Chapter Two: Old Friend
The duo finished their breakfasts with nary a scrap left on their plates. With that, they were ready to begin the day, as nourishment always came first for a Sith. The pair cleaned themselves. The pair dressed themselves. The pair prepared for the journey ahead. With the thought of a pleasant reunion with their former master in their minds, the Human and Pureblood garbed themselves in simplistic black robes, rather than their typical working attire. Not yet achieving a position laden with chronic backstabbings, neither felt the need armor themselves for trips within the capital.
With almost everything in order, the duo made their way into the home's study. The quaint chamber matched its predecessors, with minimal decorations and furnishings amidst somewhat cramped spaces. Two desks lined the far wall. To the left and right of the entrance were physical and electronic cases intended to hold whatever prizes and bounties the Sith could procure, though they were remarkably bare at the moment. The cabinet possessed mostly empty shelves behind reinforced glass. The terminal of holorecordings and datacards was far from capacity. But directly ahead of the entrants, situated between the two desks, there was something worth gazing upon.
A mannequin stood upon a sturdy base across from whomever stepped through the door. The standard humanoid frame went mostly unadorned, but what it did wear was more than mere articles of clothing.
Its featureless head featured an equally featureless mask, a black plate designed to cover the entirety of its wearer's face. Surrounding the smooth plate was a shawl of dark cloth situated around it, giving the appearance of a hood.
Beneath, an amulet hung around the mannequin's neck. A deep red gemstone encased in gold that hung from a matching chain. The crimson jewel seemed to glow and darken, as if pulsing like a beating heart.
Encasing the inanimate figure's hands were a pair of heavy gauntlets. Composed of thick, black metals, the armored gloves were the garb of a warrior, and yet much more. Their design alone could not explain the otherworldly darkness that seemed to cover every facet of the gauntlets. In actuality, their form and function were the result of Sith Alchemy, baking the dark side of the Force into their very composition.
And so the mannequin stood, masked and gloved, with a gemmed necklace hanging around its neck, proof of the pair's past procurements. The Sith shot it a quick look, but paid it no additional thoughts as they stepped into the study, directing themselves toward their respective desks. Each opening a drawer of their respective fixture, the Human and Pureblood placed a hand in the shallow containers and each returned with a lightsaber.
Within the Pureblood's grasp, an almost featureless black hilt. The metallic cylinder lacked the usual knobs and switches of a typical lightsaber, its controls hidden amongst the weapon's inner workings. In order to even activate the lightsaber, its wielder required precise knowledge and the ability to use the Force.
Within the Human's grasp, a more standardized silver hilt. The weapon possessed the typical designs and workings of a mass-produced lightsaber, ones the Sith outfitted their fodder with for the war. No personalization. No frills. No sense of attachment in its wielder. A replacement.
With their weapons in hand, the Sith clipped them to their belts where they would dangle, plainly visible and ready to remind all who gazed upon them of their owners' stations.
"You know, once we've started procuring more artifacts, we should really think about investing in more… secure forms of storage," Jresh calmly suggested. "This place is not exactly a stronghold."
"If someone wants to steal from us, they'll find a way to steal from us, regardless of whatever vaults or safes we possess," Lorrik replied. "Better to do what we can to reduce that desire in the first place, rather than wasting resources on protection."
The Pureblood released a restrained chuckle. "If you've figured out a way to dissuade Sith from being greedy, I'd love to hear it."
"Well, we just have to let people know that we're a pair of agreeable fellows that it would be unwise to cross," Lorrik said. "Cultivate an image of Sith people would rather work with instead of against."
"Consider how some Sith are willing to go against even Dark Councilors, somehow I have the feeling that goal might be beyond our reach," Jresh declared.
"It's not the first time we've given ourselves impossible goals," Lorrik joked.
"I suppose it isn't," Jresh conceded, a confident curl upon his lips.
The two Sith stepped out of the study, following the hall back to the living area of the apartment.
"Well, aside from meeting Syrosk, we've most of the day to ourselves," Lorrik mused, gently scratching his chin.
"Where are we meeting Syrosk?" Jresh wondered.
"Maybe he's planning to give us shuttle passes after all," Jresh commented, gently stroking one of his cheek tendrils. "Wait, don't tell me it's the one on the edge of the city."
"No, the Logistics one near the market district," Lorrik explained.
The Pureblood offered the soft arch of his brow. "I thought all starports were 'Logistics ones'."
'Fair point," Lorrik conceded. "This one's primarily for shipping, not much public transit. I guess it's where they got Syrosk moving in and out of."
"Well, I suppose if we're going to be near the market district, we could go shopping after our meeting," Jresh suggested. "That way, I can get you a present."
A smile crept across the Human's lips. "Sounds like a plan."
As the pair stepped toward the door, Lorrik made a quick sidestep to scoop up the gift resting on the nearby coffee table.
"Are you going to carry that around with you the whole day?" Jresh wondered alongside another arch of his brow.
"Well, if we're not coming back here, I might as well," Lorrik said as he held the box under his right limb. "Besides, if I tuck it under my bad arm I barely even know it's there."
"And you won't let me open it until dinner, correct?" Jresh asked.
"Yep," Lorrik quickly answered, preserving his beaming smile.
Together, the two Sith left their domicile, stepping out into the hallway of the apartment complex. Numerous doors lay at set intervals, featureless but for a series of numerals and adjacent control panels. Gray rigidity was the norm up and down the narrow corridor, the only light coming from the electronic strips lining the ceiling.
Punching a quick command into the panel beside their own door, the Sith locked their home and set out. Rounding a corner, the pair awaited the lift that would take them to the ground floor. After a minute of standing around in silence, the doors parted and the pair stepped into the cramped box, joined by another of the building's occupants.
The two Sith wedged themselves into a corner, standing shoulder to shoulder as they patiently waited for the lift to take them down. Meanwhile, the lone Imperial beside them kept his lulled gaze perpetually forward. The Human wore a uniform lacking any designation of rank or station, but matched the typical conformist set of gray clothes most Kaas citizens wore.
Almost unaware of the Sith, the Imperial's gaze began to wander, until out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glint of light reflecting off a lightsaber. Turning his head, the uniformed figure finally saw the pair of robed individuals, one of whom bared red skin of the pureblooded.
Quickly averting his gaze, the Imperial constricted his stance, tucking himself into the opposite corner of the lift as his eyes fell to the floor. His breathing slowed as he struggled to remain completely silent. But in his attempt, he hadn't realized that he eventually stopped breathing altogether.
As the lift continued its descent, the Sith couldn't help but notice the third occupant succumb to a short coughing fit.
"You alright?" Lorrik asked, shooting the Imperial a quick glance.
"I… I'm sorry… don't mind me, my lord," said the Imperial with an overbearing level of respect.
"You needn't worry so much," Lorrik warmly offered. "Not with us, at least. I mean, I don't know what kind of Sith you have to deal with on a daily basis…"
A sharp ding rang out as the lift came to a stop and the doors parted. Not finishing his thought, Lorrik reaffirmed his grip on the box under his right arm before stepping out of the elevator. Receiving a quick wave from the departing Sith, the Imperial stood dumbfounded as the Human and Pureblood went about their business.
Stepping into the streets of Kaas city, Lorrik and Jresh found themselves under dark skies and towering spires. Rigid paths stretched out with meticulous design, a strict order present in all things. Amidst the standard occupants, armed and armored soldiers protected the streets alongside patrolling battle droids.
Walking the militaristic streets, the Sith made their way downtown without fear of random checks or scrutiny, the weapons at their waist the only identification they needed out in the open. Stopping at a nearby transit station, the pair boarded a two-person air speeder that would ferry them to their destination.
The journey was made in relative silence, the duo content with each other's presence as they soared through the constricted skyline of Kaas City. Nothing more than light banter arose, aside from the occasional probe by Jresh as to the content of Lorrik's gift. The Human proved unwavering in his secrets.
Exiting the speeder, the Sith found themselves in front of a grandiose structure, wider than it was tall. A starport, from which a number of Imperial freighters arrived and departed with expert synchronicity. The cargo ships would appear and disappear amidst the eternally dark and crackling sky, plotting a course through the dangerously charged atmosphere.
"This is the place," said Lorrik, setting his sight on the grand entryway flanked by two equally grand battle droids.
As the Sith approached, they could feel the electronic gazes of the monolithic sentinels fall upon them. The metallic beings stood upon three hefty struts for legs, and their arms were little more than cannons with additional points of articulation. The droids' heads resembled mere boxes sitting atop their broad frames, surveying the nearby comings and goings through monocular eyes.
Nearing the open entrance, the Sith were greeted with the dull thuds of the one of the guard droids clanking toward them. Slowly bridging the gap, the metallic sentinel stood twice as tall as the considerably sizable Pureblood.
"State your designation and purpose," the droid demanded, its voice as guttural as it was monotonous.
"Lorrik Velash and Jresh Takuul, Sith. We're supposed to be meeting someone here."
The droid paused as it processed the information. A red light shined from the droid's singular eye, passing over the Human and ending on the box beneath his arm.
"All containers must be processed and cleared prior to transit," the droid barked.
"We're not actually going anywhere, we're just-"
"All containers must be processed and cleared prior to transit," the droid repeated.
The Human buried his head in the palm of his free hand. "There is no transit here. We're supposed to meet with-"
"By Production and Logistics Measure Number Five Nine Nine Nine Dash Two, unprocessed containers are subject to search and seizure. Please hand over the container."
"One, you can't even hold the thing," Lorrik combatted. "And two, no way. I'm with the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge, I think I'm allow to carry around a freakin' box!"
"Lorrik, please do not test the droid," Jresh calmly advised.
"I'm not letting it have your present," Lorrik declared, staring down the towering battle droid.
The machine raised its arms as a faint glow began to emanate from the attached cannon barrels. "If you refuse to comply with Production and Logistics Measure Number Five Nine-"
"When I invited you here, I was under the impression I would not have to worry about you accosting security," a low, raspy voice called out.
Looking past the droid, Lorrik saw a lone figure step from the starport's entrance, wearing the darkness like a second skin.
"Syrosk!" Lorrik warmly shot back.
The figure continued his approach with an uneven gait, obviously favoring one of his legs. Stepping into the relative light of the building's exterior, the Sith's former master revealed himself. Below the neck, numerous layers of heavy black robes enwrapped his powerful frame. Despite his sluggishness and age, the elder Sith still possessed a striking appearance, achieved in part by his visage. Syrosk was of neither of the Empire's favor peoples, being of obviously alien heritage. Sprouting from his cranium were two curved horns that traveled down, almost meeting in front of his chest. His right horn however was shorter and flatter, its tip having been severed in battle.
His rough, leathery orange skin was grizzled and wrinkled, wrought with hardship and possessing an almost permanent scowl.
Rather than reciprocating his former student's greeting, the alien focused his attention on the nearby battle droid.
"Let them pass," Syrosk demanded, not raising his voice yet firmly in command. "Executive Override X-Zero."
The droid lowered its arms. "Processing… processing… voice command recognized. Carry on, Executor."
Lorrik watched the battle droid back down, clanking its way back to its original position without another word. Turning toward the starport's entrance, Syrosk offered the wave of his hand, beckoning the two Sith to follow. They complied, quickly catching up with the sluggish alien.