There was a sharp clattering in the adjacent room as Syrosk and Nami sat on a constricting couch. The room they found themselves in was dark, utterly unadorned, and cold even by Imperial standards. Across from them, the Nikto had taken his seat within a simplistic armchair, casting his calm, deadened gaze upon his guests. The younger of the two leathery, orange Sith in the room wore a face absent of emotion or expression. A fact that did nothing to lessen the growing unease in the young Jedi.
Vurt was no older than the trio of Sith that had taken her in, but his species' rough and wrinkled features forced a haggard appearance and etched a permanent scowl upon his noseless face. A fact the Nikto did nothing to rectify. Small, stubby horns sprouted from his brow and chin, but it was his eyes that would continue to hold the girl's attention. His cold, unwavering, beady eyes.
Eventually, Vurt's gaze stopped passing between the two guests, focusing solely on the young Jedi. Her hands neatly folded upon her lap, Nami struggled to keep herself still. She had escaped the outside cold, but something else continued to force her arms to tremble as shivers ran up her spine.
Breaking the tension, the Trandoshan stepped into the room, a metallic tray in his hands. Upon the platter balanced a pair of cups that clinked with every motion the intimidating Sith took, threatening to spill their contents with each step. As he set the platter down upon the table in front of his guests, the murky liquid within jostled, a few drops managing to push past the cups' rims.
Straightening his posture, the Trandoshan dominated the space of the room. But despite his size, Nesk managed to cut a sharp figure, his powerful musculature hidden beneath thick, sandy-brown scales. His hands and feet went unburdened by coverings as the rest of his body went wrapped by simplistic black robes. As Nami studied the imposing figure, she couldn't help but notice that one of his hands possessed a lighter shade of scales that the rest of his body.
"Here… drink," Nesk bluntly spoke. Whether the scaled Sith was offering a description or issuing a command, the young Jedi did not know. He spoke with a firm enough grasp of Basic, but every sound that slipped out of his mouth seemed dominated by a snarling dialect.
Without a word, Syrosk reached out, taking one of the cups in his rough hands, silently urging the girl beside him to do the same. Nami grasped the small container with both hands, welcoming the touch of warmth. Bringing the black beverage toward her face, her nostrils were assaulted by a sharp, pungent odor. As Syrosk moved his cup to his leathery lips, taking a sip that could only be described as dainty, the young Jedi opted maintain her grip at a safe distance, forcing a smile as the two other Sith continued to offer their beady stares. As the Nikto continued to sit, the Nesk opted to stand at his side.
"Syrosk," the Trandoshan muttered.
"Nesk," the Sith Lord replied.
"How is the leg?" Nesk asked.
"Serviceable," Syrosk declared. "How's the hand?"
Nesk raised his right hand, one possessing a lighter shade of scales compared to the rest of his body. "Regenerated."
"That's good to hear," Syrosk offered, taking another sip of his drink.
"Why has it come here?" Nesk asked.
Syrosk pulled the cup away from his lips, everything about him steady, if not sluggish. The silence hung heavy for the moment as the elder Sith waited to respond. "I need your help. The both of you."
The Trandoshan and Nikto looked to one another, before reaffirming their gaze upon their former master.
"With what?" Nesk pressed.
"With the girl," Syrosk replied. The two Sith turned, casting their gaze on the girl who was doing everything she could to keep from squirming. "She's to become a Sith. My new apprentice. She's entering the Ziost Academy directly into the hands of an Overseer. But I'd still like you to offer some prior instruction."
Nesk refused to tear his gaze away from the girl. "Why? Is it weak?"
"No. But she is a… special case," Syrosk calmly stated.
"How so?" Nesk asked.
"She is a former Jedi," Syrosk revealed. Another chill shot up the girl's spine as she felt the Sith reaffirming their gazes. As unexpressive as the rough pair were, it became plainly obvious that they were capable of arching their brows. "As expedited as her training will be, I intend for it to fulfill every standard of the Order. When she becomes Sith, there cannot be room to dispute her."
"But it still seeks an advantage?" Nesk asked, turning back toward his former master.
"I merely seek to offset the disadvantage of being a Jedi amongst Sith," Syrosk replied. "If she has truly turned her back on her former Order, then I'd not see her efforts here disrupted. She needs to spend as little time in the Academy as possible, whilst still being able to say she graduated the Academy."
The Trandoshan began scratching his chin, the sounds of claws against rough scales filling the room. "How long until it is given to Overseer?"
"No more than a week," Syrosk answered.
"Cannot do much with one week," Nesk admitted.
"She's already more skilled than your typical acolyte," Syrosk said. "I just need you two to give her some conditioning. Making sure her skills can be utilized in an Academy setting."
"Is it to compete with other acolytes?" asked Nesk. "Is possible for Overseer to judge a single acolyte for a Sith Lord."
"She'd break under the scrutiny," Syrosk countered. "Any Overseer given a Jedi to test would do everything in their power to keep them from becoming an apprentice, especially to a Sith Lord of my caliber."
The Trandoshan released an unsure groan. "Why not just give it to Lorrik?"
"As many liberties as we're taking with the system, we still abide by its rules. I need this to appear as legitimate as realistically possible," Syrosk admitted. "You two are instructors. You can train her here without drawing notice. Were she to associate with someone like Lorrik, we'd both the Sphere of Sith Philosophy breathing down our necks."
"Is it worth the trouble?" Nesk asked, shooting a quick, but sharp, glare toward the young Jedi.
Syrosk turned toward the girl, who looked to him with wide-eyes. "That remains to be seen." Nami's head dipped. The warmth that once graced her hands was slowly fading, the cup's contents adapting to room temperature. "But, nonetheless, she deserves this chance, I suppose."
A gentle smile graced the girl's lips. Meanwhile, the two Sith across from her turned to one another, sharing a series of silent looks. Eventually, a soft groan emanated from the Trandoshan's snarly mouth. "Fine. If it wants a new apprentice, it will have a new apprentice. We owe it that much."
Syrosk offered a polite dip of his horned head. "I appreciate it. And I won't forget this."
"We know it won't," Nesk muttered, stepping away from the gathering. As the Trandoshan disappeared deeper into the dwelling, the remaining three figures were left with the heavy silence.
"Is… is that it?" Nami whispered, leaning in close to the elder Sith. "Just like that?"
"As needlessly complicated Sith affairs can be at times, they can often be rather simple," Syrosk replied. "A fact that is neither good nor bad."
As Nami dwelt on the Sith Lord's words, she couldn't help but still feel the sting of the Nikto's cold, enduring glare. "Does that one ever speak?"
"Not often, no," Syrosk plainly stated, voice absent of judgment. "But he'll prove an effective tutor, as will Nesk."
"Is there much they can do with a week?" asked Nami.
"You'd be surprised," Syrosk admitted. "They may be tougher on you than the Overseer."
"I thought the entire point of this was because an Overseer might be too hard on me," Nami softly said.
"The entire point of this was fairness," Syrosk admitted. "I'd see you rightfully judged. That does not mean I'd see you untested. If you want to be a Sith, you still must prove yourself. I just know that these two will treat you fairly. Harshly, but fairly."
Another distant sound of jostling metals echoed through the dwelling, but this time, it did not come from the kitchen. Emerging from a shadowed corridor, Nesk stepped into view of his guests. Upon his back, two full length blades lay strapped upon his back, utterly black and utterly sharp. Accompanying the dueling swords, a long rucksack was held over the Trandoshan's shoulder, a unknown collection of solid materials resting within.
"Its training begins now. Let's go," Nesk quickly spoke up, thrusting his head toward the door.
"What? Like, right now?" Nami muttered.
"It has only a week. Maybe less. No time to waste," Nesk bluntly explained. "If it wants to be Sith, it must learn Sith ways. Come."
The young Jedi turned to the elder Sith, who offered only a dismissive shrug. "I'd listen to him if I were you."
Nami set her cup on the tray in front of her, still filled to the brim, its contents untouched. The girl carefully stepped away from the seated Sith, moving toward the Trandoshan. Standing at his side, she couldn't help but stand in the imposing figure's shadow. Having already basked in the presence of Fay, Nami was used to height discrepancies, but Nesk possessed a far-different aura about him. Whereas the woman she had met exuded a calm, collected countenance, the Trandoshan's apparent calm seemed only a facade. A fiery passion rest beneath his eyes, beneath his scales, one that wanted nothing more than to be released.
Nesk approached the home's entrance, inviting a brisk chill as he opened the door. The girl turned back to the elder Sith, but he offered nothing. His expression blank, his eyes cold, Syrosk seemed to purposely offer as little as he could that might make the girl want to stay. Without protest, Nami followed her new instructor out into the cold of the Ziost exterior, unsure of her destination or fate.
As the door resealed, the two silent Sith remained sitting in the quaint dwelling's central room. Syrosk and Vurt offered each other their own unique brand of cold, emotionless glares. Breaking the silence and stillness, the Nikto leaned forward, thick fingers interlocked as he rest his elbows on his thighs.
"I assume there's something more to this," Vurt stated, almost whispering. His voice was utterly deep, utterly smooth.
"There always is, isn't there?" Syrosk slowly replied, setting his cup on the tray in front of him.
"I never expected you to take another apprentice," Vurt declared.
"Neither did I," Syrosk admitted. "But I didn't have much choice in the matter."
"But you still want her to succeed," Vurt offered. "If you wanted to be rid of her, you wouldn't have brought her to us."
Syrosk's head dipped as his eyes drifted toward the floor. "She is skilled and wants to become Sith. I'd not see her talent wasted because of whatever prejudices are present in the Academy and its staff."
"You've trained aliens, slaves, and now, fallen Jedi," Vurt listed. "Did you ever think to do things normally for once?"
"That's what I thought I'd be doing with Logistics," Syrosk muttered, before a pause. "It would seem even there I cannot escape the peculiar. Even discounting the girl, the other Sith I'm overseeing are anything but normal."
"You know, you never told us her name," Vurt stated.
"I guess I didn't," Syrosk replied, leaving it at that.
The Nikto sharpened his gaze as he stared at his former master. "What aren't you telling us about her?"
"A great, many things," Syrosk whispered. Without another word, the elder Sith rose from his seat and stepped toward the home's entrance. The Nikto remained seated, barely turning his neck toward the exiting Sith. As Syrosk stood at the door, he paused, hand hovering over the nearby controls. "I'll stay in contact."
"We'll call if she dies," Vurt bluntly said, not even facing the exiting Sith Lord.
With that, the exchange was over. Syrosk stepped into the cold exterior of Ziost. In the distance, the Sith Lord could see the Nami and Nesk growing smaller and smaller on the horizon. Walking a path of cracked stone, the motley pair journeyed out into the wilderness, toward the lands untouched by civilization. Wherever their destination, it did not involve the local Academy.
Leaving the domicile of his former apprentices, Syrosk set out back toward the nearby starport. The wintery settlement that surrounded him possessed a gray malaise, lacking the harsh simplicity of Korriban, lacking the rigid oppression of Dromund Kaas. It was a place of blocks stacked upon blocks, everything seemingly connected by a thin sheet of ice. 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 upon one of the numerous icy peaks. Aerial defense batteries lined the countless ridges, perpetually setting their barrels toward the sky as icicles hung from their tips.
As a whole, the place lacked the grandeur of its brothers. It was one of three worlds the Sith Empire could call home, but it was content to be a place of purpose rather than presentation.
As the cold wind continued to kick the tail of the Sith Lord's black coat, he pressed forward, intent on returning to Dromund Kaas.
Time passed. Hour after hour came and went in silence. Syrosk traversed the lines of transportation, briefly interacting with the Logistics workers whom operated along his path. Boarding a shuttle, he sat alone in a constrictive passenger bay as the vessel traversed the atmosphere, the stars, and hyperspace. On route to his base, Syrosk had only his thoughts with him. Thoughts that turned to the girl he had left on Ziost. Thoughts that turned toward the future. There were countless possibilities. Countless outcomes. Many of which he knew he had no hand in influencing. Soon, the system would take hold. The infallible system. The system he submitted to following the war's end.
Oddly uplifting, was the thought. And yet, it was simultaneously burdensome. He had let go. The matter was out of his hands. Whatever happened, happened. Matters were left to fate. And yet, they weren't. They were left to each individual. They were left to him, to Nami, to Nesk and Vurt, to the Overseers, to Vowrawn. If he relinquished control, someone else would assume it. And that same truth existed in every other facet of his life. Of every Sith's life.
Eventually, the shuttle ferrying Syrosk touched down amidst the familiar capital. Beneath the darkened and crackling skies. Amidst spires and monuments to the glory of the Empire. How long it had been since his original departure, he did not know. How long it had been since he last slept, he did not know. Dromund Kaas has finished at least one rotation in his absence. During which, the gears of bureaucracy turned without him. Logistics continued to operate. The Empire continued to exist. Little was forced to change or adapt to the missing Executor.
Emerging from the gray shuttle, Syrosk offered an appreciative nod to the bowing pilots before making his way through the hangar. Like clockwork the starport operated, the Sith Lord the lone piece of dust drifting between the cogs of the machine. Ascending the lift out of the hangar, Syrosk drew a heavy breath, wondering what awaited back at the Citadel. Part of him wished for everything to be operating at its peak. And yet, another wanted something to be amiss, some measure to validate his continued presence there.
Stepping off the lift, the Sith Lord trudged along the curved walkway that made up the starport's main surface corridor. Passing branch after branch, lift after lift, Syrosk paid no mind to the various movements and operations of technicians and administrators. That is, until he noticed a peculiar amount of activity surrounding one of the cargo elevators. The one he knew led to the hangar belonging to Asher, Fay, and Graves.
A repulsor-assisted loader carried crate upon crate onto the lift. The boxy containers differed in size, but all bared the designation of Logistics supplies.
Taking another step toward the lift, an overseeing Imperial wielding a datapad took notice of Syrosk's approach.
"My lord," the Imperial shot off, straightening his posture. "This is the last of the supplies you've requested."
Syrosk paused, passing his gaze between the Logistics officer and the bundle of crates. After letting the silence hang for a few moments, the Executor finally spoke. "I see. Thank you."
The Imperial offered an appreciative nod before hastily stepping onto the industrial lift. Before he could descend, the Sith Lord followed, taking his position beside the assemblage of stacked crates atop the loader. The officer bit his lip as he buried his face in the datapad, keeping silent as he urged the lift downward.
As the lift came to a stop, the Executor was granted sight into a bustling hangar. In its center, a Fury-class interceptor sat, being tended by an abnormally large group. Imperials garbed in work clothes carted crates up and down the vessel's lowered entrance ramp, full boxes going in, empty ones coming out. Meanwhile, three figures stood out from the rest, standing watch over the entire proceedings. Syrosk stepped off the lift, an unusual haste to his otherwise sluggish advance.
Near the parked interceptor, three Sith watched as the starport workers carted supplies onto their ship.
"Alright," Asher called out, to no one in particular. "We don't exactly know what sort of timetable we're working with, but let's get this done, people. Remember, these requests come all the way from a Dark Councilor."
"They do, do they?" a chilled rasp emanated from behind the wrapped Sith. Asher jumped, spinning on his heels to find the cold stare of his boss planted directly on him.
"Syrosk! You're back. How's things?" Asher asked in his most diplomatic tone.
"I do hope you're not going to make me ask for an explanation," Syrosk plainly offered.
"Well, we figured the ship needed some renovations, especially with a fourth joining our team," Asher explaining, trying to maintain his calm. "I mean, have you see what passes for sanitary fixtures on a stock Imperial vessel? We just made a few requests to better serve the Executors."
"He uses the word 'we' very loosely," Fay bluntly stated. "This was practically all his idea."
"Wow, just throw me under the shuttle, why don't you?" Asher chided.
"If I wanted, I could literally do so," Fay replied, maintaining her stoic demeanor.
Behind the Sith Lord, the loader carrying the last batch of supplies came to a stop alongside its attendant, who kept his gaze lowered in the presence of the four powerful figures.
"Excuse me, my lords, but where do you want us to put the exercise equipment?" the Imperial sheepishly spoke up, almost afraid to bother the four Sith.
"The left wing is fine for now," Fay politely offered. Without another word, the Imperial ducked away, bringing the loader with him. As the man slipped away, the other three Sith looked to the tall woman. "Alright, it was only mostly his idea."
A low grumble slipped past Syrosk's lips as he rubbed his brow.
"How did things go on Ziost?" Graves spoke up, changing the subject.
"As well as expected," Syrosk admitted. "Nami's in the hands of my former apprentices. They'll prepare her for her trials in the Academy."
"What do we do until she graduates?" Fay asked.
"The same thing we were going to do prior to you bringing home a wayward Jedi. Work," Syrosk rasped. "Now come on, we've wasted enough time."
The Executor quickly turned on his heels and began making his way back toward the lift, his underlings following soon after.