There was an awkward silence as Syrosk and Nami soared through the Kaas City skyline. As the young girl calmed herself, she expected the elder Sith to speak up, but found him oddly quiet, stewing in his own thoughts. Scratching his chin, it would be a few long moments before he broke the silence.
"When I was a child, I lived on the streets of Kaas City. Alone," Syrosk explained. "I knew nothing of who I was or how I got here, having no memories of my life prior. I lived in back alleys, hiding from the public. But one day, a Sith Lord found me."
"And then what happened?" Nami asked, suitably interested.
"He made me his apprentice, right then and there," said Syrosk. "Eschewed the system and traditions. Took the risk."
"Why would he do that?" Nami bluntly asked. The alien turned his head, shooting the girl a sharp arch of his brow. The young Human recoiled from the glance, hanging her head low.
Syrosk released a quick chortle. "A valid question. One I asked myself constantly. I was an amnesiac alien in the heart of the Empire's capital. Any other Imperial, any other Sith, they would have had me killed. But Omnus, he saw something more than just a blight. He recognized my talents, my skills, my potential. And so he trained me, to be a Seer, like him."
"A Seer? I didn't know the Sith had those," Nami admitted.
"It's not a formal designation," Syrosk stated. "But he helped me hone my natural affinity for telepathy and precognition. He was a recruiter for the Academies, finding Force-sensitives that slipped through the cracks because they didn't even realize they were Force-sensitives. He was training me to not only follow in his footsteps, but surpass him."
"And did you?"
"Yes," Syrosk declared. "I became a Seer, and I used my talents to fill the Academies just as he had. And though I may have stopped being a recruiter long ago, I still work to improve the Sith and the Empire to this day."
"But… why serve people who look down on you just because of your species?"
"Because… here, I get to decide the kind of person I am," Syrosk rasped. "You need to realize that no matter where you go in this galaxy, there will always be someone willing to hate you."
"Yeah… I know," Nami softly admitted.
"But here, you've an opportunity to rise above your station if you put in the effort. No one controls you but you. Others may try to manipulate you, influence you, block your path, but you are ultimately responsible for your own fate."
"Is that worth the disrespect? The pain? The hardship?" Nami muttered.
"That which goes unchallenged grows weak," Syrosk plainly stated.
The girl lifted her gaze, staring longingly across the Kaas City skyline. "I… I don't want to be weak."
"Then you might make it as a Sith after all," Syrosk declared. The girl looked to the Executor, finding an odd glint in his eyes. The face surrounding them was still the rough, scowling visage she was used to, but there was something more. Beneath the grit, beneath the hate, beneath the darkness, there was a genuineness. A care, not wholly selfish.
The taxi began to slow and descend as it neared its drop off point. The speeder settled down near more of its kind, and the Jedi and Sith stepped onto the streets of Kaas City. Steeling herself, Nami drew in careful breaths, wiping the signs of previous troubles from her face.
Wasting not a moment, Syrosk began to move out, taking his first step toward the grand structure before them. A starport.
The young girl gazed up at the simple yet impressive building. Eclipsed by the spires circling it, the wide structure blended in with its surroundings, its muted materials doing nothing to stand out from its neighbors. Squads of soldiers patrolled the starport much as they did every other street in the capital, and two large battle droids flanked the entrance ahead.
"Keep up," Syrosk rasped as he journeyed toward the building.
"Do you… have a ship?" Nami asked, easily matching the alien's pace.
"I've more ships than I know what to do with," he muttered.
A short ramp greeted the two travelers prior to the personnel entrance, as did two mechanical guards. Standing on a trio of thick struts rather than a pair of legs, the machines were little more than mobile turrets passing their discerning electronic gaze over those who passed before them. With large cannons in place of hands, the battle droids were more than capable of vaporizing unauthorized personnel or contraband.
As the Jedi and Sith neared the starport's entrance, the metallic sentinels pivoted upon their waists, slowly rotating in tandem with the pair's movements. With each step, Nami could feel the harsh red glow of the droids' eyes beating down on her. Dipping her head, she moved as close to the Sith as possible, walking in his shadow.
Syrosk, meanwhile, paid them no mind, continuing his trek without a second thought. Passing through the building's threshold, the young girl thought herself free from the public eye, but soon found herself mistaken. Moving through a series of winding corridors, the pair found themselves in a monitoring station, a grand room of flight officers and coordinators overseeing the comings and goings of every freighter and shuttle that passed through.
As the pair came into view, the Imperials occupying the chamber momentarily shifted their gazes away from their instruments. Syrosk raised a quick and calm hand, and the staff immediately returned to their duties. Approaching a nearby desk, the elder Sith stood before a seated Human, the only one who hadn't noticed his arrival.
"I need to know of any shuttles leaving for Ziost," Syrosk declared. Tearing his gaze away from the small monitors at his station, the inattentive young Human looked up, seeing only the horned head peaking above the counter. Studying the alien visage before him, the young Imperial offered the stern arch of his brow.
"Are you sure you're allowed to be here?" the man snidely asked. The Sith reciprocated the Human's arched brow, offering one far more cutting. The sound of boots scampering against the cold tile rang out as another officer scurried behind the desk. Older, the other Human shoved his seated fellow aside, taking his place before the Sith.
"My sincerest apologies, my lord," the Imperial stammered. "He's new, a recent transfer, he didn't know-"
"It is of no trouble," Syrosk rasped.
"Thank you, my lord," the elder Human said with a bow of his head, before shooting a sharp glare toward his subordinate. The younger one slinked away, his head hung in shame. As the elder Imperial returned to his forward gaze, he spotted the top of the young girl's head peaking above the counter. Leaning forward, the uniformed official saw the gentle figure standing at the Sith's side. "We weren't expecting you, Executor. Should we have prepared a third hangar? We didn't receive word-"
"No, I simply require transportation to Ziost for me and my student," Syrosk explained.
"I… of course, my lord," the Imperial dutifully said. Pouring his eyes over the small monitors in front of him, the Human scanned the various upcoming departures. "I see a shuttle leaving in an hour. Everything's prepped and ready, so I should be able to expedite the departure for you."
"That will be fine," Syrosk declared. "Thank you, officer."
"It's my pleasure, my lord," the Imperial confidently stated. "The shuttle is in hangar A-7. I'll inform the pilot of your arrival."
"Come, Nami," Syrosk rasped as he stepped away from the desk. The Jedi and Sith vacated the monitoring station, departing down one of the many corridors connected to many more hangars that populated the starport.
"Why are we taking a shuttle and not one of your own ships?" asked Nami.
"We cannot afford to mismanaged perceptions and expectations at this juncture," Syrosk explained. "I don't expect you to fully understand, but this will legitimize your arrival on Ziost more than being personally ferried by a Sith Lord aboard a Sith Lord's starship."
"I… see," Nami stated, a hint on untruth to her words. "You know, that isn't how I expected things to go back there."
"Well, from what I know of Sith, don't your kind usually Force-choke people who disrespect you?"
"If I choked every person who disrespected me…" Syrosk began before trailing off. As he continued to walk down the starport corridor, he fell silent for a moment. "I do not believe it necessary to act on every slight. Nor do I believe it in our best interest to needlessly injure and berate those not blessed with Force-sensitivity."
"But isn't the fact that Sith are superior in every single way baked into every facet of your society?" Nami asked.
"Superiority does not necessitate constant displays and reminders," Syrosk replied. "Only those afraid of losing their grip on their subordinates resort to cultivating fear. Respect and recognition are just as powerful motivators. The best Sith give those around them something to believe in. A strive for success rather than a fear for failure."
"Are there many like that?" Nami asked.
"Yes, even amongst the more militant sects. Imperials operate on discipline, a reliable and admirable trait if there ever was one. But there are limits. Push someone past their breaking point, and they'll push back. More than a handful of Sith have been put down by a blaster bolt to the back of the head after ordering the sacrifice of their troops. To inspire loyalty, one must first inspire confidence. To inspire confidence, one must prove their effectiveness. To prove their effectiveness, one must balance selfish desires with the good of the Empire. The Sith are not beholden to the Empire like your Jedi are to the Republic. But neither can we afford to leave our citizens defenseless or downtrodden. There is give and there is take. Sometimes… Sith tend to lean more towards take. Our job will be to deter such actions."
Passing through the curved corridor, the pair saw a label near a hangar entrance. A-7.
"The shuttle should be in here," Syrosk stated, continuing his trek without pause.
Passing through the threshold of the surface hangar entrance, the pair found themselves in a well-organized, well-tended chamber holding a single vessel. The gray brick of a ship sat loftily on its landing struts, its rear engines prepped and ready, emitting their red luminescence. Folding out from its side was an entrance ramp, beside which stood a pair of black flightsuit-clad pilots. The vessel itself stood only a few meters tall and wide, far smaller than the flying domicile that was the Fury-class interceptor. In its hind end, however, the passenger and cargo bays would prove more than sufficient for its expected holdings.
Nearing the shuttle, the Sith and Jedi watched the two pilots snap to attention.
"My lord," one of the pilots called out, her voice electronically tinged as it passed through the all-encompassing helmet's speakers. "How might we be of service?"
"Just make your usual route to Ziost. I intend to enroll my student in the Academy."
"We'd be honored to fly you there, my lord," the copilot followed up. "The ship is ready to go when you are."
"Then let us not waste another moment," Syrosk rasped, a touch of warmth in his otherwise cold voice.
The pilots supplied a pair of confident bows of their heads before stepping onto the shuttle, disappearing into the cramped innards. The Jedi and Sith followed soon afterward, taking their place in the passenger bay. Empty, the travelers had their pick of seats from either of the two rows that hugged the inner hull. Syrosk sat himself down in one of the many unoccupied chairs, his student taking her place in the one adjacent to him. They patiently waited as they heard sounds of the shuttle coming to life.
As the engines roared, the ship offered a quick shake as it lifted itself from its struts and made its way out of the hangar. Passing through the chamber's magnetic barrier, the shuttle transitioned into the main airway that the other hangars circled around. Moving in sync with directions from the starport's monitoring station, the vessel lifted itself higher into the air, unburdened by contestation from other starships.
Soon, the shuttle was passing through the planet's dark and crackling atmosphere, well on its way into the vacuum of space.
"So… what's Ziost like?" asked Nami.
"Cold," Syrosk bluntly stated. "I'd say it's similar to Korriban, but I doubt you're familiar with Korriban so… I'll just stick with cold."
"Oh. Are you sure I shouldn't have changed clothes?" Nami asked.
"You'll receive a new set of robes when you're admitted to the Academy," Syrosk explained.
"But what about before I'm admitted?"
"Just consider enduring the cold your first trial."
The pair fell silent. Journeying beyond Dromund Kaas' gravity well, the shuttle pilots plotted their course and made the jump to hyperspace. Traveling faster than the speed of the light, the trip through Imperial space would still take some time. Time spent in relative silence.
Nami still possessed so many more questions. About the Sith. About the Empire. About her future. But she hesitated to disrupt the quiet. As much as she had come to grow comfortable around the harsh alien, she did not want to test his hospitality. He was still the growling Sith that had accepted her only after numerous protests.
And so the pair waited patiently for the vessel to arrive at its destination. Syrosk enjoyed the silence, drawing relaxed breaths within the empty, yet still somehow cramped, passenger bay.
As the Sith sat beside his student, he cautiously reached out with his mind, stealthily trying to glean whatever information he could from the peculiar girl. But still he found her mind an unassailable fortress, only the most surface-level emotions able to be read. Luckily, the girl had calmed since her earlier exasperations. Syrosk recognized the potential in her. The potential for passion. The potential for strength. A potential that frightened as much as enticed. He had seen countless acolytes and apprentices walk the halls of the Korriban Academy. He had seen countless younglings prior to their admission during his time as a recruiter. But this girl was wholly unique. And not simply because she had been a Jedi. The Sith considered himself a master of the mind. To encounter something he did not fully understand disturbed him deeply.
Looking to his student, the alien saw her slightly slumped in her seat, seemingly napping. Despite having spent much of her recent visit to Dromund Kaas unconscious, the girl was still physically and mentally exhausted. It was odd, sharing the space with someone so peaceful. He only hoped that when she awoke, it was Nami that would be sitting beside him.
His hopes were realized as the shuttle dropped out of hyperspace and the girl was shaken awake. The same reserved, quiet girl he had boarded with stirred in her seat as the vessel made its way toward Ziost's surface. As the shuttle touched down, it did so amongst similar circumstances as its point of origin, guiding itself into a hangar of a Logistics operated starport.
"Come on," said Syrosk as the shuttle's hatch opened. Nami quickly rose from her seat, following the Sith out onto the hangar floor. The pair were surrounded by familiar surroundings, the interior of the starport resembling its Kaas counterpart in just about every facet, signifying a uniformity that extended beyond the nation's capital.
The pair made their way toward the hangar exit, Syrosk once again setting the pace.
"So, where are we going?" Nami asked.
"We're going to visit some of my former apprentices," Syrosk replied. "They're instructors at the Academy here. They're going to help you prepare for your trials ahead. Or rather, we're going to ask for their help. There's really no guarantee they'll agree to lend a hand."
"I see…" Nami muttered, a heavy trepidation in her voice. "What are they like?"
As the Sith continued his march, he did so in silence. The young girl awaited an answer, but none came. She thought he was being unforthcoming, but in truth, Syrosk didn't know quite how to describe them, even after serving as their master for years.
What should have been a simple walk from the starport was rendered bothersome by the constant winds that buffeted the pair as they ventured toward the outskirts of the city. At least, bothersome for one. Whilst the girl shielded her face from the air's icy flakes, Syrosk marched undeterred.
The wintery settlement that surrounded them possessed a gray malaise. It was a place of blocks stacked amongst blocks, the familiar architecture of Kaas City presenting itself, albeit with a covering of frost and snow. The streets and paths were bare, Imperials and Sith alike seeking the bastion of internal dwellings. Structures rose tall and stretched wide, but none drew particular notice. The place was plain, as plain as an Imperial world could be. Military and logistics offices dotted the landscape. The Sith's sacred institution of learning sat high on the horizon, upon one of the planet's numerous icy peaks. Aerial defense batteries lined the countless ridges, perpetually setting their barrels toward the sky as icicles hung from their tips. The thick cloud cover masked not only the midday sun, but the numerous vessels that soared overheard carrying citizens to and fro.
As a whole, the place lacked the grandeur of its brothers. It was one of three worlds the Sith Empire could call their ancient homeworld, but it was content to be a place of purpose rather than presentation. There was no blatant reflection of the dark. No perpetual storms of lightning. No jungles filled with harrowing beasts. Just a constant chill, and the ever present sense of order that surrounded any settlement of Imperial make.
Reaching the end of their journey, Nami and Syrosk found themselves standing in front of a quaint domicile built into the base of a high ridge. First, a knock on the door. Then, a wait. Second after second passed, forcing the young girl to rub her hands in an attempt to stay warm. The Sith, meanwhile, remained motionless, braving the cold without any apparent effort. The simple metal abode inlayed in the frosted, gray stone remained stilled, no signs of life emanating from within, until finally the singular door swung open.
Stepping into view were two figures fighting for dominance in the doorframe, unable to properly accommodate both of their masses. One, a reptilian humanoid rivaling Fay in height. The second, a noseless, leathery humanoid of average height and build. A Trandoshan and a Nikto.
Syrosk passed his calm gaze between the two aliens. Between his former apprentices. "Nesk. Vurt."