face that, while incapable of holding even the smallest starfighter, could serve as a launching point for a small group of infiltrators. Against standard opposition, it was certainly capable of defending itself. But there was nothing standard about its opposition that day.
The Executor had no senses to call upon. He was deafened, blinded, unfeeling, all of his own volition. But whatever information he needed, he found though the Force. After almost twenty seconds of drifting through the vacuum, the Sith twirled about, putting his feet ahead of him just in time for them to impact against the viewport of the pirate vessel's cockpit. With a plunge of his blade, the Executor cracked the seal. Exacerbating the mechanical wound, the Sith clenched his left fist, and swung his arm wide, telekinetically ripping the viewports asunder, spacing the lone pilot alongside a stream of shattered windows and metal.
As the consoles and controls within sparked and fizzled, the ship slowly lost control, rotating along its central axis. Pressing down upon himself with the Force, the Executor ran along the pirate vessel's side, unburdened by the lack of gravity or atmosphere. Approaching the assault freighter's leftward bay, the Sith released his grip on his lightsaber, throwing it with a controlled arc. The crimson blade twirled with grace across the vacuum of space, severing the cords and tubes connecting the distant scavengers to their vessel. The lightsaber circled around, guided by the Force, back into its master's hand as the disconnected lifelines spurted and flailed.
Alongside the Imperial freighter, the pirates who had been cutting their way through the outer hull found themselves without air and were quickly losing pressure in their mining suits. Their magnetic grips began to fail and one by one they clutched and grabbed at their own throats. Those who managed to turn around, caught a brief glimpse of their vessel floating lifelessly as their vision turned black.
Running back along the pirate vessel's hull, the Executor took a mighty leap, soaring through the void back toward his own freighter's open hatch. Drifting through the vacuum, the Sith maintained his focus as his red coat gently undulated amidst the zero gravity. Second after second passed, his will the only thing preserving him. Floating through the open hatch, the Executor crashed into the floor as he was once more taken hold by the freighter's artificial gravity. From the ground, the Sith reached out and telekinetically flipped the lever back into its upright position.
The hatch closed behind him. The chamber began to seal. Pressure began to equalize. Air began to flow.
Slowly, the Executor lifted himself from the floor, drawing his first breath in minutes. Calmly patting himself off, the Sith appeared no worse for wear as he gently rubbed his eyes and nose.
"My lord? My lord, are you alright?" the pilot's voice filled the chamber.
The Sith let out a breathy chuckle. "I'm fine. The pirates have been dealt with."