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The Barely Legal Jedi


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Gestahlt
12.13.2011 , 09:07 AM | #1
The Barely Legal Jedi is a series filled with puns.
You have been warned.

Chapter Guide:
01 - Backroom Face Time
02 - Indecent Explosion
03 - Taken from Behind
04 - The Business
05 - Conception.
06 - In Vitro Veritas.
07 - Inspecting Erectus.
08 - Going Down
09 - Taking the Head.
10 - Hard to Swallow.
11 - Exploited.
EP - Shadowy Seconds.

Successive: A Primal Vice.

Chapter One: Backroom Face Time.

Of all the places she had been told to go during her tenure as a member of the Jedi Order, this was perhaps the one least expected. A blanket of smoke covered the floor, acting no differently than miasma might within a bog. Given the sluggish mannerisms of the occupants and their often times unpleasant sounds, she would have not at all been surprised to find that the denizens were in fact some form of swamp creatures. The only sense of culture that came from the establishment at all was a thin, willowy sound from the local band playing what had to be a snake charmer’s tune to keep the brutes and ruffians in line. When she considered some of the silhouettes she saw, she realized that was not at all a bad idea to possess.

Finding the location had been difficult enough as it was. While being told to do to Ord Mantell was strange enough in itself, she had expected to be given directions to the nearest Republic holdout position. The Imperial forces were growing ever bolder as she had learned, and although the Treaty of Coruscant should have prevented them from taking further liberties in the galaxy she was hardly surprised that it had not. Their offenses were far too grievous for “liars” and “breaker of oaths”, to truly be labels they feared. The Council had made a mistake in suing for peace with them, and that had been a mistake she was more than vocal of when it occurred. Perhaps, too vocal. That might explain why she was sent to the cantina in the first place.

There were many lives that had been touched by the sacking of Coruscant. She knew that her grief, while genuine, was hardly unique in its status. Former padawans, friends, and masters had all lost valued companions when the Sith led by Darth Malgus stormed the temple with such audacity that even to that day she could hardly fathom it. While losing Master Ven Zallow may have been a blow to the Order’s pride, it was the losses that surrounded his that truly opened wounds in the hearts of those she knew. But as Jedi they were not to allow those feelings to corrupt their thoughts, nor to attach themselves to the notion of vengeance.

In her opinion, they were not to allow fear to control them either, and the Council…

A large Aqualish passed by her, drawing her attention away from her happenstance brooding and toward the fore. She felt a glint of acuity pass between them in that moment; the Aqualish attempting to discern whether or not she was someone that might prove lucrative to his need for money or casual mayhem. Although she wore robes to conceal her identity, she knew that the look was becoming familiar enough that Sith sympathizers would simply assume she happened to be a Jedi. In the distance she could feel more eyes falling upon her; each sizing her up and more importantly waiting to see what the lead did. The situation had all the potential for a fight and it would not be the first time that a Jedi met an unseemly end at the hands of Imperials and their agents.

“This is an Imperial cantina, reppie,” the Aqualish stated as he snorted through his nostrils, a sound that that brought to mind a geyser exploding. She did not doubt that it very well could have been an Imperial cantina, but she knew that it mattered little to the Aqualish. Had she been an Imperial walking by at that same time he would have accosted her in any regard. They were, after all, a feckless and pugnacious people. “Maybe I could get a lot of money for you.”

She realized that to say most anything at that point would be to further encourage confrontation, and yet not to act might come across as ignoring the testosterone driven thug. Minding her situation and all but exposed in terms of her cover, she lifted her hands to her hood and slowly lowered it. Her green eyes, near feline, focused upon the Aqualish in what could be considered a manner of appraisal. He was larger than her by nearly half a meter and had more muscle mass than she could ever hope to compensate for. More importantly, at his side was a blaster whose grip looked just worn enough to indicate he was a quick draw, if his meaty arms didn’t solve problems for him. The cantina was crowded and she knew if he landed a solid hit on her then his comrades would swarm in as well. All told, the odds were hardly in her favor.

But she knew she could take him – she could take them all.

It was a thought that birthed upon her lips a surprisingly resplendent smile, whose existence seemed more to placate than to demean. In the realm of her human interactions she had several times been considered attractive, though if that was born from her affinity with the Force or her physical attributes she was uncertain. Of course, such charms and favors might well be lost upon a bruiser whose only purpose was to bruise. She smiled in spite of this fact though and the Aqualish hesitated if only for a moment. That moment was all that she required to do what was necessary.

She extended her hand, palm exposed, and brought it to the muscular arm of the irate man before her. “There is no need for violence,” she said in a calm and even tone. While her voice was in itself of a fair and sincere quality, what was more important to her statement was that as she spoke the Force was slowly working upon the pickled brain of the one before her. Aqualish may have been notoriously violent, but they were not inherently resistant to the Force and a mind well soused was a mind easily converted. “We are all friends here.”

“Friends,” the Aqualish repeated with a level of incredulity that bespoke his awareness of the sudden change in demeanor, but not enough to know what she had done. “You ain’t my friend,” he clarified. Another tense second emerged between the two before he snorted once more and brushed past her. Doubtlessly if he was not going to pulverize her then he would find someone else to attack. Perhaps she had a duty to mollify him further, but if she stopped to pacify every uproarious brute that she ran into then this meeting would never come to pass.

With the Aqualish taken care of, she offered a cursory glance about to those still present and found their interest in her had waned. Some looked to her with an interest different from violence, but theirs were lust addled minds that she had little time for. Jedi did not go to dive cantinas when they required that sort of attention – at least, not the ones that she knew.

“You must be the one that I was told to talk to,” a shifty Rodian male said from behind the bar. She looked in his direction and found that his jittery nerves and swift manner of speech was a note faster than his people were known for. More than likely he had ingested spice recently. Excellent, she thought with derisive contempt at no one in particular. My contact is a spicer.

“There’s a fellow that wanted to talk to you – booked the backroom until you got here.”

Backrooms were never good things to be told to go into; especially not when the majority of the patrons were more than likely squirrely and spiced thugs like the bartender or the one she had recently sent outside. She considered probing the Rodian’s mind for any details on what would be waiting for her, but just as it was simple to plant a thought into the mind of an addict, so too was it difficult to navigate through the jumbled mess of ideas that flowed through them. Instinctively she lowered her hand to her side and felt the long, cylindrical and metallic object that she kept at hand in case a situation became too much for her to handle with mere words.

“Thank you,” she responded without looking back to the bartender. The chances of an ambush having been set for a Jedi were high; during the current day she knew that several had been lured into traps only to never be seen again. Yet to avoid duty for the sake of fear was a folly that she would not encourage, and if the Imperials felt that she was worth dragging away from the frontlines in order to assassinate, then perhaps t hat should have been taken as a marker of pride. Whatever the case may have been, she knew that she would not allow it to go unanswered. Without fear, the Jedi proceeded past the sea of lustful eyes and made her way into the backroom. It was time to face whoever had set all of this into motion.

The doors slid apart and allowed her to enter the backroom. The moment that she stepped inside, they closed behind her and sealed – never a good sign. Mindful of her immediate area, she observed several crates and a wall that led into a distant corner. Though the Force was as always her guide, she could not help but wonder if perhaps her guide had gotten lost at that point in time. To turn around was no longer an option though, and try as she might to think of a scenario where the steps that she was taking would not lead her into an inevitably dark situation, she continued on her path without fail. Hand near her lightsaber, she turned the corner.

“Verra So’Quan,” a male voice said from behind the table that was before her. The umbra presented him with enough shadow to conceal his appearance beyond the silhouette that loomed before her eyes. Hearing her name was hardly something that surprised Verra; however, that the tone was not at all unfamiliar did. When the person rose and approached her, the shadows parted from him and revealed a dusky man wearing robes not much different than her own. Most important of all was the smile on his face; a reassuring expression. “It has been too long since last we spoke.”

“Master Doris?” Verra asked, her voice almost revealing the surprise that she felt. Moments prior her breathing had increased; blood vessels increasing their flow, and eyes taken on a new level of awareness. She had all but been prepared to fight and much to her dismay she actually felt somewhat let down that she would not be able to. Passing up the Aqualish as stress relief had been a mistake she knew, but to even consider fighting simply to alleviate tension was an act that carried grave implications with it. Rather than worry over her mental state, she stepped closer to the Jedi and embraced his forearms as he did hers. “I did not expect to find you here.”

Master Doris laughed and shook his head. “And why would you? Not many expect masters to be found in dingy cantinas.”

“I was unaware that there was a type other than,” Verra said with a winsome smile. Master Doris chuckled, a sound that she had once heard filled with mirth but now tempered at its fringes with sorrow.

“Please, be seated. We have precious little time to discuss the matter at hand.”

There was always precious little time, Verra knew. While the galaxy as a whole believed that for the most part the Jedi did nothing more than meditate and prevaricate, in truth theirs was a task that was more about preventing problems than solving them. She moved as she had been instructed to and sat gracefully at the table. The hand that had previously been prepared to pull her lightsaber at that point lifted and brushed her platinum blonde bangs behind her left ear. It was a slight action, but enough of one to give her nerves time to calm.

It had not been the first time that she was told to sit before Master Doris, Verra noted with some amount of amusement. As a youngling she was known to be too quick to anger, and although she had never given her masters cause for serious concern, there were times when she was told that her greatest weakness was her desire to care for too many people, too readily. In doing so, Master Doris had told her, she was only allowing herself to be drawn into a multitude of directions that could only end in frustration and disappointment. His words had proven true and over time she learned to form relationships that had a goal beyond simply being relationships. Of course, at the time Master Doris’ face had been a bit less wrinkled, and the lines around his eyes hardly pronounced. It would appear that just as time had changed her, so too had it changed him.

“As you well know, the Sith Empire has returned in a way unconscionable,” Master Doris began as he placed a small, glowing orb before himself. “Our defeats in the beginning of this newly minted confrontation pale in comparison to the ones that will surely be incurred in the future. The sacking of Coruscant was but a symptom of the illness that plagues us.”

“Illness?” Verra asked, a finely structured eyebrow lifting but a notch.

Master Doris compressed the cube and from it, a projection emerged of the galaxy. “Ignorance,” he stated solemnly. “The Republic is now shattered, splintered into competing sectors of influence. Many planets are only nominally within its control.”

As Master Doris spoke the projection began to shade various locations either red or blue. The key that fluctuated at the side of the map indicated that the red were Sith and the blue Republic holdings. Whereas a few years ago everything would have been colored blue, Verra could understand the concerns that might emerge when once loyal sectors were now torn between the two.

“Our problem,” Master Doris said. “Is that we know next to nothing about our enemies. Clearly they know us; the Sith have had centuries upon centuries to study and perfect the art of killing Jedi, but we have been so… driven in our pursuits for peace that we allowed our duties to the Republic to lapse in that regard,” he said with what could be considered a note of personal failure.

Verra cleared her throat softly. “Master Doris, we could not have possibly known that they would attack us so brazenly – so recklessly…”

“Couldn’t we have?” The senior Jedi asked with a sorrowful sigh. “To the contrary, Verra; we knew that the threat existed and simply did not address it. Three hundred years before this day, did Darth Revan not return in a fashion no less audacious?”

Darth Revan, she thought. An enigma tucked comfortably within a mystery if ever there was one. The existing holo-records had placed him as the returned hero of the Republic, marred by the Dark Side and an agent of an unknown force. His was a story of depravity and redemption; of failure and success. A cautionary tale to be certain, she only wished that she knew how the Republic had stabilized itself after his tyrannical assault. That would have been very pertinent information to know, for in that perhaps the Republic might correctly unseat the Sith from their positions. Unreliable historians, she fumed inwardly. How dare they not record pertinent history?

“We have had…” Master Doris trailed off for a moment as he thought of the word to use. Verra knew that whenever such occurred that it meant there would soon be a half-truth spoken. “Agents,” he said with relative self-satisfaction, “exploring old Sith ruins and ensuring that their taint did not spread to impressionable minds. Theirs was a task that dealt primarily with prevention over investigation.”

Verra’s eyebrows furrowed, for this was information that she had not been privy to. Certainly there had to be someone that ensured that the Sith did not rise again, but for all of her missions and duties they had dealt with preventing local disturbances up until the return of the Sith Empire. That there were Jedi specifically selected for the task of specifically hunting down Sith artifacts was not only news to her, but somewhat startling.

“Forgive me, master, but I do not know why this information necessitated a meeting here.”

“Then allow me to speak with more clarity,” Master Doris said. “The Council, after experiencing the losses that we did, could not continue to ignore the threat of the Sith. So it was that we sent several of these agents into the Outer Rim in hopes of gathering more information on our adversaries. These agents, known as Shadows, were specifically tasked with sending information back to the Council at weekly intervals.”

Verra canted her head slightly. “And one of them did not?”

“Precisely,” Master Doris confirmed. He pressed another position on the holo-cube and the map centered upon a single planet. “This is Thorne IV, the location that our operative’s latest dispatch came from. We have reason to suspect that he may have been captured, killed, or worse.”

“Or worse,” Verra said softly to herself. She feared to know what the Sith would do to an infiltrator, and yet knowing that one of her brethren was trapped without assistance raised within her an ire that knew no consolation. Normally she would have expected Master Doris to warn her against her emotions, but he sat silently and watched her. She drew her attention from the map back to him. “What can we do?”

“I am afraid that this task will fall solely upon you,” Master Doris stated. “The Shadows are an organization that are permitted liberties most other Jedi are not afforded. The Council has already spoken of your case in particular and we believe you will be the perfect candidate to venture to Thorne IV and discover what has become of Master Zi’los.”
She thought to ask what made her the perfect candidate, but she supposed she already knew. Hers was a record that was clean enough, but that did have infractions that might lift eyebrows. If she was expected to act in accordance with the Code completely then the need for secrecy would not have been mandated. No, they selected her because when the time came she would do what needed to be done. The name ‘Master Zi’los’ meant relatively little to her, and so she instead focused upon something more pressing. “You said that the Shadows are granted liberties?”

There came a look of uncertainty to Master Doris’ face then that spoke more to his unwillingness to continue than his desire to do so. Yet, the glimpse vanished within the blink of an eye and he offered her a nod of his head. “Yes,” he started. “There are actions that would be legal to citizens of the Republic that we Jedi do not condone. Because Shadows must be prepared to confront untenable situations at all times, we simply believe that... that are granted privileges that allow them to perform actions that are barely legal.”

Barely legal? Was that a half-truth? Something was either legal or it wasn’t to most people, but she supposed this cryptic message would be a lucrative spin for any of the Jedi that had moral doubts about what they were being told to do. Verra knew that the decision was out of her hands, if the Council had already discussed it and agreed then she was as good as on the mission. She felt no resentment for that fact, though. How many other Jedi were given the chance to venture into the darkness and retrieve a brother? How many other Jedi could say that the Council felt they were trustworthy enough to send against the Sith, alone?

“I will find him,” she stated. “No matter the cost.”

Master Doris paused then and gave her a smile that was surprisingly sorrowful. After its manifestation though, he slid the cube toward her. “Programmed into that databank is the identity you are to assume. Because truths are easier to express than lies, we have applied as much truth as possible to your cover.”

Verra rose from her seat and accepted the cube. With Master Doris also standing they embraced forearms once more, before she looked into his eyes. “I shall not fail the Council.”

Master Doris nodded once more, but in his gaze she saw something that she knew would never leave his lips. After their embrace had come to an end she turned about and made her way toward the door once more, which slid open expectantly. Perhaps she had misread what she felt upon the old man? It was possible that she had projected her own thoughts onto him, after all. But there was still a small sting that came to her mind as she made her exit; a tiny seed of doubt that refused to allow her to forget that look. It had but a single message to it, but one with grave ramifications.

That is what Master Zi’los said, as well.

Gestahlt's Avatar


Gestahlt
12.14.2011 , 07:13 AM | #2
Chapter Two: Indecent Explosion

The information cube that she had been given contained far more than she had expected to find. While Master Doris may have informed her that the Council had prepared for her a history, she did not expect it to be so thorough or quite so convincing. True to his word, he and the others had endeavored to keep her cover as close to her person as possible. Of course, it would be better if she did not have to lie, but something told her that no matter how stealthy she was she was going to run into a Sith eventually. The best she could hope for was that the situation did not need to end in the loss of a life – at least, not hers.

The holo-cube idled on the latest image that had been selected, one that Verra had never been given much time to study until that moment: herself. Although the color of the projection was more blue than lifelike, she knew well enough her attributes to at the very least fill in those details. Throughout life she had always identified herself as simply “me”, and never attached an image to it beyond that. Vanity, after all, was a trait that the Jedi never placed much value in. Nevertheless, actually seeing herself as others must have was in itself a surprising and intriguing find.

She could understand why it was that people were drawn to her; the Jedi lifestyle had treated her well and created a woman that was physical and emotionally developed. Her hair, rendered near white by the projection, was in reality a platinum blonde and fell to her shoulders. She increased the scaling on her face to zoom the picture in further and found that her cheekbones were elegantly defined and created a near heart-shape appearance if one were to trace from her cheekbones to her delicate, yet well set jaw-line. As with most people from Laebus that she knew, her lips were full and presented a near pouted look to them. When matched with her eyes, noticeably feline and remarkably bright in their green nature, a look that some had referred to as “exotic” was created. The simple admiration of her features caused her to blush, and she touched a hand to her cheek wondering how that must have looked as well. Rather than give into the temptation of looking into a mirror, she zoomed the picture out further and took her entire body into account.

There was still a quality to her appearance that bespoke youth – could it have been the way her bangs naturally rested when not tucked behind an ear? In any event, it contrasted with how “mature” she felt she had become over the years, perhaps it was her close affinity with the Force that delayed the process by which she aged. In truth, she hardly looked over the age of eighteen and that was just a little unsettling! Neverminding her youthful countenance, she was vaguely more familiar with her body’s proportions. A Jedi needed to be constantly aware of their person, and more importantly how to improve it. Rigorous training had trimmed her into a slender person, and although biology seemed to favor her maintaining the modestly curvaceous physique of a woman not quite as physically active as she was, she nevertheless fought to slim and tone as much as she could.

Having to ask Master Doseir if there was a way to keep certain parts of her body from interfering with her training had been one of the most awkward and embarrassing moments of her life, but by the same token as she looked back on the incident and recalled just how flustered he had been as well, she could not help but laugh. It was a sound that she noticed she had been given less reason to share as the days went on, and she savored it in an almost sorrowful manner as the memory of her fallen mentor returned to her.

She would have given anything to be at the temple when the Sith landed; would have done anything to be able to fight by his side and protect him from whichever soulless fiend had stricken him down. Although the Jedi were told not to form attachments, the bond between master and apprentice was not one easily forgotten. In losing Master Doseir she felt as though she had lost a part of herself, and the anger that was born from it was so pure and real that she forced herself not to delve deeper into it less she cross a bridge that need not be crossed. Even then, in the middle of unknown space, she could feel herself heating. It would be better to think of something else – the last thing she needed to do was enter her mission with hatred on her mind.

The holo-cube was manipulated once more, its surface touched to scroll her picture off of its projected screen and bring up the cover story that she had been presented with. With the lingering thoughts of her former master on her mind, she tried her best to calm and study what could very well be her saving grace should she be discovered by the Sith. If nothing else, it gave her mind something productive to focus upon.

In a way, it was eerie to see how close their artful depiction came to life. She was Verra So’Quan, Jedi Knight and former apprentice of Master Ophirus Doseir. Born on a small mid-rim planet named Laebus Majora, she was discovered to be Force Sensitive at the age of two and sent to live with the Jedi. Her training went remarkably well and excepting notes of aggression that were slowly removed from her, she was an ideal student. After becoming a Knight, she fought in several engagements against local militia before being assigned to Alderaan where she witnessed the return of the Sith Empire. In all, the factors that led up to the present seemed to be relatively precise.

And it was then that fiction entered the picture.

Following the Republic’s defeats on Alderaan she became disenchanted, fleeing into the wilds after Coruscant fell. Aware of the Republic’s weakened position and filled with rage, she engaged a fellow Jedi in a heated duel that left the latter dead. Incapable of reconciling herself with the Council, she fled into Sith Space. It would be with this cover, as a Dark Jedi, that she would have to hope that the Sith would give her more than a second glance before tearing her to pieces. Various contact information was filled in, referring to her travels and those that she met, no doubt people that the Council had informed to support her should they have been contacted for verification of her identity. While the fanciful end of the report should have made her laugh, it did anything but. It was troubling just how close to the truth it was.

Certainly she had not turned away from the Council – she could never do that. But she did feel that they had betrayed her, Master Doseir, and the many Jedi that fell during the sacking. Had the Jedi stood tall against the demands of the Sith then perhaps more would have died, but theirs would not be a name besmirched by capitulation in the face of their adversary. Pride, she knew, was a terrible thing, but pride was what separated her from a droid. She may not have cast aside her allegiance to the Republic, but she could understand how someone might do just that when faced with the glaring reality that the Council had failed them. Master Doris had not been incorrect: they truly had created a persona that she could play.

The starship that she had been given to travel into Sith Space was not necessarily the most non-descript. Sleek and fast, while it had been deprived of its Republic markings it was quite clearly a ship of their make. Perhaps she would state that she had stolen it from the Jedi before she went rogue? Whereas normally she would have avoided lying if at all possible, that trait would have to be the first to go when it came to tracking down Zi’los. The cube had given her tertiary information about the man, but something told her that knowing where he came from or the name of his master would not matter much in the grand scheme of things. Her best course of action would be to get into Thorne IV, find him, and get out. Any dallying only increased the chances of her being exposed and subsequently lost in the same manner that he had been.

And something about the look in Master Doris’ eyes told her they would not be sending a Shadow to rescue her.

The holo-cube contained other pertinent information to her mission, namely that dealing with Thorne IV. The entirety of Sith space was entirely foreign to her, and she supposed that Master Doris had been correct when he stated that ignorance was an illness the Jedi shared. To think that all of the time spent dealing with miniscule and superficial threats could have been applied to the more pernicious and real dangers of the Sith was a mark against the Council that she knew they felt just as smartly as she did. They should have been prepared; they had allowed their arrogance to deceive them into a state of inactivity that their adversaries had not been loath to exploit.

She sifted through the information data banks until a comprehensive view of the planet was offered. As she had been more interested in conversation than pictures when she spoke with Master Doris she had not paid much mind to the planet’s topography, but upon looking at it she found that the swirling image was composed of several cities, with vegetation and ocean running between them. The holo-cube projected a second screen, upon which more detailed information would be learned.

Quote: Originally Posted by Holocron, Master Zi’los Findings, Entry Thorne IV: Astrographical
Thorne IV
Region: Sith Space
System: Explois system
Suns: 1 – Desol (Major)
Moons: 2 – Destos ; Feran
Grid Coordinates: X-12
Rotation: 27 hours
Orbit: 397 days (projected).
Quote: Originally Posted by Holocron, Master Zi’los Findings, Entry Thorne IV: Physical
Class: Terrestrial
Diameter: 24,800 km
Atmosphere: Breathable
Climate: Temperate
Gravity: Standard
Primary terrain: Plains ; Forest ; Hills ; Mountains ; Ocean ; Cities
Points of interest: Magestus City
Quote: Originally Posted by Holocron, Master Zi’los Findings, Entry Thorne IV: Societal
Native species: Unknown
Immigrated species: Sith Hybrids ; Humans ; Unknown species
Primary language(s): Galactic Basic
Government: Sith Empire
Population: Unknown, Projected – 7-9 billion.
Major cities: Magestus ; Feora ; Glasael
Major imports: Rare metals

For a single Jedi working within a hostile environment, Verra was impressed with how much information Master Zi’los had gathered. Most of the information would mean little for her search, but to the larger mission of informing the Jedi of the Sith presence, it was invaluable. As Magestus had been twice mentioned she could only assume that was the location Master Zi’los had spent most of his time studying. If there were to be any easily gleaned clues as to his whereabouts, surely that would be the location to check.

Her mind returned to Master Zi’los then, a man whose name still meant relatively nothing to her. Try as she might to summon up the memory of who he might be, she simply could not place a face to his name. She manipulated the cube once more and was rewarded with several screens opening, before she selected the one in which a human male looked back at her. She supposed it made sense that humans were selected primarily as Shadows; other species being within Sith Space would be all the more noteworthy and compromise any attempt at integrating into the system.

There was something vaguely familiar about the brunette man whose image loomed before her. He held the appearance of a Jedi trained in combat for more years than she had existed; a sign of distinction and respect within the Order to be sure. His hair ended at the nape of his neck and was curled for the most part, creating upon him a further dignified look. How it was that she could not have known such an impressive man, whose chin was set as though made of stone and features chiseled into perfection, was beyond her. Had she perhaps seen him on the front lines and that explained his familiarity? If so, he had not left any noticeable impression on her then, but she certainly could tell a thing or two about him now.

The image of the man shifted as she scrolled her thumb to the side of the holo-cube and was presented with his background information. Born on Dantooine, he was the son of farmers that was found to be gifted with the Force. Apprenticed under Master Solaq Dalwes, he too was known for spates of aggression and more importantly, had incidents where he caused his training to be momentarily suspended. Nevertheless he eventually became a Knight and from there, entered the same rigorous combat training that she had. More importantly, he had been at the sacking of Coruscant and survived through the mayhem that ensued.

She could only imagine what he must have felt when he was within Sith space.

The hyperdrive upon her starship began to beep, indicating that they were coming to the end of a hyperlane. While she knew that she should have been anxious for what was to follow, she was not at all overcome with emotion as the white and black lines of diffusion began to fade away and suddenly came to an abrupt halt, landing her in the middle of inky darkness. Even before her happenstance promotion to Shadow she had been known to venture behind enemy lines to ascertain as much information as possible; this was the same, but on a larger scale. Of course, there would be no company of eager troopers prepared to rescue her should she meet with a snag, but she could live with that as well.

Thorne IV loomed in the distance, a majestic and impressive sight to behold if one ignored the fact that teeming upon its surface was the blight of the galaxy. The on-board system had flashed with several ports that could be approached, and since she had relatively reliable access codes she supposed it would be best to select Magestus Prime and see where it took her. Thus far Master Zi’los advice had been spot on, what reason did she have to doubt him further? She transmitted the codes ahead and continued forth at sublight speed, waiting for confirmation to return and thus guide her into the port. At worst she might be questioned as to how she had discovered the location, but prevarication could answer that quandary. Everything would be alright.

Or, it’d go horribly wrong.

“Docking codes denied,” a voice announced over her intercom. Her brows furrowed, Verra began to search through the cube for any note that might indicate difficulty when using the system in question. Considering that nothing immediately sprang to the fore, she ground her teeth and attempted to resend the code.

“Docking codes denied,” the voice repeated. “Reduce travel speed and await interception from sector security forces.”

So perhaps everything wouldn’t be alright. The thought to try running the planet’s defenses came to mind, but as she had seen Imperial starships shred Republican vessels, she did not doubt that her current skiff would be capable of doing little when faced with the planetary defenses of an area seemingly aware that someone might have been trying to infiltrate. Patience would win out in this situation, and she complied by reducing the thrust of her vehicle and bringing it to a near crawling speed. The Council had, after all, given her a cover story. Why not start out her visit by breaking it in?

A deep, guttural voice emerged over her intercom. “Hold position until we have secured your vessel,” it commanded. While Verra had heard many voices and dialects before, the one in question was one that surprised her. She looked toward her scanner and saw a trio of ships approaching her from the left. One broke away from the others and began circling wide to approach her from the other side when the time came. She drew her breath in and sat back against the seat. There was nothing to do now but wait.

Or die.

As her ship was a Republic navy vehicle, it was outfitted with sensors that responded when an armed vessel targeted it. Verra blinked but for a second when the sensor pinged, and then looked back to her scanner to see that the ships had assumed a definitive attack formation. While it may have been tempting to try to convince the Sith that she was not the enemy, her gut told her that it would be valuable seconds lost in the face of their approach. Mindful of the single ship that had taken a wide turn to encircle her, she ignited the starship’s thrusters and pitched herself diagonally away from the two ships and brought herself strafing before the one. Not surprisingly, the ships accelerated after her.

“Hold your position,” the guttural one called over her intercom once more, though this time with much more malice than had previously been present. “You are within Sith Space, surrender your vehicle at once.”

“Pardon my candor,” Verra replied to the assumed leader, “but I do not think armed weapons are necessary when detaining a person.”

“You will hold your position until you are secured!”

“I don’t think so.”

A space battle over Thorne IV was not exactly the best way to make her entrance, but when faced with it or death she knew that she had but one choice. The starship responded with less finesse than she would have liked, but as she switched on the combat systems she realized that she would have to make do with what she had on hand. The solitary ship would have to be her initial target; partially separated as it was, it would provide the least amount of defense and its elimination would less pressure on her. She placed her starship into a hard roll that brought it about in an arch that once more crossed her before the other ship’s cannons. Predictably it unleashed its forward payload, but she accelerated within the turn and spun harshly to enter a twirl that cleared her from its path of attack. The maneuver was sloppier than she would have liked, but the solitary ship was hardly in position to capitalize on her perfectionism. With a compressing of the ship’s triggers, a flurry of lasers broke free of her cannons and lacerated the enemy’s vessel. In the blink of an eye it exploded and she was free to turn her ship around to face the two approaching vehicles.

Things were going to become all the more difficult now.

The ship’s on-board system informed her of the seconds that it would take to be within weapon’s lock. While some Jedi preferred not to mind their systems, she had learned that the Force was not something to be used as a “weapon” because it was more advantageous. When times were difficult, yes, the Force would provide answers, but the technological advantages of mankind were nothing to be ignored on whim. Rather than select one or the other she opted on both as she closed in upon the enemy ships. Sensing the enemy’s desire to fire as best she could, she banked to her left and accelerated as a stream of laser fire tore through where she had previously been. The starship was placed into another roll, but rather than break free of it and make a run, she instead dipped forth and brought herself into a fish-hooking pattern that removed her from the immediate sights of the Sith starfighters.

The braking on her starship failed to properly punctuate her maneuver and as she emerged from the dip, she nearly overshot her mark. A blast from one of the enemy ships nicked her wing, causing her to enter a spin that sent various klaxons ablaze in her cockpit. Gripping her throttle as best she could, she fought to steer herself out of the “deadman’s spin” before the ships made a second pass and finished their precursory assault. Verra lowered her eyes to the sensors and saw that both ships were closing in upon her. With a final shove forth, she brought free of the turbulent spin and favored her uninjured wing for a turn to face them once more.

Two ships against one, she was fairly certain that she could not prevail. The Sith fighters were not at all inexperienced and their armoring was good enough to prevent superficial damage from having lasting effects. Had she not met the other ship at a cross section, in fact, she was quite certain that it would have survived her attack. These two, she was sure, would not fall for the same tactic as had done their ally in.

“This is your last chance to stand down,” the guttural voice commanded once more. “If you do not, you will be obliterated.”

And after killing their comrade she’d be treated to tea? While she knew that the Sith were callous and reprehensible people, she did not doubt they would allow a personal slight to go unpunished. Regardless of how badly things could have gone for her if she did not acquiesce to their demands, she knew that the Sith were disgusting beasts that had to be put down. The Council had made the mistake of negotiating with them and it left countless lives unavenged; she would not make that same mistake.

Against her better judgment, Verra accelerated the starfighter once more and brought it around to face the two approaching Sith ships. Their distance quickly approached weapon range and while she knew she could make another daring attempt to outflank them, she instead compressed her triggers and from her stationary position unleashed as many shots as she could in their direction before they entered an accurate distance of striking. The lead ship broke away from its lesser as several of the laser bolts grazed its surface and Verra, in a predatory state, instantly went for the throat.

Sluggish or not, her starfighter’s takeoff was timed perfectly against the lone Sith ship that continued to approach her. She drifted to her side and entered a side-winding spin that cleared her of its range. Though it physically hurt her to make the turn that followed, she cleared it and bore in upon the side of the ship with as much intensity as she could muster from her fighter’s cannons. It placed a noticeable dent into the other ship’s side that sent it careening off course and with a final blast ruptured its shields and sent an explosion into the darkness about her. Parting the conflagration, she glanced to her monitor and saw that only one ship remained. Things would be much easier from that point forth.

The alpha fighter was in no way an inexperienced pilot. Although Verra had the Force on her side, the latter was gifted with experience and confidence in his stride. Several times she attempted to lock onto him only for the other to enter a looping series of evasive maneuvers that nearly landed him behind her an in a primed position to make short work of the Jedi. Back and forth they jockeyed for position upon the other, yet nearly quite able to fall into pattern. Try as he might to assault Verra from behind, the Jedi refused to allow herself to be taken unprepared – conversely, each time she went for his head, he expertly deflected her advances.

But the game came to a sudden end when her sensors began to read that more ships were approaching, and these were undoubtedly more seasoned in their training. Uncomfortable with the idea of taking on multiple targets at once, she looked back toward Thorne IV and then to the sensor. There would only be one feasible chance of escaping the confrontation alive, and that would mean leaving the alpha and making a dash for the planet. Shredded by planetary defenses or not; she would certainly be killed if she waited for the approaching cavalcade to mount their defenses against her.

“You’ll never make it,” the alpha announced. “Surrender now and allow me to claim this kill for my record.”

“And what would be the fun in that?” Verra asked hotly as she broke away from the game of cat and mouse and headed directly for the planet. Several times her monitor informed her that the other ship was attempting to lock in upon her, but she ignored it and placed all of her speed into outrunning him. Comfortably behind her as he was, he failed to find an opening secure enough to exploit, and was forced to stream in behind her as she made her suicidal charge.

Thorne IV grew ever closer and she was certain that the pursuing Sith was hot on her tail. She broke sharply then, her ship veering as a jarring sensation washed over her. Yet her senses remained intact and as the Sith passed by her, she compressed her trigger and highlighted the underside of his ship with rapacious laser fire. As his ship exploded she saw him jettison from it in his environmental suit. Unfortunate as it was that he lived, she knew she could not dally to try and claim a merciless kill. After all, Jedi did not kill unarmed opponents.

Verra increased the speed upon her starfighter once more and brought it barreling toward Thorne’s atmosphere. Several warnings projected themselves on the monitor before her, but she ignored them and clenched her jaw. If the Force wanted her to succeed with this mission, then it would see her through the incoming storm of fire.

The density of gravity nearly tore her starfighter asunder as she began to breach the atmosphere. The atmospheric reentry was perhaps the worst she had ever experienced and both bones and teeth were sent to shaking as she fought to maintain control over her ship. Its sensors continued to off, warning her against proceeding at her current speed, but just as she thought to decrease it she was reminded as to why she had entered so sharply – the planetary defenses were active.

Immense laser fire showered past her as she twisted and turned her ship in hopes of clearing the majority of the cluster; however, it was a cause lost as with each evasion she made the defenses honed in more acutely upon her. The damaged wing of her starfighter gave away under the excruciating pressure placed against it, and instantly she was sent into a hopeless spin. Lasers continued to streak past her, but their task would soon be accomplished by gravity as she went spiraling toward the ground.

This could not have been the way she was intended to die, she told herself. If the Force had wanted her to perish in combat, then there were countless times she could have done so while fighting the Sith in Republic space. But out here, alone – abandoned? She would bring honor to nothing and provide no one with use in her demise. Not even Master Zi’los, who depended on her for emancipation, would know that she had fallen.

That thought was the final one she had as one of the defense’s lasers slammed directly into her starfighter and penetrated its shields, exploding in her ears with such an indecent resonance that it sent her drifting into a distant and foreboding darkness.

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Gestahlt
12.15.2011 , 07:43 AM | #3
Chapter Three: Taken from Behind.


There was darkness. There was light.

Verra moaned softly as awareness slowly returned to her. The last thing that she recalled was the hellacious sensation of descending toward Thorne IV’s surface and the nothingness. She had supposed that the darkness that followed was her introduction to the Force, but as she emerged from it she felt not at all deprived of the omnipresent love she would have expected to find within the metaphysical energy field. Other than the muted throbbing of various injuries, in fact, she did not feel anything at all. That, to say the very least, was disconcerting.

She began to take her surroundings into account. Where she might have expected to find wreckage or desolated scenery, instead there was a rather quaint looking room. Sunlight streamed inward through a window, its feeling nearly regenerative upon her body. White curtains billowed as a gentle breeze worked its way into the room and across her tender physique, which in turn felt all the more rested in the wake of the atmospheric bliss. Never before had she been within a more tranquil location. She turned her head toward her other side and found that another was within the room. Instinctually, she recoiled and pulled her blankets closet to herself.

“You’ve awakened,” the other said in a surprisingly bemused voice. The source of the voice was a creature unlike any she had seen before. A soft blue in color, her countenance was vaguely humanoid, yet there was an angularity to it that defied the norm. Slender and curvaceous, even when sitting she seemed to hold more presence than Verra did in her weakened state. Her eyes were luminescent, yet held a wild and ferine appeal to them. She was a wild and exotic creature; far more beautiful than Verra knew how to properly describe. Obviously one of the home’s inhabitants, her presence provided Verra without the faintest hint of danger. “The Master will be pleased to be informed.”

Master? While she may not have known who the woman was, she was quite certain that she did not wish for her to identify any “master” of her whereabouts. Verra held her hand out to stop her with the assistance of the Force, but as she attempted to manipulate the energy field she found nothing came to her hand. Flabbergasted she attempted once more. Nothing.

“The master will explain everything,” the woman went on to state. “Please, do not over exert yourself in attempting to control the Force.” Without another word she turned and left the room, her steps ginger as she proceeded into the distance. Behind her, a tail of the same hue as her skin swayed in a pacifying manner.

Control the Force, Verra thought bitterly. A Jedi did not attempt to “control” the Force! It was an ally – no, a guide that showed them the path they need take. Only the arrogance of a Sith would endeavor to control the Force. That the woman knew she could seek the Force out at all was troubling, but Verra saw no reason to dally upon that topic for the time being. The sooner that she left the room and found her lightsaber, the sooner she could return to her mission. She winced as she attempted to turn and felt several ribs strain against repairing tissue. The crash had undoubtedly been harsh on her body. Teeth gritting, she managed to bring her legs over the side of the bed and slowly pressed them down to the floor.

Unbearable pain raced up through her, capturing her spine and sending endless signals of duress throughout her being. She let off a soft groan and fell back against the bed, her hand lowered at once to her ribs which felt nearly shattered in the single attempt at applying pressure to her body. So perhaps she would not be making an expedient escape, but that did not mean she would give up on the pursuit. If need be, she would crawl out of the room. Verra pressed off the bed once more and felt the same nauseating pain wash over her, but rather than relent in her course she placed one step before the other and began to move. Yes, that was the way. Left, right. Left, right.

The door slid shut before her, sealing off the exit and preventing her from seeing further down the hall that had been her intended path of escape. An angered growl escaped her, but she resisted the urge to strike the door to open it. To do so would be to give into anger and to give into anger would cloud her judgment. She leaned her head against the blocked gateway for several seconds and then inhaled. How else could she escape?

The window.

She opened her eyes and slowly turned to look at the distant porthole. The distance from the door to he window was well over several meters and each step that she took caused her body to relieve the stomach wrenching sensation of pain that she had weathered in simply moving from the bed to the door. Yet something as mundane as pain, no matter how gruesome, could not be allowed to stop a Jedi Shadow from completing her mission. She shuffled forth with as much alacrity as she could to clear the requisite distance.

The Force did not answer her call; it did not offer her a single glimpse of awareness. While she may have awakened from the darkness, her mind was still absent that which had always been its guide. A hand lowered to her battered ribs, where she felt restorative salve applied generously to fight the various injuries she had incurred. Yet try as she might to will the Force to assist her in her plight it would not, and not a single fiber or filament was restored under her touch. When she came to the bed again she paused and leaned against it, her forehead wet with sweat. She was half way there – half way to freedom.

Behind her, the sound of the door opening drew Verra away from her momentary stupor. She turned with as much speed as she could to look upon the newly emerged, half-heartedly hoping that it would be the woman who had left moments before and not her vaunted master. As it turned out, luck had abandoned her just as the Force seemed to have.

“You should not be standing,” the newly emerged stated. His was an appearance unlike any that she had seen before; near human, he was lean and almost gaunt in appearance, yet held a dignified and near regal air that she could not quite qualify. What may have been vestigial tendrils hung from his cheeks, framing his mouth in a manner that one might expect a mustache to. His skin was a pallid color, from either lack of sunlight or the necrotic onset of Dark Side corruption, yet in either event it did not actually detract from his appearance. Garbed in expensive looking robes, the princely appearance of the man was brought to a head by the looking of subtle command that were attributed to his orange eyes. Most surprising of all was that where she may have expected to hear menace, instead an understated compassion wafted from his words. “Please, return to your bed.”

Verra knew a Sith when she was one – even if she could not feel the Force, her eyes would never deceive her. Tensed as best she could, she sought out any means of weaponry to defend herself but found the immediate area lacking. “Absolutely not,” she replied dryly. Pained as her voice was, its underling conviction was unquestionable. “Whatever is going on here, I will not be party to it.”

A look of tumescence blossomed upon the regal Sith’s features as he heard her denial, almost as though he had expected nothing less. Rather than approach her further, he drew the chair that the woman had been sitting in closer to himself and sat down gracefully. He placed a hand to his chin and stroked it, while the other rested on his leg. “There is nothing ‘going on’ here, madam Jedi. I simply believe it would behoove you not to remain standing when your body is so close to collapse.”

Oh, there was truth to the man’s words. His voice, a seductive and gentle sound that played as waves against her mind, did not seek to force her to comply but rather persuaded her in a manner that she felt all too comforting. Aware that something was amiss but incapable of stopping the sensation, the duality of her pained ribs as well as the man’s presence forbade her from acting rashly. What harm could truly come from sitting down? With some effort she sat back against the bed and was rewarded with an unending sense of relief. “Do not refer to me as that.”

“As what?” The Sith asked, his hand lowering from his chin and moving to clasp with its counterpart within his lap. “Madam Jedi?”

“Yes,” Verra said. “I am not a Jedi, not any longer.”

She knew that the words should have brought her no duress, but after she had attempted and failed to summon the Force she began to feel there may have been some truth to them. Much to her dismay, the Sith removed his robes her holocron, which he suspended with the Force.

“If you would rather, I could well play into your ploy – you are a Dark Jedi, seeking the Sith for some foolhardy reason or another,” he demurred, almost in a tone to imply he took offense to the folly. “Or, I can refer to you as that which you are, Madam Jedi.”

The repeating of the title caused her to grind her teeth, but more importantly than her agitation was the fact that the Sith knew her secrets. Uncertain of what to say she looked between the floating sphere and then back to the Sith. “If you know who I am and why I am here, then why am I not dead?”

“Curiosity,” the Sith replied. “Morbid or otherwise.” In the wake of his utterance he offered a gainful chuckle, a sound not at all unpleasing to the ear. Yet its mirth and levity carried with it something akin to a tempting and near corrosive element. Verra was aware enough to not fall too easily into his gambit – not just yet. “What is important is that I have told no one of your arrival, save for my household servants.”

“Servants,” she murmured. “The woman that was in here when I awoke?”

“Is something more,” the Sith answered without a hint of deception. “But her position matters little to you, I am certain. I had to sacrifice something very near and dear to myself in order to ensure your safety; I would hope this might ingratiate you to my presence, if only slightly.”

Why was the man speaking to her; why had he not killed her when he discovered what she was? The Sith were amoral, deceptive, and cruel beasts that lived to harm and murder. Whatever game he may have been playing, she told herself, she would not allow herself to be drawn too readily into it. She had to remain alert. A wolf did not need to bare its teeth to hold the intention of killing. “What did you sacrifice? I am certain that credits matter little to a man of your position.”

There was a note of derision on her voice that she had failed to conceal, but rather than offend the man it caused him only to chuckle once more. “Right you would be,” the Sith stated. Though she could not directly place his accent, it held a gravely quality that she believed was shared with the alpha fighter she had dispatched above Thorne. Perhaps that was simply the way people from the planet spoke. “No, that which I surrendered held more value to it than mere credits. A man as aged as I would not think twice before surrendering his fortune for the chance to assist a creature as lovely as you.”

In that single utterance he had not only addressed himself as elderly, but her as lovely. As she had no means of adequately gauging the Sith’s age against anything else, she had to assume that the few lines she saw upon his face were in fact markers of age. The compliment shared recalled to her mind how she had felt staring at her image on the holocron, but just as she had turned away the notion then, so too would she refuse to indulge the thought further. While the Force may have been absent her, she did not at all doubt the man was trying to invade her thoughts.

“What did you surrender in exchange for my safety?”

“My apprentice.”

The words left the man with such a lack of feeling that she assumed she had misheard him initially. When he did not shift under her accusatory glance, she shook her head. “How can you do such a thing?”

“Sacrifice an apprentice?” The Sith asked, genuinely confounded by the question. When Verra did not immediately respond, he assumed the answer was to the affirmative. “I could explain to you Sith doctrine and the importance of utility, but you have been too long trained against accepting our truths. Let us simply state that whatever my reasons, they were advantageous to you.”

“I would rather be dead than the captive of your kind,” Verra noted brazenly.

“Perhaps my apprentice felt the same way,” the Sith responded. “In either event, he now occupies the wreckage where you were to be found. Had no body been located, then the authorities would have become suspicious and searched more ardently. I was faced with a decision and made the appropriate one.”

There was such dispassion and yet certainty in the man’s tone that Verra found herself questioning what she should take from it. A Jedi master would never abandon a padawan – let alone sacrifice one so wantonly. “He looked up to you, I am certain and you shared with him your knowledge. You would abandon that all for me?”

“I would abandon many things for potential,” the Sith stated without a moment’s hesitation. “Yours far exceeded his; the decision was not one that I regret, not even now.”

“More the fool you, then,” Verra replied. “Since awakening, I have not felt the Force.”

But though she expected the Sith to seem dismayed he instead only nodded his head. “Of course not. During your sleep I felt it necessary to have neural disruptors implanted to… prevent you from attaining that level of awareness.” His voice dipped into a nearly apologetic tone then; the implication seeming to effect him more than the murder of his apprentice had. “You must forgive me, but I did not believe having a trained Jedi running amok in my estate would be conducive to the safety of my servants, or your plight should the authorities be informed of your presence.”

Verra forced herself not to blanch as she took in his words. She felt wronged – no, violated to know that there was something inside of her that prevented her from feeling the Force! Regardless of the man’s reasons she clenched her fist and shook her head. “Take it out of me, now.”

“I cannot,” the Sith replied.

“You cannot? You placed it in me. Now take it out.”

“I misspoke,” he answered. “I will not.” Though he still seemed somewhat genuine in his contrition, there too was a note of finality to his words. “As I said, there is more at stake here than your pride. The lives of those in my household will not be bartered under the false pretense that you might appreciate me more should I acquiesce to your demands.”

“And what do their lives matter to you?” Verra asked, impetuously. “You have already sacrificed one of your own to see me freed? What difference would the lives of the others make? Clearly you Sith have no understanding of decency or respect for life.”

“I am sorry that you feel that way,” he said once more in his stately manner, “but I shall not yield in this. Not yet. Perhaps when you relinquish hold on your blind anger, we may speak amiably and discuss the matter further.”

Relinquish my blind anger?” The words fell from her with a weight that nearly deprived her of her senses. “What manner of Sith would dare to accuse the Jedi of being angry? You do not know me, do not deign to comment on what my emotional state might be!”

“I speak only to that which I see – that which I feel,” the Sith answered. “There are those amongst the Empire that believe you Jedi are unfeeling; robotic, inhumane… but I know that to be folly. You cherish your feelings as any sapient beings would. Is this incorrect?”

Verra narrowed her eyes. “I refuse to play this game.”

“Then I will be forced to play with myself,” the Sith shrugged. He continued his previous statement as though he had not been denied an answer. “Likewise, you believe we Sith to feed primarily upon anger and rage; passion and lust. True, there are those of us who give into these… baser instincts, but they are the mundane and often times short-lived lot. Those of us that have… ascended from that depravity, know that things such as paranoia and blind rage yield naught but an early demise. I do you a favor by preventing you from venturing down that path, Madam Jedi.”

Him, a Sith, doing her a favor by preventing her from feeling anger? If not for the fact that it would be playing into his hand, she might very well have become infuriated. The whiteness attributed to her knuckles at that moment was simply due to a pained tremor, nothing more. Conscientiously, she relaxed her fists.

“Much better,” the Sith continued. “I will have you know that before I sacrificed any of my servants to your protection, I would sooner give my life. They occupy a stratum far different from yours – from my previous apprentice. We are hammers, meant to shape. They are tools much dissimilar and could not be replaced in the same manner as you.”

The explanation struck her as extremely dry and she wrinkled her nose vaguely in the face of it. “Is this the way Sith rationalize their loyalties?”

“I spoke nothing of loyalty,” he corrected her inoffensively. “I spoke of utility. If these connections appear at best to you as loyalties, then so be it, Madam Jedi.”

“I have told you not to refer to me as that, Sith.”

Perhaps it was the manner in which she said the word Sith, or simply the protest that afflicted her voice, but the Sith paused in his statements and canted his head to the side slightly. One of his drooping tendrils shifted just a bit, giving him an almost curious look. “Then what would you rather I called you?”

“Nothing,” Verra stated bluntly. “I would rather you called me nothing at all.”

“Ah, but you are far more than that,” the Sith replied. “Though, if we are to address each other more personably, I suppose that you may refer to me as Master Garus.”

“Absolutely not,” Verra said without hesitation. “I will refer to you as Sith, for that is what you are.”

“And what, if I may ask, do you believe a Sith to be?” The Sith asked with a drawling of his voice. “If you are referring to my species, then you would be partially correct – I am of the hybridized offspring. But I do not believe the Jedi encourage discrimination based purely upon genetics, do they?”

The question was genuine enough that for a moment she found herself incapable of answering. She had been told to fear the Sith for all of her life. When they emerged back from the Unknown Regions, there were numbered amongst them humans and mercenaries that resembled humans – nothing like the stately man that was before her at that moment. The word “Sith” had to mean more than his species, of that she had no doubt.

“You know well what the word means. Those that embrace the Dark Side; that hold contempt for peace and harmony.”

“And what if I were to tell you that I do not hold the faintest modicum of disdain for either concept?” The Sith stated, his voice curling with interest. “What if I were to tell you that while we do believe peace is a lie, we do not see that as a beneficial state of being. What you believe to be peace – what the Republic thought to be peace, was clearly anything but. Were we wrong to thus state that your belief in peace was a falsehood?”

As much as she hated to admit it, she knew that there was truth to his words. There was truth to nearly everything that he said! The Republic had believed that the time following the fall of the Sith Triumvirate was one of relative peace, but as they lulled themselves into that stupor their enemies grew ever stronger. The peace was but a figment of their imagination; a false sense of security in the face of a looming threat. They had all been deceived, they had – no. No, she could not believe him. There is no emotion, she reminded herself.

“There is peace,” the Sith finished for her. “But I will not press that point further. Not today – perhaps, not tomorrow. In time, all will be addressed.”

“Time is not something I have,” Verra protested. “I do not know why you have not yet killed me, but I came here for reasons that you are clearly well aware of.”

“To locate your fellow Jedi,” the Sith answered.

Verra nodded her head. “Yes.”

“And if I were to tell you that I might know where he is – that I might show you the path to freeing him, would that incline you to at the very least humor my need for conversation?” The question crawled from him with an almost shy quality, a touch that was not lost upon Verra’s mind.

She was assigned to Thorne IV in order to track Master Zi’los down, and even if the Sith had ulterior motives the Council had given her permission to do whatever was necessary. Stripped of the Force as she was and badly wounded, she helped no one by being obstinate. Though it pained her to admit it to herself, the best way to proceed would be to abide by the Sith’s wishes. “I will never refer to you as master,” she stated.

The Sith held his hand up. “I was presumptuous in that, forgive me. My name is Ban Garus, if that is less offensive to you, then I humbly request it be what you call me.”

Verra understood her position. She was weak; defenseless. The Force, which was naturally her ally, was now being used against her. The only manner in which she could emerge from the situation was to at the very least appear cordial, and so she did her best. It would have felt better if “Verra So’Quan, Dark Jedi” were the one lying, but as her cover was blown she did not cling to the notion for long.

“Very well, Ban,” she said. “You may call me Verra.”

Ban Garus rose from his seat and presented her with a charming bow, a gesture that did not at all detract from his regal charisma. “Then I beseech you to rest, Verra. When your condition is improved, we will discuss how it is that you may set about assisting your friend.”

The very idea of trusting a Sith went against everything that she had ever been taught to believe, yet it was the only logical step that she could make at that moment. He had been given numerous chances to violate or harm her if he so pleased; why would he go through the rigmarole of speaking with her if that was his goal? His courteous nature had surprised her; it had snuck up from behind and claimed her mind in a way that she had not thought possible. Whatever the Sith’s game was, she knew that for the moment she could do nothing more than play into the next round.

Without further word, Verra placed herself back within the bed and pulled the blankets over herself. She did not know which scared her more – that she believed that the Sith could be trusted, or that she did not know what a Sith was to begin with.

“Sleep well,” Ban Garus said as he opened the door and exited back into the hall.

Much to Verra’s surprise, she did just that.

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Gestahlt
12.31.2011 , 08:33 AM | #4
Chapter Four: The Business

Waking from her sleep the second time around did not fill Verra with the same dread that it had the first. She gave a cursory glance about her surroundings and found that they had not changed. The sun still streamed in through the window and the gentle breeze played against her features. Whatever salve had been applied to her body before was changed during the night, and from that came a renewed strength to her battered body. She may not have been in optimal condition yet, but she felt leagues better than she had at first. An unusual scent met her nose and caused her stomach to growl. Warily she sat up and turned her head toward the door. As was true the day before, she found the exotic female alien watching her.

“It is good to see you awake once more,” she said with the same level of bemusement that she had shown before. Verra’s mind, still drifting away from the unconscious, found it difficult to focus upon her words. She studied the woman yet again, attempting to discern any threat that she may have presented, but where once the intentions of another blossomed before her like a freshly bloomed flower, now there was only silence. The neural implants were a nightmare that she would have never imagined.

The woman rose from her position by the door, her grace a subtle yet magnificent sight to behold. With the elegance and poise of a classically trained dancer, she moved with studied refinement from the door toward the side of the bed. A scarf of blue fluttered behind her, wrapped delicately about her neck. Verra reacted by flinching slightly, but she answered her unspoken concern with a smile both kind and reassuring. “Please, madam, do not be frightened. I only seek to make your stay more comfortable.”

Other than genuine concern and earnest compassion, Verra felt nothing upon the woman. While the Jedi were trained to be perceptive at all times, the mixture of her injuries and ignorance to the culture of the woman before her worked well to prevent her from being able to deduce more than that which she presented to her. The woman’s near-floating steps were brought to an end when she placed her hand to tray on the wall, which slid from its position over to Verra. The scent that had before been intriguing was introduced to her then with a much more pungent aroma; it was thick yet surprisingly appealing.

“I hope that you will accept what small favors we have to offer,” the woman said with a humble edge added to her silky voice. “Though I am of little talent, I have presented you with the apex of my culinary abilities.”

There was no denying that the dish had an exquisite scent, but Verra was not so intoxicated by it that she was incapable of thinking. She sat up a bit more in the bed, her body protesting the motion only vaguely. In her sleep, she had repaired a bit more and her ribs no longer felt as though shattered. Placing her curiosity to the fore, she spoke in a dry voice. “What is it?”

“Ba’jiin-ara,” the woman said, pronouncing each syllable crisply and carefully to the point that Verra could see her doing the same to a child. Although it might have seemed condescending, the good-natured smile that she offered following was in no way offensive. “I believe that in Basic it would be called: Fish-Meat-Spiced-Stew? While the fish and meat may be the most appealing part of the name, I assure you that it is the broth which all of the effort and care goes into.”

Broth sounded very, very good at that moment. Anything that wasn’t an empty stomach sounded good! But simply because the smiling woman was being nice to her did not mean she could trust her. Verra looked toward the bowl once more, noting its brown contents with dashes of red to indicate spices, before returning her eyes to the woman. “Perhaps I will eat later.”

“It will be kept warm until you are ready to accept it,” she answered without offense. She began to turn then, but the sound of Verra clearing her throat caused her to pause in her motion. She tilted her head in her direction. “Was there something else you required, madam?”

“Please, don’t call me that,” Verra said with a sigh rising through her body. Ban Garus’ dedication to being cordial had been unsettling enough; she did not want to suffer the humiliation of being waited on hand and foot by one of his servants. “My name is Verra.”

“On Thorne,” the woman began as she turned to face Verra once more, “a servant is not expected to refer to an honored guest by their given name. While I shall call you by your name if you command it, I would much rather speak of your position as our guest than appear a brazen and uncultured woman.”

Just as when she had explained the name of the dish, the servant adopted a charitable and dignified level of understanding in her explanation. Verra knew that it would be untoward to force her into calling her something she did not like. “Is there perhaps a local term that you have for the position, then?”

Paurneux,” the woman pronounced, the ‘eux’ carrying the same sound as an ‘oh’. “The Master would be a Paurnausta,” she went on to explain. “If you would like, I would not mind referring you to by the native word.”

“I’d much prefer Paurneux.” Verra’s attempt at stating the word was clumsy, but she managed each syllable with enough familiarity that she supposed it could be understood. From the manner in which the woman beside her smiled, it seemed to have worked. Mildly self-conscious, she quickly attempted to change the venue of discourse. “I’m sorry, but I do not know your name.”

“Q’leeta,” the servant answered. Upon stating the “Q”, her tongue all but clicked, while the rest came out in a near sing-song rolling of her tongue. “If there is anything you require, please do not hesitate to call upon me.” She performed a courteous bow then, her hands flowing out to the side as a majestic bird might spread it wings, before her torso dipped forth. It was a visually pleasing sight, drawing upon the woman’s natural grace. Verra had to assume that even if all of her people were graceful, Q’leeta was particularly pulchritudinous. Something told her that Ban Garus would not settle for anything less.

Q’leeta rose from her bow and turned about, excusing herself toward the door. Verra thought to let her leave, as the smell of the stew was by then all but overpowering her senses. She reached for it with the Force, but was reminded that she could not will it to her. Irritation blossoming inside of her, she lowered her hand and shook her head. “Please, do not leave.”

“Paurneux?” Q’leeta asked as she turned on the very utterance. “Is there something more than I might do for you?”

Verra did not know what to answer. Frustrated at being held captive, but hardly desiring to be left alone for the moment, she glanced to her hand curled the fingers into a fist. If she was ever going to escape she would need information and the servant at hand had to have more than she did. She looked back up and indicated the chair with a nod. “Would you mind sitting with me for a moment?”

“It would be both an honor and a pleasure,” Q’leeta replied. She turned to her side and extended her hand toward the chair that she had previously been sitting within. While Verra could not even summon up the strength to move a spoon, the servant willed the chair across the floor to her and sat down with as much poise as one could imagine. She places her hands to her knees and noted the look of disappointment on Verra’s face. “I apologize, Paurneux. If you would prefer, I will not manipulate the Force before you.”

“I would rather your master not prevent me from using it at all,” she said charily. The steady, unmoving smile that Q’leeta offered in response to the comment spoke as to how much she would say in that regard. “Forgive me, I… simply am without an old friend. Your ability of the Force seems superb; I take it your master has taught you?”

“We Haurnians are all naturally gifted with what you refer to as the Force,” Q’leeta explained. “The Master has shown me various ways to hone my abilities, but he does not consider me an apprentice.”

“More the boon for you,” Verra remarked. “He seems unwilling to sacrifice his servants, but would gladly do so with his apprentice. Did you know him?”

Q’leeta paused in her speech then and blinked her eyes once. Although Verra was uncertain, she had a feeling this was the way in which Haurnians showed hesitation. “The Master’s apprentice?” She finally asked, her voice as pleasing as ever. “Yes, I knew him.”

“What was he like?” Verra asked.

As before, Q’leeta’s comfort seemed to wane when she spoke of the topic. “He was a human, like you.”

While she knew there was more to learn on the topic, Verra did not push it further. With the Force she would have been able to tell how close Q’leeta was to shutting herself off from her. With her eyes, she simply had to play it safe and hope that intuition paid off. She placed her hands to the tray and swung it into place before her. The rich smell was too much to avoid any longer. “You said your people are Haurnians? I must admit I have never heard of them. Do you hail from Thorne IV?”

“No,” Q’leeta answered with a shake of her head. “We Haurnians – or Haur’nii in our native language – are from a planet nearby: Haur. The former indigenous people of Thorne IV, the Vi’aegris, held a small empire that encompassed several planets near our system. They were a cruel and brutish people that did everything they could to oppress and demean their conquered subjects. Men of the Haur’nii are an extremely rare sight in this day and age, as they were killed off so that we women would be more receptive to Vi’aegrian advances.”

The implications of Q’leeta’s words were not lost upon Verra, who looked up from her meal with genuine empathy. Though Q’leeta seemed to notice the look, she gave little more than a smile in response. “What became of the Vi’ageris?”

“When the Sith arrived, they were forced into extinction. Too proud to capitulate, they left the Sith no choice but to systematically behead them. The Emperor offered the remnants of their former empire a place within the Sith Empire, and we accepted. Now, many Haur’nii women can be found throughout this region – although I am unsure if our beauty translates well to your kind, many value us as prized possessions.”

It was a tale not so uncommon that Verra disbelieved it, but she was nevertheless unsettled by the various means of conquest that had been explained. The Haur’nii women were no doubt forced into a life that they could never escape, where the advances of men were met with expected acceptance. Verra’s stomach turned, but she fought to keep her revulsion from her face. This, without a doubt, would be the means by which she saw through Ban Garus’ stately façade.

“Do you not blame the Sith for what they have done – it seems to me they have simply supplanted your past oppressors with their own reign,” Verra offered. She was quite aware that when addressing structural integrity that Q’leeta was prone to pull into herself, but as she chanced a glance at the woman she found that she was surprisingly devoid any apprehension.

A laugh, soft and near musical, escaped the servant in a short burst. “Not at all, Paurneux. The Sith Empire liberated us from cruel and oppressive masters; would we not be uncharitable to look at their offer for protection as anything other than a godsend?”

To hear the words “Sith” and “liberator” together made Verra feel perturbed. “But as you have said, the Sith exploit you in a manner not much different than that of the Vi’aegris.”

“I do not believe I said that, Paurneux. I believe you inferred it,” Q’leeta corrected, inoffensively. “To that point, while there are Sith masters that are cruel… there are others that are very kind and gentle. Is it not the way of your Republic to annex newly freed systems into your grasp, so that they do not come to harm from outside forces?”

It was a simplistic view of things that Verra knew she could challenge, but ultimately it would be more a game of deception than honesty. The Republic did protect the majority of the known galaxy by impressing itself upon its people – not at all a sign of tyranny, but nevertheless vaguely similar to that which the Haurnian had explained. “Allowing that,” Verra began, “we certainly do not place class structures upon races.”

“Caste systems are something common within this system – the Sith simply replaced the old masters with the new ones. It was not that the Vi’aegris were superior to us that caused we Haur’nii to detest them, it was that they treated us with such impertinence. We are a people born to please others; that those graces were abused was reason enough to disparage.”

“And the Sith are any better?” Verra asked, her voice nearly as hot as the soup she had yet to touch.

Q’leeta offered a demure shrug of her shoulders, a gesture that rolled with the same smooth eloquence as her voice. “Some are,” she repeated. “And some are not. I have learned to concern myself primarily with those that deal directly with me. Living through the Vi’aegris occupation taught me that, if nothing else.”

The last bit of information was spoken with relatively little concern. If the Vi’aegris were as cold and unfeeling as Q’leeta had stated, she would have expected more emotion from her. “You say that with such dispassion. How long ago was their reign?”

“By your galactic standard years?” Q’leeta asked, the question near rhetorical. She looked to her fingers then and began to count down. When finally the mental math was completed she looked back to Verra. “Nearly three-hundred years ago.”

Three-Hundred! The thought had only manifested itself within Verra’s mind before Q’leeta gave her a teasing chuckle.

“In truth, I am a bit older than that as well. As I said, I lived through their occupation.”

“How long do your people live for?”

“Some have lived to be well over six-hundred years old,” Q’leeta said with a bit of uncertainty. “I suppose that if that is the higher end of our life expectancy, then I am nearing middle age. A terrible thought to have, is it not?”

There was a level of glibness to the woman’s voice that caused Verra to smile. It was a horrible thing to think that the woman did not understand how much freedom she did not have, but by the same token she seemed to be completely happy with her position. Verra considered tasting her stew, but just as her hand began to move she placed it back down and looked back to the Haurnian.

“You said that Haur’nii women are a prized possession of the Sith?”

“Indeed, we are.”

“Then does having one make you extremely important?”

Q’leeta smiled once more, though this time the expression was more knowing than it had been previously. “You are wondering whether or not the Master is an important man within Sith society.” Verra offered her a neutral glance, which encouraged her to go on. “The Master is a man of much influence. When the Vi’aegris were deposed, he was named viceroy of Thorne IV.”

Her captor was the leader of the planet she was sent to investigate? While she may not have been able to feel the Force, she was certain that it was working in collusion with her goals! “Then this is a palace?”

“No,” Q’leeta corrected. “As I said, that was some three-hundred years ago. In that span of time, men fall in and out of favor. The Master made several lasting changes that have ingratiated the people of Thorne IV to him, but he too made decisions that lost him the support of his peers.”

Intrigue, always the best tool to use when one could. Verra did not doubt that the Council would be greatly pleased to learn of the planet’s inner workings, and although she had been sent to retrieve Master Zi’los that bit of information could not at all hurt her cause. “And which actions did he make that ensured he would lose power?”

“Chief amongst them was his decision to marry a woman of lower caste than he,” Q’leeta said, her naturally glowing eyes becoming just a bit brighter. Though she could hardly believe what she was going to say, she knew that the answer would be to the affirmative.

“You?”

“Indeed,” Q’leeta said with what Verra was certain was subtle, yet deep-rooted pride. “I begged him not to do it, but he would not listen.”

“Because you knew a Sith could not love you?”

“Of course not,” the servant answered almost defensively. “It was because I knew his feelings were genuine that he was not thinking logically. Politics, no matter the system, are a brutal and terrible gambit to play. The Master sought to make a lasting change – in his eyes, the birth of a person mattered little. It was what they did from that point on that decided their fates. For a people that value power over anything, one would assume that this message would find a good seat in their hearts, but… there are many that feared their birthrights would be lost.”

“And so they turned against him.”

“Several times,” Q’leeta said with little attempt to conceal her sorrow. “It was after the third assassination attempt that I convinced him to step down from his position and wait for the Empire to become more understanding of his cause. I know that he would rather fight them, but I believe it was his love for me that kept him from doing so.”

Verra felt horrified – no, disgusted by the fact that as she listened to the tale Ban Garus was becoming a noble person. She did not doubt that in some perverse way he was finagling some move for power through his acts, but they had nevertheless uplifted women such as Q’leeta to positions of respect. She had seen the necrosis of his flesh; felt the corruption upon him. How could a man so blighted be capable of charity?

“If he is your husband, why do you refer to him as master? Why has he not made you lady of the house rather than kept you as a servant to wait upon the needs of his prisoners?”

“I would not say that you are a prisoner,” Q’leeta protested with little effort. “You are a guest.”

“A guest that has not the choice to leave seems more a prisoner to me.”

“Are patients in a hospital prisoners simply because they cannot leave until they are healed?”

The exchange ended in a way most unexpected – Q’leeta had once more maneuvered her point to the fore and left Verra incapable of formulating an appropriate answer. She hated being outsmarted, yet though a denial formed on her tongue she knew that it was be frivolous at best. The woman was simply a natural conversationalist and there was little to nothing that Verra could do to compensate for that gift. “Nevertheless, my point remains.”

“I am relatively ignorant,” Q’leeta began, “but I do believe you Jedi refer to people you honor as ‘Master’, do you not?”

“That is hardly the same thing,” Verra argued. “We do not marry our masters.”

“Never?” Q’leeta questioned as she tilted her head. Her hair, silken tresses of azure, fell over one of her eyes and intensified the innocence of her question. It was an effect not at all lost upon Verra, who felt herself suddenly uneasy. To alleviate that feeling, Q’leeta lifted her left hand and brushed her bangs aside. “If we were to remove the word ‘marriage’ from it and simply addressed what married people do, would it be more accurate?”

It took Verra not a second to parse the meaning from that, and her cheeks flushed all too readily. That was a topic that very few Jedi approached, although all knew the answer to it. As sentient beings there were definite needs that had to be taken care of for protection of one’s mental health, yet to speak of it was to break an unsaid contract. “We do not do those things,” she lied.

“I find that hard to believe, Paurneux,” Q’leeta said with a muted purr as she sat back within her chair. “You are a very beautiful woman, if I may say so. That your masters would not notice seems a dishonest characteristic for them to display.” When Verra did not immediately respond Q’leeta took all that she needed to from the subject, yet as her purpose did not seem to be to unsettle Verra, she relented. “But, as I said, I am ignorant of the Jedi. If you’ve control enough to avoid those urges, then I commend you.”

“Thank you,” Verra said with much less conviction than she had spoken with previously. She lifted the fork that had been set aside for her and weighed it in her hand. It could easily become a weapon, but there was no target to attack with it. Q’leeta was an extremely kind woman and something told her that a man who survived three assassination attempts would not be foolish enough to enter her personal space.

But there was something else that she could do; something so sinister that she was horrified by the very implication that she would consider it in the first place.

There was no doubt that Ban Garus loved Q’leeta – or that he felt her utility far exceeded that of others. He had stepped down from office to protect her and furthermore had been willing to sacrifice his life to keep her close to him. A woman with that kind of influence over the man had a utility in another way; she was the key to his heart. How likely would the Sith be to barter with her for information on Master Zi’los if she placed the fork to his beloved’s neck and threatened to end her if he did not comply with her demands? Overpowering the woman would be no simple task, as for all of her elegance and grace there was an undeniable strength to her features, but it would be a better plan of action than doing nothing at all. She twisted the fork in her hand and glanced back to Q’leeta, who looked to her with her ever bemused smile.

The scarf that was wound about the woman’s neck did well to intensify the look of elegance that came with it. Elongated and delicate as the rest of the woman, only the mild indentations of her native musculature could be denoted through the silken fabric she wore. She was unsure of the exact anatomy of the Haur’nii woman, but something told her that if she went for her head then the mess on her hands would be too much to conceal. It had to be her neck; though the Force may have abandoned her, her thirst for survival had not. One single poke and the woman’s life fluids would gush all over her. One single poke and she’d be freed.

But then, there was that smile. Ban Garus’ smile had been something of studied patience, if it could be considered a smile at all. Q’leeta on the other hand expressed nothing short of a muted desire tempered in her general hospitality. While the fork may have done well to silence the woman if need be, it would undoubtedly also forever quiet that smile. That intriguing, magnificent smile.

Carefully, the fork was placed back down.

It had been a dark moment; something that she would have never considered were she not at her wit’s end for how to escape. Working with the Sith was a plan that he wanted and would undoubtedly harm her, yet she could not break her own code of ethics for a small and meager gain. Barely legal or not, Q’leeta had been a kind and generous person to her. Though it frustrated her, she could not be rough with her. She felt physically ill for even considering using her as a hostage.

“Are you alright?” The Haurnian asked as she placed her hand upon Verra’s bed. “You seem… distraught.”

“I am held on an enemy planet,” Verra answered shortly. Although Q’leeta’s company was greatly appreciated, she would not allow herself to forget that fact. “Would you not be distraught?” When Q’leeta offered her an understanding nod, Verra lifted her fork again and dipped it into the soup. Its consistency was indeed closer to stew, although there was enough fluidity to the broth to enable the force to slide through it easily. Plump and succulent meat floated to the prongs of her fork. “When I am ‘healed’ as you have said it, do you honestly believe that your master will allow me to leave?”

“If that is what you wish,” Q’leeta said, dubiously. “But I do not believe that you will wish to part so soon.”

The inclusion caused Verra’s eyebrows to furrow. “And why do you think I would want to remain here?”

“Because whatever it is that you are here for, it is something that the Master is also interested in,” Q’leeta professed with complete self-assuredness. “He is not a man who acts without thought; your goals are similar and it would benefit you to learn from him as he will surely learn from you.”

It was an honest answer and there was no reason to doubt the woman’s candor. If everything that Q’leeta had said was true, which at the moment she was quite uncertain of, then Ban Garus was not a man to act without reason. He had sacrificed his apprentice to see her saved; surely, there was more on his mind than whatever curiosity he claimed to have with her.

The future was as murky as the contents of the bowl, it seemed. Verra lifted her fork, now laden with the meats, and slid it past her lips. The chunks of meat, engorged and full, occupied her mouth to a point that she felt she would be incapable of chewing. Yet her stomach, whose needs had been denied for far too long, bade her to do so and swallow. The explosion of flavor that met her taste buds as unlike any she had ever experienced before. Spicy and hot as it was, there was an underlying zest that simply exploded all over her tongue.

“You’ve lied to me,” Verra managed as she set the fork down. Q’leeta’s face betrayed earnest confusion, to which the Jedi answered by smiling meekly. “You are an excellent cook.”

Perhaps the future’s murkiness would not be so bad, either.

Gestahlt's Avatar


Gestahlt
01.06.2012 , 07:02 AM | #5
Chapter Five: Conception

A day’s worth of covalence was allowed to pass before Verra was able to leave the room. With the Force she would have been able to recover in a matter of hours; however, the lack thereof revealed to her just how fragile her mortality was. Conditioned as her body may have been, she was an ideal receptor to the medical supplies she was given, but even the best medicines that man could purchase could not compare to the restorative powers of the Force. At one point she had considered asking Q’leeta if her people were familiar with healing arts, but as the woman was for so long around the Sith she doubted it would be worth the effort.

Walking proved to be a chore, for although her bones had healed remarkably well, there was still a stiffness to her muscles and an unfamiliar weightiness to her stride that could only come from the lack of buoyancy the Force naturally provided her. Q’leeta offered her an ornate and decorative cane to assist her in her struggles, but far too proud to appear weak before her enemies, Verra refused it politely and instead asked to see Ban Garus. That request was met with the woman’s naturally deferential praise, and Verra now found herself hobbling through the estate with the buxom servant at her side. Though she tried her best not to reveal the trouble with which she moved, she was certain it was a vain endeavor. Nevertheless, Q’leeta was kind enough not to make note of it.

The room in which Verra was kept had been quaint, but the entirety of Ban Garus’ estate was gorgeous. It would appear that each day of the three-hundred years the man had been given to accumulate wealth was spent in purchasing fine relics or decorative tapestries. The very floor that they walked upon was made of a smooth and soft stone that did well to cushion the step while at the same time offering a flat and even surface. Verra attempted to seem oblivious to the man’s worldly goods, but for a woman raised in drab surroundings she could not help but be impressed. Though it may not have been called a palace, it was the closest that she had ever come to one. Inwardly, Verra despised the Sith for his cultured living.

True to Ban Garus’ words, there were quite a few servants that moved to and fro. Most of them were Haur’nii women, and while she had been correct to assume that Q’leeta was exceptionally beautiful for her species, the others held a similar quality of refinement that she could easily find reason to envy; eager to smile and all too ready to curtsey as she and Q’leeta passed, the servants left upon Verra the impression of people born to please. When forced to choose between the inorganic symbols of Ban Garus’ wealth – his illustrious estate, and the organic qualities – his servants, she was hard pressed to state which was more impressive.

Their journey approached a collection of stairs that Verra eyed warily. Without needing to be bade to assist her, Q’leeta gracefully took Verra’s hand and offered her support as she moved down the stairs. It was the first time that Verra had felt one of the Haur’nii women for herself, and try as she might to conceal the shocking sensation that rushed through her, for a moment she was left all but speechless. While the touching of flesh was a simple thing to understand, there existed within her hold a connection between their spirits that encouraged Verra forth. She gasped and recoiled slightly, an action that was not at all lost upon her associate.

“My apologies,” Q’leeta stated as she looked to the bewildered Jedi. “I forgot that you have never come in contact with one of the Haur’nii. Our touch is something of an… intoxicant, if one is not prepared.”

Verra nodded meekly. “There is no need for apology,” she said with her voice crawling out of the surprising sensation she had felt moments before. “I should be more understanding of the Haur’nii ways.”

Once more Q’leeta offered her hand and this time Verra readily accepted it. She made sure not to allow herself to be lost too readily in the woman’s touch, which drew upon her in a manner that she knew to be nearly erotic. Awash in the feeling, she followed behind the woman until finally they had come to the bottom of the landing. Afraid that if she did not break their touch soon she would be eternally lost within it, Verra retracted her hand and looked with flushed cheeks toward the door before them. “We should continue on.”

“Yes,” Q’leeta said in her ever bemused tone, “we should.”

While many of the doors in the household were mechanized, the one that stood before them was large and made of an expensive polished wood. A golden handle was placed within its center, indicating that in order to pass by one need only press forth and be ushered within. Q’leeta, ever mindful of her duties, stepped ahead of Verra and pressed her body sensually to the door. It yielded against her and fell open, to which she bowed and gestured for the Jedi to enter before her. “The Master awaits, Paurneux.”

“I am sure that he does,” Verra said tersely. While she may have liked Q’leeta well enough, she would not allow herself to meet the Sith with any of the latent eroticism still wafting from her being. Already she felt thrice the fool for wearing the garments that had been left out for her, but the silken robes did feel nicer than her normal ones and made her standout less against those present. Something told her that the usual “drab vagabond” look of an itinerant knight would not suffice in infiltrating Sith society. She inhaled through her nostrils and walked with a straight back through the door.

It was a room that any scholar would have envied. Although she had not had the occasion to see many of them in her day, the thick, hard and bound objects before her bespoke a culture the likes of which not even Ban Garus’ ostentatious nature could have prepared her for. Books, all but archaic within the modern day, were nevertheless highly valued if they were of original print. While datapads were much more convenient and held data more easily, they were also susceptible to corruption or fraudulent information being placed in by dishonest editors. In the event of a book, which was as genuine as the day it was printed, no such worries of deception needed to be minded. Verra’s eyes played over the rows that lined each well, before they befell the desk in the center. Several screens were affixed to it, enabling Ban Garus to either view datachips on a larger screen, or take feeds from outside sources. In all, it was an expensive and chic look.

She had to wonder how much of it had been arranged specifically to impress her.

“It is good to see you up and moving,” Ban Garus said as he rose from his seat and bowed courteously to Verra. She minded him with guarded awareness and returned her attention to the book stacks. A nod was given to Q’leeta, who returned it understandingly and closed the door. “If you see anything that interests you, please do not hesitate to look for yourself.”

Verra glanced in the direction of the sealed door and then looked back to the Sith. She could understand why it was that non-Force sensitives did things as foolish as charging Jedi head-on. It was not that they were stupid, they simply could not comprehend the power that was hidden within the Force. At that moment she had considered sizing the man up, but her previous connection to the Force was not so long ago that she forgot just how powerful a Sith was.

“You brought me here for a reason,” she said as her fingers ran along the spine of the book before her; its language one that she had no concept of. “Move to that point so that I may deny your request and be on my way.”

Ban Garus offered her a smile that she noted from the corner of her eye. “Please, be seated.”

“Only if you promise to get to your point.”
“You have my word.”

A lot of good that does me she wanted to say, but to her surprise nothing came out. Perhaps she was learning that it was better not to walk blindly into the logical traps the Sith laid for her? She sat in the indicated chair and watched as Ban Garus flicked his robes backward before descending as well.

“If I might speak frankly,” he said with surprising smoothness. “You do the robes you wear a good service.”

Verra felt herself heating slightly under the compliment, but did not allow it to show. “Your point,” she said in an unwavering tone.

“Would be that you look very appealing.”

Irritation welled within her; an emotion that she had been warned away from all of her life. She narrowed her eyes slightly and clenched her jaw. “You gave me your word.”

The statement caused Ban Garus to lift his hands in a sign of surrender. “So I did,” he conceded. “I apologize. There are few moments in which we Sith are allowed gaiety.” When he noted that Verra’s expression did not lighten, he continued. “I require your expertise.”

“This I know,” Verra said.

Ban Garus nodded. “So you do. I must ask you then, how much do you know?”

The sincerity of the question surprised Verra noticeably. While she had assumed that Q’leeta was being otherwise courteous to her, she had not imagined that the woman would keep secrets from her husband and master. “Does not your wife act as my attendant? Whatever I know, she told me.”

“And I am asking you what that is,” Ban Garus stated. “Do not worry; she is in no trouble. I simply do not know what it is she informed you of.”

“Ask her yourself,” Verra replied without need to consider. “If you cannot trust your own wife, then perhaps you should invest in droids.”

The reply brought to Ban Garus’ lips a smile. He regarded Verra for several moments and then shook her head. “As you may have noticed, I do not employ droids. I believe service should be something chosen, not forced. For all of their utilities, droids lack the capability of operating outside of their designated behavior parameters.”

“From all that I have heard of the Haur’nii women, the same can be said for them. Does lording over women bred to please you build within you a sense of ability?” Verra asked with a note of her irritation bleeding into her voice. “Do they make the deposed lord feel that he still has vassals to his name?”

Ban Garus leaned back within his chair and placed his fingers together once more. “Then she told you of my history.”

“Some of it,” Verra said. “More than I cared to hear.”

“And why is that? Do you find it difficult to hate someone once you learn that the preconceived notions you have been fed are nothing more than fanciful ideas, orchestrated to present you with a soulless and irredeemable foe?” The Sith’s curiosity was tinged with something far more genuine than he previously exposed; contempt. It was an emotion that to that point he had not revealed to Verra and she was oddly unsettled by it.

That was not to say, however, that she was mollified.

“I have seen what your people do; the wars of conquest that they wage,” she dryly noted. “Even if your goals appear benevolent for the few, I am certain that to the majority they are depreciative. Yours is a code built upon hatred and lies.”

Ban Garus tapped his fingers together and clucked his tongue. “Hardly,” he mused. “Though you, like many of my peers, would believe it to be the case there is nothing within the Sith Code that mandates abhorrence. Our Code is not: [i]Happiness is a lie, through deception I gain leverage. With leverage I cleave through my enemies. With my enemies slain I betray my friends. Through murder, I am freed.[i].”

Verra offered a grin, although it was hardly an expression meant to show mirth. “It sounds relatively close to what I have seen.”

“Then your code is… what? There is no feeling; there is stagnation. There is no ignorance; there is stupidity. There is no passion; there is emptiness. There is no reality; there is idealism? Please, I know that to be false and despite your impudent rejoinder I am certain that you know the previous to be untrue as well.”

Hearing the Jedi Code mutilated in such a way was tantamount to blasphemy, yet Verra did not rise from her seat as she thought she should. A bold showing of patriotism would end in nothing other than her continued stay in the manor, if not worse. More importantly, his point was a sound one and she detested him for raising it. “You were supposed to be informing me of what it is you want.”

“In due time,” Ban Garus stated. “It is important that you understand where we are coming from so that you can appreciate where it is that we must go. So I ask you, once more, what is it that Q’leeta told you?”

“That you were the viceroy of this planet following its conquest,” Verra snapped. It irritated her all the more that despite how unsettling he was to her; she had little effect on him. “And that your peers find you nearly as loathsome as I do. Were I given the chance, I would not need three chances to see you dead.”

“Is that hatred I hear upon the tongue of the noble Jedi?” Ban Garus asked with earnest amusement. He gave her a smile then, an expression that she was certain a snake might give a mouse before devouring it hole. “Why, I do believe it is. However, you raise a very valid point that we will address later. For now, let us focus upon what is most important – that my peers wish me dead.”

“They still do?”

“Of course,” Ban Garus chuckled. “Information is the most precious resource that the galaxy holds and a man as old as I has acquired more than his fair share of secrets… and enemies that would like them never spoken of again.”

Verra contemplated that as she clasped her hands in her laps. “Then why have they not moved against you? You are a private citizen now, yes?”

“Private or otherwise, I am renowned upon Thorne IV,” he answered. “Whoever it was that killed me would be dragged through the streets by the local citizenry. Several times I have been offered positions on different planets, but I am not so foolish as to leave the comfort of my nest. As I said, there are those amongst the Sith that do not understand our code, either.”

“Odd it is,” Verra said with condescension masked as feigned interest, “that only you understand the true meaning of the code. It is impossible that you are incorrect and the society at large is correct, yes?”

Ban Garus weathered her childish display of dissidence with masterful patience. His was a resolve that could not easily be broken, and as he offered her the reptilian smile once more he seemed to draw strength from denying her a response of equal candor. “I know well the meaning of what it is to be Sith. It is neither the craving of power for the sake or power, nor deceit for the purpose of deceit. As you can imagine a man of my age has had many apprentices, and each has failed to learn that lesson. As a result, they have met untimely demises.”

“Neverminding those that you killed because it was opportune,” Verra interjected pointedly.

A clever chuckle left the Sith as he lifted a hand and stroked his chin. “That truly does concern you, does it not? Does it matter that no one will miss him – that he was a failed protégé whose only purpose was to serve a greater one?”

“All life has meaning,” Verra said flatly. “No one deserves to be slain because it is convenient.”

“And would you kill me?”
“Of course I would.”
“Why?”
“Because that would be justice.”

There was no denying that Verra’s disdain for the Sith was a deep-rooted one. Yet where the comment should have caused Ban Garus to disparage he instead smiled. “Justice,” he repeated. “That is exactly what we are here to discuss.” The hand that had been upon his chin was lowered and he opened one of the drawers upon his desk. From within, a lightsaber’s hilt was removed and set upon the desktop. “Justice is that which we must address at this moment.”

“My lightsaber,” Verra said mindlessly. She reached out for it, calling to mind not only its feeling but also the labor that had gone into constructing it. But try as she might to call it to her, it did not budge. Ban Garus flicked his hand forth and sent it sliding against the table. She grabbed it all too readily but was shocked at what she felt.

Nothingness.

It was certainly her lightsaber; the straight backed implement had been specifically customized for her grip. But try as she might to reconnect with it, the weapon felt odd and imbalanced. Without the Force, it was nothing but a spanner and she a fool too stupid to use it. It was a horrifying feeling.

Verra narrowed her eyes and clenched the weapon in her hand, her fingers too nervous to compress the activation plate. “What have you done to it?”

“Do not despair,” Ban Garus stated. “When all is discussed, your neural implants will be removed and your lightsaber will feel as though yours once again.” There was understanding to his words, as though he knew well the distress that teemed within her. “While I know that you nominally hate me for who I am, I am much more aware of the fact that you genuinely hate the Sith that perpetuate the lifestyle you expect. The soulless, amoral cretins that wage war for the sake of war and kill for the sake of killing.”

For the time being, Verra seemed more concerned with the fact that she could not identify her lightsaber than what Ban Garus was saying. He knew she was too astute a girl to ignore pertinent information though and plowed onward despite her seeming trepidation.

“There are a select few Sith that currently prevent me from returning to public life. If they were to be removed, then I might resume my previous role as viceroy. As I am certain Q’leeta told you, I was a very generous ruler.”

“The words of your slave-wife do not seem necessarily impartial,” Verra murmured. She drew herself from her stupor and looked back to the Sith. “What are you asking me to do? Assassinate your enemies?”

“I prefer the term aggressive neutralization, but yes… their termination would be for the better of myself and the people of Thorne IV.”

“Absolutely not,” Verra avowed with unyielding conviction. “I am a Jedi, not a hired killer.”

“Did your Council not send you here with a specific mission to seek out your lost comrade?” Ban Garus asked, his question rhetorical. “From what I was able to decipher from your holocron, they have imbued you with special privileges to see your task completed. What harm is there in using that if it furthers your goal as well as my own?”

He was correct in his assessment, after all. The Council had told her to ingratiate herself with the Sith and find any lead that she could. Given Ban Garus’ position and his power, if there was anyone that could help her he would be it. Nevertheless, she simply did not like the man. If she had any other option, she would have told him to shove his head into his hindparts – but, unfortunately, she had not another option.

“And I am to trust you?”

“I would never ask you to do such a thing,” Ban Garus defended. “However, until a few of these fellows are removed I fear that I will be incapable of proving that your Zi’los is where I know him to be. Take my word as a necessity. After all, I did not not know you would survive your injuries.”

As uncomfortable as it made her to admit it, she knew he was correct. “I will not blindly kill men simply because you say that they are corrupted.”

“Of course,” Ban Garus agreed. “However, after the first one is killed I will not be able to give you the luxury of intimating yourself with the remainders. Once plans are set into motion, they will quickly respond in kind. For the safety of my estate, I will need you to promise to fulfill this task should you choose to embark upon it.”

Verra could feel the same concern upon Ban Garus’ voice when he mentioned his estate as she had heard the first time he did. Whatever the emotion was that he attributed to them, it was a genuine one. If Q’leeta’s word was to be valued at all, then they also appreciated their master. While she had been told that a Jedi could always opt to not act, that had been something she never agreed with. Action was necessary in times of war and that was exactly what this was.

“Then who is the first person?”

Ban Garus flipped a switch upon his desk and the monitors that had been facing him turned toward Verra. Behind him, the wall slid apart and a larger projection screen emerged upon which a holo-projection of a portly humanoid appeared. His features were drawn together as though he had tasted something sour and his eyebrows, large and bushy, did well to conceal his eyes. Almost birdlike in appearance, he hardly presented a flattering image. The holo-projection spun around in place as Ban Garus leaned forth.

“Kaeridan Nag,” he said with no attempt to mask his scorn. “Titled Darth Vitro by his peers.”

Much to Verra’s surprise, Ban Garus said the word “Darth” with the same derision as she did “Sith”. “What is your ‘Darth’ name?”

“Why do you ask?” Ban Garus questioned as he turned his from the screen toward Verra. “Because you believe I dislike the title?”

“Precisely that,” she chided.

Ban Garus hesitated for several seconds and shook his head. “It is irrelevant information.”

“I would deem it extremely relevant. Without that information, I refuse to cooperate further.”
“Even if it meant that innocent people came to harm?”
“Even if it meant that Sith people came to harm,” she corrected.

It was obvious that Ban Garus was not used to being handled in such a manner, but to some degree his lips formed a smirk. Perhaps her willfulness had surprised and intrigued him? Whatever the reason for the simper he shrugged his shoulders. “Conseptus.”

“A decidedly unflattering name,” Verra remarked. Ban Garus shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s catching,” he offered. Verra was quick to quiet her smirk and so he went on with his statements. “As I was saying, Darth Vitro is a man whose every action is meant for his personal profit. He has neither a sense of community nor decency, and flagrantly proves each with his debauchery and depravity. If you look to the holo-screen to your left, you will see proof to my words.”

Verra glanced as she was instructed and found that the portly man was indeed a favorite of debauchery. She saw women of Haur’nii make paraded in degrading manners that not even Twi’lek would bring themselves to suffer. Quickly she averted her eyes. “That does not mean he is any more deserving of death than you.”

“While I know it is a lost cause to remind you of the fact that I am nothing at all like him, I will assure you that his is a case of depravity that proves itself. He mistreats his subjects, abuses his servants, and greatly violates the very ideals of the Sith. If not for the generous support and funding he offers the Emperor, he would have been removed from office long ago.”

The tail end of the comment was what truly caught Verra’s attention. This slug of a creature was one of the monsters responsible for the invasion upon the Republic? She narrowed her eyes and returned her attention to the screen, where more video feed revealed the depths of the man’s degeneracy. His acts were malicious and chaotic; serving no purpose other than to encourage pain and suffering; humiliation and degradation.

“As I said, I can give you as long as you need to observe him. Minutes, hours, days, weeks – the choice is yours. All I can say is that the longer it takes you to decide, the more likely Master Zi’los will be no more.”

Verra did not doubt that Nag or Vitro or whatever his name was deserved to die. He was obviously a grotesque and disgusting creature that not only harmed the people of Thorne IV, but also the Republic at large. As she watched his acts of dissoluteness become more brazen, her stomach clenched. She could not turn away from the screen: her conscience needed to know just what kind of brute he was.

Ban Garus rose from his seat. “I will leave you to watch this, then. I fear mine is not a constitution that can suffer it. Should you choose to accept my offer, Q’leeta will see that your neural implants are removed and that you are properly outfitted for the task at hand. The datapads also contain detailed layouts of his mansion.”

Against her better intentions Verra looked away from the screen and to Ban Garus. “Why do you need me to do this? Your apprentice could have been easily sent on a suicide mission.”

“He would have been linked directly to me,” Ban Garus said off-handedly. “You, however, are more than capable with the Force and from what the reports on your holocron said, quite the skilled scout. It would be much more difficult for them to pin your attempt on me, should you fail.”

“Would I not be killed if I were to fail?”

Ban Garus shook his head. “Continue to watch those feeds. There is information enough on what happens to would-be assassins. I want you well informed on what you are entering into. It will not be something you emerge from with ease.”

Her skin crawled at the very implication, but she knew more than enough. If Master Zi’los could be saved by her attempting to remove these problematic men from politics, then so be it. Ban Garus was correct; she had several times rushed into enemy lines and returned unscathed. At that moment her very existence spoke of the fact the Force favored her. Silently she continued to watch the video feed, learning all that she could of the man before her. When the time came, she wanted there not to be an ounce of doubt that he needed to die. She heard Ban Garus leave the room but did not look away from the screen.

Each depraved action; each decadent display was minded and learned. While she knew that acting upon emotion was not the way of the Jedi, to ignore that the emotions were there would be impossible. When she thought that the man could become no worse he impressed her with a new display of disgusting behavior. It was when she came to the part that Ban Garus had mentioned – what happened to failed assassins, that her reservoir was destroyed.

She wouldn’t need three chances to see this bastard dead. That much she was certain of.

Gestahlt's Avatar


Gestahlt
01.11.2012 , 10:31 AM | #6
Chapter Six: In Vitro Veritas

The mansion that loomed before her was perhaps the most decadent building she had ever seen within her life. Larger than Ban Garus’ estate by the floor plans and heavily guarded, it would not be a simple task to breach its defenses and slay the cruel man that was within. She had spent several hours personally memorizing each square each of the building until finally she had a map within her mind that was without flaw. If she was to succeed her actions would have to be swift and decisive. The ram would soon be to the wall -- once it was, there was no turning back.

“[i]The transport will arrive within thirty seconds, Verra. After it carries you into the mansion’s courtyard, you will be on your own. Any transmissions will more than likely be scrambled so if you enter troubled waters, you must rely upon yourself. Once your mission has been completed, go to the agreed upon location and you will be recovered.”

The sound of Ban Garus’ voice in her ear was at least a reassurance that the equipment she had been supplied was top notch. In addition to the communication device she had been given several other tools that would slightly lessen the chances that her nearly impossible mission would end in failure. In place of her old robes, she was granted a catsuit made of a specially blended fiber that would render her incompatible with automated sensors. Form-fitted and tight (she had wondered just how Ban Garus was so certain of her measurements), it did well to give her a greater range of motion while at the same time feeling nearly weightless. She was unsure if it had the blaster resistance that Ban Garus told her it did, but she would rather not be forced to find out. More importantly, the suit’s gloves and boots each had tactile imprints that would enable scaling at a much steeper angle than normally possible. Near her left shoulder blade a pouch had been added to the catsuit to hold her lightsaber, further slimming her and enabling it to be carried with risk of the metallic object setting off any additional sensors.

But for all of the gadgets that she had been given, the most essential was the neural disruptor’s removal. The Force returned to her as an old friend, filling the chasm that had been created within her with a fervor that she could only be thankful for. It was that, above all other implements that she had been given, which truly gave her the courage to brave the mission that drew ever closer.

The seconds ticked away as she pulled her mask up over her face, effectively concealing the lower part of her visage in the fiber mesh. While she had been told that her hair would not run the risk of setting off any alarms, she would make certain to avoid testing the theory for as long as she could. Visually, she was nearly perfectly blended into her environment, and the vaguely pink visor that had been placed over her eyes did well to detail the various organic and inorganic lifeforms that abounded. The Force was naturally her ally, but as she had proven over Thorne IV, there was no shame in enhancing one’s prowess with technology. The timer at the side of her Heads-Up Display approached five seconds and her legs tensed. Now was the time to act.

She jumped.

Gracefully, Verra fell toward the speeding transport and landed without a sound upon its top. Her toes and fingers instantly were placed to the roof, confirming that their tactile traction was true by the manner in which she did not slide in the faintest against the roof. Inside were more unfortunate toys for Darth Vitro to use and abuse. If all went well, they would be spared the horrific acts she had seen upon the holo feed – if it did not, she would be the victim of another that she had witnessed. In all, there was absolutely no reason to allow the Sith lord to live if at all possible. The wind caused her platinum blonde bangs to flutter as she narrowed her eyes on the fore and watched the HUD screen begin to feed her information on the approaching gates. The entrance was impossible to scale, even with the gloves and boots she had been given; however, that would be where the Force came into the picture. The transport slowly came to a halt before the gate and two brutish looking guards lumbered toward it.

From Ban Garus’ files she had learned that the loutish creatures were known as “Empu’dunz”, remnants of the Vi’aegris empire that were commonly used as thugs or hired hands. In the Republic their niche was one filled by Gamoreans, but whereas the piggish brutes were swine in appearance, the physiology of the Empu’dunz reminded her more of dehydrated salamanders. A note had been given to her in regard to them: they were extremely stupid and extremely violent. That was a combination that only spelled trouble.

Verra exhaled the breath she had held in and began to run across the transport’s roof. Her steps were soundless as she moved and before she came to the window she drew the Force within herself and inhaled once more, at the last step she pushed off the ground and took to the air with a graceful somersault that carried her over the gate. As it ended, she landed again without a sound and continued at an augmented speed toward the nearest collection of bushes. A forward handspring carried her behind the shrubbery and she crouched in place, a hand placed to the side of her visor to scroll through the requisite information until she found the droid detection settings and amplified their heuristics further. If there was ever a chance that her plan would fail, it would have to be when she attempted to breach the inner yard. Upon her screen, several luminous dots appeared, each topped by a percentage that spoke to its hull integrity. It would be best, she knew, if not a single droid was touched. The longer that she could put off the guards knowing of her presence, the better.

The field before her had been memorized to within an inch of clarity. An ostentatious display of horticulture had created within the yard several patches of bushes that eventually led into a wall of shrubbery. A shimmering pool sat in the very middle of the collection, preventing anyone from crossing it without being noticed. The only manner that a person would be able to enter would be to brave the walk ways, which as her sensor was revealing to her also happened to be heavily guarded by armed assault droids. It would not be a simple task to brave them, but then again were it simple then she would also not be required to do what she must. At the head of the pathways was the entrance to the mansion, guarded by another set of sentient creatures. The only way that she would be able to make it through would be if a one-in-a-billion chance happened.

Those were the kind of odds that the Force answered without fail.

The approaching transit gave the droids an obvious target to focus upon, although their monitors kept them aware of the latent threats. Certain that this as her chance to move, she darted away from the bushes and carried herself toward the first droid. She was not entirely certain that the catsuit would work as intended, but doubting Ban Garus’ word at that point seemed to serve no one any good.

The make and model of the droid was foreign to her, but the sinister blaster in its hands was not. If it had even the faintest inclination to turn and face her, she would have been torn to shreds by the unleashed firepower of its surrounding units. Ban Garus’ plans had detailed a defense matrix that connected all of the droids; if one was alerted, they all were. Her soundless steps continued to carry her forth until finally she was within several meters of the droid. It began to shift, and she drew the Force into herself once more to pivot around its back, clearing the distance without so much as the squeaking of her boots against the ground.

With one droid taken care of, there were two more immediately before her. She dared not dally in the middle of the exercise and ran at full speed toward the next, then pushed off the ground and performed a side-winding somersault over its head. Verra landed facing the droid, and rather than waste a second in turning around instead executed a series of swift back handsprings that carried her out of its immediate peripheral and toward the wall of bushes she had noted.

The remaining droid’s presence was negligible only if she was willing to address the two guards directly. For most this would have been suicidal, but whereas others had only their gadgets to rely upon, her long-lost guide had returned to her. One of her gloved hands was extended, the Force’s presence felt as it coursed through her and streamed toward the stationary guards. She could sense that they had been trained to resist most tactics, so rather than attempt to seek out weaknesses she instead played to their strengths. Their paranoia was fed, giving them more reason to be mindful of the approaching transit. If either had the urge to look toward her then her guise would have been blown; however, they each focused intently on the vehicle and she ran forth once more.

Her augmented agility and strength carried her through the air as she sailed over the guards and came to land against the mansion’s wall. The scaling gloves were put to good usage as she scurried up the side and came to a window. Not a second could be wasted; she removed from a slit in her suit’s wrist a small, cylindrical device intended to permit her entrance into the building through its windows. By jamming the security system for a span of ten seconds, it gave her time to remove the pane and slide in through the opened hole. Phase one of her plan was completed. If she could afford the time, she would have sighed and wiped her forehead.

Unfortunately, she had not even a second.

The inside of the mansion was in no way something to let down expectations. She had seen several glimpses of the interior décor, but as her main purpose was to learn the floor layout she did not tarry long on the details. The darkened hall that she entered was obviously intended to overlook the courtyard; several couches lined the walls, with now vacant stands for the rich and sinister to watch whatever horrifying acts might have been put on display for them at the moment. Verra could almost hear the whispered suffering of those that had been defiled in the compound as she moved forth; it was a harrowing sound that caused her to become all the more certain of herself. Darth Vitro would not survive the night.

While the automated defenses of the building could be ignored, there were physical deterrents that she needed to mind. Several laser matrixes had been established in order to block off any intruders from accessing the heart of the mansion and since she could not possibly slim herself to a point of avoiding the X, Y, and Z coordinates all at the same time, she knew that a bit of confrontation would be necessary. Taking the security systems offline for a five minute window would mean disarming the guards in the room. It was a bit of confrontation that she knew she could live with – anyone that assisted such a bloated and disgusting creature in his depravity was beyond redemption.

She moved quickly and with purpose through the halls. Upon nearing the security room she heard a pair of footsteps approaching her. Rather than wait to see who it was, she looked to her left and right, but found that neither direction provided her with an adequate means of escaping from detection. Without anything else to do, Verra jumped upon the wall to her left, felt her feet connect with the surface, and then pushed off to catch her hands against the ceiling. Her legs were brought up then, causing her to practically lay down atop the area above the guards. With the careful grace of a spider, she proceeded over the heads of the chatting Empu’dunz. The language that they spoke was foreign to her, but with the assistance of the Force she could decipher it as she held her position.

“New shipment looks especially promising,” one of the crude aliens said. Their language sounded quite a bit like a nasal infection being cleansed with a large fan.

His companion shrugged. “Not that they’ll look like much when Old Nag’s finished with them.”

“I’ve never been one to turn down scraps,” the former joked. Both took to laughing, or what Verra supposed their laughter sounded like.

Disgusting, she thought. She considered dropping upon them as though the wrath of the Force and being rid of both, but that would be an unnecessary risk and one that might jeopardize the entirety of her mission. Removing the snake’s tail would do no good; she had to cut off its head and watch the entire creature die. Once the two had passed she dropped from the ceiling and continued once more down the hall, her mind singularly focused upon the task of entering the security room and disabling the matrix.

The hall led into a darkened room whose only occupants seemed to be ancient artifacts of some design or another. The HUD flashed with a warning and as she switched her view to one of particle density she was rewarded with a lower security laser network intended to prevent her from progressing further. Unlike the ones that were before Vitro’s inner chambers, these lacked the third dimension of security and thus could be bypassed, albeit with some difficulty. Her body protested slightly as she took a step forth, a reminder that no more than three days before she had been in a rather severe accident. The Force was sustaining her up to that point, but it could not last forever.

Clearing the field would be another exercise in acrobatics, it seemed. Although she was no master of Ataru, it had been Master Doseir’s favored lightsaber combat form and so she understood the basics of it. By utilizing the Force, the practitioner managed to move in ways that normally would have seemed impossible. She adopted that belief once more as she quickly set to work. It would take everything that she knew to cross soundlessly; thankfully, she knew quite a bit.

The first motion was to bend over and touch the floor with her fingers. A soft moan escaped her lips as her previously damaged ribs reminded her of their fragile state, yet determination saw her through the pain. Legs spread slightly to accommodate her dipping motion, she placed her focus upon her arms and held herself steady before gradually taking to a handstand. She twisted as she collapsed from it and landed in the center of one grid, then bridged backwards to cross into another. Her arched back did well to press her torso into the air, preventing her from triggering the nearest beam.

It was all about finger strength from there. Balancing her body against her fingers, her feet slowly touched against the ground before she used the tension in them to push off and come to a stand once more. An overhead beam caused her to duck low and fall to her knees; a position that she was more than comfortable with as she had worked similar maneuvers before from it. She inhaled then, drawing more into herself as she worked her way to her feet while still crouched. A series of forward handsprings, muted as she curled her legs inward, brought her to the end of the room. She sucked in breath to avoid setting off the alarms.

A single, glowing beam of light was before her, nearly at chest level. The catsuit was form-fitted to the point where additional support was not required, which in that moment saved her from tripping the alarm and surely ending her exploits. As it was, her chest came within a millimeter of touching the sensitive trigger, but instead as she dipped backwards and avoided danger. Bent backwards, she steadily progressed beneath the line until she was on the other side. If she ever made it back to the Council she told herself to inform them that female Jedi need not wear brassieres. If they could work with form-fitted attires, then clearly their chances of survival in tight situations would be greatly increased.

The distance between the security room and herself had become negligible after her latest feat of acrobatics. Running at a steady pace, she came to the room and applied a knock to the door. As she was certain the camera would move in her direction she jumped into the air and clung to the ceiling once more. Predictably, a camera did look where she had been before shifting back and forth. Muttering from inside the room sounded and the door slid open as a rather large alien emerged from within. Like the others that she had seen his was a face that was severely desiccated. Tendrils hung from his upper back, and although he was granted with an impressive musculature there came with it a lack of mental wherewithal that she could detect without needing to delve deep into his mind. She dropped down behind the hulking one and tapped him on the shoulder.

“What?” The guardsman asked, almost as though he was genuinely being answered a question. When he turned about he found the black outfitted female was staring intently at him. Surprised and quite certain she shouldn’t have been there he began to shout, but was shocked when her hands began to hit several positions on his body.

The physiology of the creatures was not at all like that of humans; however, her study had shown here where each of their vital organs was, and more importantly the network of nerves that were clustered about them. As her fingers made their final strike she extended her palm and ushered the Force outward to jettison the large one backward and send him slamming into the wall behind him. The strikes that she had applied would render him immobile for the next hour; more than enough time for her to get into Darth Vitro’s room and out. Killing the creature would have been more than likely justified, but a Jedi could not operate on the supposition of fact. His end would come one day, she was certain, but it did not need to be by her hand.

The security room was laid out as she had expected it to be: complex enough to confuse her, simple enough for a trained moron like the one that now convulsed in the hall way to understand. She looked back toward the twitching guard and narrowed her eyes toward him. His mind, all but a sequence of pain at that moment, was hardly the best at preventing her from navigating his knowledge and extracting the information needed. Verra returned her attention to the control panel. After brushing aside the skin holos that were playing with abject disgust, she struck three buttons. A window opened on the screen before her, and once more she entered the same three buttons. A green bar flashed followed by a confirmation that the system would be offline for maintenance.

This was as close as she’d come to getting inside.

It was when she began to leave that she noticed a second screen, depicting the holding cells in which Darth Vitro’s victims were kept. The transit had, after all, been full of potential pleasure-things, which meant that those inside were now part of the reasons he had been able to enter. She thought to release them, but was certain that if she did the guards would become aware and her mission compromised. Her fingers lingered over the necessary codes for several seconds, before she removed them. When Vitro died, surely they would be able to escape. There was no point in senselessly risking their lives or her own.

The stunned Empu’dunz was dragged back into the room and locked within. She glanced about and hurriedly made her way through the deactivated matrix she had just defeated, and then further still toward the network of halls that led to Vitro’s inner chamber. The automated defenses, as expected, did not respond to her presence and she continued forth past a statue of what appeared a kneeling Haur’nii woman, barely clothed.

Verra moved quickly then, certain that the window for her entrance would be a short one. She minded the surroundings as they turned from illustrious to increasingly stone-like and bitter. The drab setting reminded her quite a bit of a dungeon; it was a setting that the videos had prepared her to see. Surely enough when she came to the top of the stairs she was placed within what looked and felt like a room built of nightmares. Overhead, blades swayed back and forth, each tinged faintly in the blood of some innocent. The walls were met with even more devices for torture, some far too grotesque for her to call upon again. She had watched Vitro use nearly all of them – there would be no reason to hesitate when her chance came.

In the center of the room of horrors lay Kaeridan Nag. Although she had not known what his species was when she first saw him, Ban Garus’ notes had informed her that he was a Gu’roh. Although many were much slimmer than he, as they aged they were known to take on a more rotund appearance. Several systems of redundant organs and vestigial flesh created within the hideous creatures a body armor that could not be easily penetrated by most weapons. He slept in a red robe that hung open at the chest, revealing loose and wrinkled flesh. But for however disgusting his appearance may have been, Verra was certain that the truly reprehensible qualities could only be attributed to his mind.

Several body parts of unfortunate victims littered the ground; a leg draped across Nag’s stomach showed that the appendage had outlived the utility of the rest of its owner. Verra fought the urge to vomit as she looked upon the temple of carnage and clenched her hands into fists. She progressed forth with careful, measured steps and continued to walk until she felt her feet touch against the bed upon which the blood-drenched villain rested. Disbelief shown within her pale green eyes as she looked down at him, incapable of understanding just what sort of monster could act with such disregard for life.

She was nearly forced to gasp when his eyes snapped open.

“And what is this?” The Gu’roh Sith Lord said as he looked upon Verra. “A new toy has made her way to my chambers without being requested?” Seemingly unaware of the danger he was in, he allowed his dark green tongue to escape his mouth and caress his fat, chapped lips. “This impetus will have to be reprimanded.”

It would only take a single, well placed slash to end the dark beast’s reign of terror. But just as she thought to draw her lightsaber, she felt pressure slam against her and remove her from the bed. Her back struck harshly against one of the walls, narrowly avoiding a meathook, as Darth Vitro sat up in his bed and rubbed his hands together. Her ribs, long pleading for rest, all but cracked and she was left moaning in pain.

“And just what would your name be, precious?” He slid from the bed then, folds of fat quivering as he settled onto his feet. As a scout Verra had learned to greatly diminish the presence of the Force upon her, so as not to give Sith reason to wonder if she was present or not. It was not a foolproof technique, but unless a person knew to search for her it assisted in diminishing her presence and thus made it difficult to tell that she was a Jedi. The Gu’roh seemed to be unaware of her training. Her eyes widened as he drew closer to her and placed a hand to one of her rounded hips. “My, lovely. Who was it that sent you to kill me, my sweet? After I have sated my… needs, I will be certain to send him a thank you note for his fine choice in… wares.”

Verra recalled the images of the assassin that he had caught last. It was an image that had persisted through her dreams and been before her eyes when she awakened. She felt his hand lift from her hip and brush along her body until it took purchase on her mask. Effortlessly, he pulled down and was given to smile all the more gingerly. His teeth, a collection of shard like chunks, glistened as he spoke.

“You are indeed a lovely one. Oh, I simply must know your name!”

The Sith Lord’s control of the Force was a terrifying thing; in him, she could feel a strength the likes of which she had never before encountered. The feeling of her lightsaber pressing against her back brought her mind to the fore, where she was certain that a reality she did not wish to consider would come about if she did not act. The battered state of her body had to be forgotten; the fear that she felt at being forced into a grisly and gruesome death had to be placed aside. She was a Jedi, trained and talented in the arts of combat. Though the Sith Lord’s presence was a terrifying one, she could not cower. He was a monster.

And she was his slayer.

Just as he had thrown her backward with the Force, so too did she return the favor by expanding her presence and allowing her mastery of the Force be felt. Prepared only to hold a simple woman in place, when the Sith’s hold upon her was met with a greater one, he was thrown backward and back toward his bed. Verra dropped from the wall and cupped her ribs, before narrowing her eyes and closing in upon him. The various scenes that had played out on the screen returned to her mind then, each darker and more gruesome than the last. The sounds; the screams. She would avenge them all as the distance between herself and the winded Gu’roh came to a close.

“Wait!” The Sith Lord shouted.

But it was far too little, far too late.

Verra’s lightsaber snapped from its position at her back onto her hand. She compressed the activation plate, a glowering beam of amber projected from its hilt. She struck outward as she passed by him and came to a sliding halt, her arm extended outward. Stabbing him would have given her too large of a chance to miss one of his vital organs. Cutting him would have been useless with all of the flesh he had guarding him.

For several seconds nothing moved within the room. Verra’s lightsaber continued to hum against the silence. The tense seconds were shattered when a gurgling sound filled the air for a second. Darth Vitro’s head fell away from his body and rolled across the ground. His body followed soon after, dropping to its knees, before a shower of acrid and bromidic blood met the air. The execution had been flawless.

Never again would he harm another living soul.

Verra lowered her lightsaber and deactivated its blade, then returned it to the carrying case. As the plans had detailed, there was an escape route that led into a distant jungle, from which Ban Garus’ attendants would be able to escort her back to the estate. Verra looked back to the fallen Sith Lord, whose blood now puddled, and could not help but feel that she had broken some unspoken code: she had come there with the specific purpose of killing him, regardless of what he had to say. Was that what it meant to be a Shadow? There was the barely legal, and then there was…

She couldn’t allow herself to become overwhelmed with the moment. Mindful of her plight she made her way down the corridor and toward the designated pick up area. She had killed the beast.

But at what cost?

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rosefirelite
01.13.2012 , 04:38 PM | #7
Love It!
♥RoseFire♥ Scoundrel
<Lost Souls> Thana Vesh

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Gestahlt
01.17.2012 , 08:08 AM | #8
Chapter Seven: Inspecting Erectus

The next two Sith Lords on the list fell without much difficulty. Their homes were as grand as Darth Vitro’s and gaining entry was in no way a simple task; however, when the time came to kill them Verra did not flinch in the slightest. With Darth Prematus and Darth Minutia thus added to the list of the dead, Ban Garus’ vision came ever closer to completion. Thorne IV’s political atmosphere was thrown into upheaval, as with each Sith Lord that perished a clearer picture emerged of what was happening. When Vitro was found slain it had been attributed to an assassin finally finishing their job. Prematus and Minutia, however, who had a much more select list of enemies began to detract from the concept of random coincidence and painted a picture far more involved.

Someone was targeting specific Sith Lords and killing them off. As there was not yet enough evidence to place it at the feet of any one person, the authorities were simply left to mind that which they could. Ban Garus, despite his previous protestations, had gone so far as to hire a specialized security detail of droids to protect his household from any potential backlash. The more that fell to Verra’s blade, the more likely it was that the source of the deaths would lead back to him. She had to act quickly from that moment on; a point that he reminded her of constantly.

There had been several witnesses to the assassinations and those witnesses had nearly cost Ban Garus everything. The Empu’dunz guard that Verra had immobilized reported that before his master was killed, a pale haired woman had been seen in the compound. On the night that Prematus was slain he had been with one of his servants, who said that a woman in a black uniform had descended upon her master and made short work of him. When Minutia fell, a room of children was witness to the battle that ensued before the Sith lord was slaughtered. Verra had not been publically linked to Ban Garus, but the more that was known about this assassin, the easier it would be for a spy to place the new addition to his household as the cause for all of the disturbances. Thankfully, Verra did well to keep to herself and the clues led to nothing other than a title being given to the suspected murder: “The Shadow”.

The media took the image of this mysterious woman and converted it into a story of a vengeful wraith that sought to destroy the very fabrics of society. Holo-feeds routinely featured speculation on who this enigma may have been, ranging from a scorned Sith lord to the returned wrath of the Rutalians. In each retelling of witness stories her feats became only more fantastic. There was little concern from the general populace, who all but sensationalized the events. More powerful Sith lords, however, were hardly as amused. This “Shadow” could potentially visit them, and until they knew more of her motivations, each would have to be wary.

At that moment “the Shadow” was once more in her own company. She always seemed to be in her own company as of late. It was a situation that raised some concern from Q’leeta, but Ban Garus assured her that it was natural. Verra was simply working through things: she would emerge unscathed by what had to be done.

Ban Garus’ illustrious study was converted into Verra’s personal room. Eating in it, often sleeping in it, and always watching the screens before her – she committed her days to assuring herself that the people who were killed needed to die for more than Ban Garus’ machinations. In the case of Darth Prematus she found that he too brutalized his servants and more importantly was one of the major financers for the Sith War against the Republic. Darth Minutia had actually been an advocate for waiting before the war was waged, but she was guilty of taking children from outlying provinces and draining them of their life in order to maintain her youthful and beautiful appearance. In both, she had found powerful masters of the Dark Side – and in the case of both, she had prevailed. As the avenging hand of the Force, Verra’s unleashed wrath could not be stopped.

It was the latest Sith that she was having a hard time coming to terms with killing. Darth Erectus, the current governor of Magestus, would not only be the most difficult kill that she was faced with, but also the one with the least proof of obvious misdeed. After killing Prematus she had face the fact that the Sith were by and large cruel to people subordinate than them and if simply abusing servants meant that she should kill them then all of them should have been killed. Bearing this in mind, while it was true that Erectus may have been a cruel master, that was not in itself enough reason to kill him. At least, that was what the voice in her head was telling her.

But with each passing day, that voice became just a bit fainter.

The screen was currently occupied with holo-feed of Erectus. A tall and intimidating man, he was extremely similar to Ban Garus in his physical features. The Sith Empire was interspersed with species that she had never before heard of, but the “hybrid” look was one that could easily be qualified. While some were dark red or even pinkish, Erectus much like her current “benefactor” was of a sandier complexion. But where Ban Garus attempted to appear sympathetic, Erectus stood with a power and presence that was topped by the purple crown that adorned his head. He was a sight to behold and more than likely would be tough to handle. More important than anything else was the explosive look that radiated from his solitary eye.

Verra began to replay several different feeds, searching for a mark of depravity that would truly qualify the Sith for a targeted assassination. The food that she had been brought had long since gone cold, and even had it not she found that her need to validate the kill far exceeded her desire for food. She did not know how Ban Garus managed to find all of his information, but it had seemed more than accurate enough. Vitro had been in his dungeon, Prematus was found with one of his servants, and Minutia’s demise had come as she prepared to drain the lives from more children. If there was anything to find out about Erectus it should have been on the tapes, but there was nothing.

It was a rare sight for the servants to see Verra during the day, if at all. The young woman that had accompanied Q’leeta into the study days before was not the same that they saw at that moment. While she still held the same appearance in all, there was something decidedly lacking from her being. Whatever it was, they made certain to give her a wider berth as she walked through the halls, though they made certain to bow with abject courtesy. The delicate robes that Ban Garus had given her fluctuated in the wake of her determined stride; through the Force she not only located him but informed him that she would soon be arriving.

Had she not been singularly focused upon locating Ban Garus, Verra might have taken a moment to appreciate the delicate surroundings that she emerged into from the interior of the estate. Bathed in sunlight, the courtyard was given only a small amount of shade which at that moment housed Ban Garus. At his side, Q’leeta sat with a cup of some beverage or another held out in the event that her master-husband may desire a sip. Around her neck was a beautiful silken scarf that played well against the white décor. Two other Haur’nii women were beside her, one teal and the other near violet, each waving fans in his direction to further please their master. With the taste of Q’leeta’s drink upon his lips and the women blowing wind upon him in constant intervals, it was doubtlessly a serene moment for the Sith.

Verra came to a halt at Ban Garus’ side, opposite Q’leeta. The Haur’nii woman offered her a pleasant smile, but she did not return it. “Ban Garus,” she said in a voice that hardly seemed like her own: dry and exhausted, it related how strenuously she had been investigating the latest target.

“A moment, my dear,” Ban Garus replied as he held a hand up to silence her from speaking further. His eyes remained on the garden, in which several women danced with fluttering scarves accentuating their gestures. As his hand slowly lowered the women took to jumping to and fro, as even more began to play a soft and delicate melody that permeated through the air. The only thing that truly shattered the majesty of the scene was the gleam of one of Ban Garus’ security droids in the distance. His lips pursed upon seeing it, but he did not act to remove its distraction. Some things, it would seem, would have to be suffered until everything was in order.

Off-putting as it was to be made to stand silent, Verra obliged until the Sith looked back to her. “We have a problem with the latest.”

“Do we?” Ban Garus asked, his voice wreathed in confusion. His eyes offered a customary glance over Verra’s being. For whatever the servants found undesirable about her, he was all the more attracted. It had little to do with the manner in which the robes revealed her taut abdomen, or cinched upon her waist. No, there was a power to her that he understood well enough, but did not yet address. Q’leeta, hardly blind, saw the look – but hers was not the place to comment.

Verra shifted so that she blocked the view of the dancers and spoke, her voice nearly as narrow her eyes. “Yes, I see no justification for doing what must be done.”

“Justification,” Ban Garus repeated as though the word were foreign to him. “You mean, nothing that you feel immediately calls for action?”

“Precisely.”

The short response was more than enough warning for Ban Garus to know he could not continue to ignore the Jedi’s irritation. With an understanding nod he snapped his fingers and pointed toward the teal Haur’nii woman. “Or’us, a chair.”

“As you wish it, master.” She brought her fanning to an instantaneous halt and departed to find a chair as requested. Utilizing the strength that Verra knew was within the buxom women, she set it down before her and offered her the customary bow that each of the servants did. The Jedi sat and regarded Ban Garus coldly.
“Now then,” Ban Garus said as he turned his attention completely away from the dancers and to Verra. “What is it that has you so worked up?”

Rather than respond that she was not ‘worked up’, she instead answered to the point. “You told me that we have less time to act now that your enemies are beginning to understand what is happening. With that in mind I’ve been reviewing records and holo-feeds on Erectus, but have found nothing.”

Upon hearing the name “Erectus”, Q’leeta shifted backward in her seat. It was not an action lost upon Verra, who normally saw the woman as poised and in control of her actions. Ban Garus noticed Verra’s glance and addressed it.

“Q’leeta, Or’us,” he began. “See that dinner is prepared.”

It was a directive that seemed almost redundant: Q’leeta always made sure that dinner was prepared. But upon hearing it the woman gave an almost thankful smile before nodding her head and gesturing for Or’us to follow her. Each bowed courteously to Verra, but she seemed more intent upon watching Ban Garus than returning any pleasantries. Once the two were at a safe distance away, she squinted. “What was that all about?”

“In the future, no references to Erectus will be made in Q’leeta’s presence,” Ban Garus stated. While normally there was a level of dubiousness to his voice, on that point there was such finality that Verra had to wonder if he might lash out at her. She nodded her head in compliance, and he continued. “You wish to know why it is that I have selected Erectus?”

“I need to know,” Verra corrected. Her conscience may have been a dwindling thing, but it was still powerful enough to keep her from committing egregiously foul acts. “I know that he is the governor of Magestus.”

Ban Garus rose from his seat and clasped his hands behind his back. He turned, striding away as though in thought. “He is also my brother,” he admitted with a surprising amount of shame to his voice. “Darth Erectus, born Ss’elo Nicus, shares a mother with me.”

It explained their similarity instantly. While Ban Garus had the refined look of a statesman, Ss’elo Nicus was every bit the general by his appearance. Verra recalled then how commanding the man’s lone-eye appeared, and furthermore how powerful he seemed to be even through the holo-feed. That same quality was present upon Ban Garus, but upon him it was much more subtle and convincing in nature. But a shared lineage did not answer her question. That was a point she would not waver upon.

“I will not kill him because you dislike your brother.”

“Nor would I ask you to,” Ban Garus demurred. He turned back around and smiled sorrowfully. “It was Ss’elo Nicus’ generalship that saw the Rutalians driven from this planet. Though I fought alongside him, his was a presence that I could not emulate. In battle, he was peerless. He defeated the Rutalian monarch in single-combat and paved the way for the Sith Empire’s presence upon Thorne IV.

“But Nicus was never a wise man, nor was he a very capable ruler. The Emperor saw to it that I was given the position of viceroy and Nicus was to be my right hand. This arrangement worked well enough in the beginning, but as all things do – it eventually came to an end. Nicus coveted my post and I something of his.”

Verra tilted her head a notch. “Q’leeta.”

“Right you are,” Ban Garus murmured. “She was – is the most beautiful woman that I had ever seen. I know it would be foolish to convince you that Sith can love, but in her I saw possibilities I never imagined before her eyes settled on mine. My brother treated her poorly; he holds no stock in refinement. So it was that I began to court her.”

“Courtship,” Verra interrupted, her voice dripping in disbelief. “From a Sith? Surely you do not expect me to believe it possible.”

Ban Garus waved his hand dismissively. “I do not care what you believe, so long as you hear me out. Q’leeta and I became lovers by night. When Nicus was informed of our courtship, he became enraged but knew that he had not the position to challenge me openly. It was well within my right to take any woman that I wanted and although he was my elder brother, I was the one that the Emperor had seen fit to name viceroy. That was when the assassination attempts began.”

The glimpse into Sith politics was more than she cared to hear; to know that they established a hierarchy for who could claim what woman was in itself barbaric enough. Verra managed to fight disgust from appearing on her face.

“I was told that they began because your decisions were wildly unpopular.”

“Oh, they were,” Ban Garus agreed. “Well, amongst people of influence. The Empu’dunz, Haur’nii, and other ‘native’ people of Thorne IV were not at all displeased by my actions, but my peers saw that it spelled out disaster for them. With Ss’elo Nicus at my side they would have never moved against me, but as our bond had been fractured it was inevitable.

“Vitro, Prematus, Minutia – they all had parts in the first attempts. There were even more to be spoken of, but by now I have forgotten them. What is important is that with them dead, those that once followed them now know that the tide has been turned against them. Nicus may have never been responsible for their avarice, but he enabled it. The final ‘attempt’ on my life came by his hand.”

The Sith drew closer to Verra then and sat down once more in his seat. He looked into her eyes then and noted that they appear vaguely paler than they had before. A smile graced his lips as he went on. So enraptured was she with the story that Verra hardly seemed to notice his delight.

“Nicus challenged me to a duel. During the war he had seen that he was superior to me and combat and looked to capitalize upon that knowledge once and for all. As you have seen, he is quite a bit larger than me and undeniably fierce. Nevertheless, I accepted his request.”

A look of distant recollection bled into Ban Garus’ eyes then as he touched a hand to one of his cheeks. “When Nicus fought me, it was as though the entire world had come crashing in. His spirit was something of legend; no different than witnessing Marka Ragnos reborn. Whatever answer I had to his offense he met with brutal aggression, and throughout the duel it appeared that the fight would be entirely his. Q’leeta would be reclaimed, my throne would go to him, and his allies would be sated with my blood.

“But they had underestimated my thirst for power. The night previous I had his food poisoned. The longer that the fight carried on, the more of an advantage I was given. By holding back all of my aggression until the very end I was able to completely overwhelm him. In the blink of an eye what should have been his crowning moment was turned into my most brilliant display.”

The tale’s change in events surprised Verra two-fold: first that Ban Garus would poison his brother, and secondly that it surprised her at all. Nevertheless, as she heard of his triumph she did not feel it had come to its end. “Then why is it that you are now a private citizen?”

“I took from my brother three things on that day: his pride, his woman, and his eye,” Ban Garus recounted with surprising self-satisfaction. “The least I could do was leave him with that throne. In the current climate I would be incapable of holding it, and should I not relinquish it then he and his allies would emerge once more to see me killed. By entering the shadows, I effectively made the hunters into the hunted.”

“And you’ve waited all of this time to make your move.”

“Patience has always been my strongpoint,” Ban Garus remarked with a return of his reptilian smile. “But if you wish to find your Master Zi’los, then we must have these key enemies removed. So long as they remain in place, I cannot get to him.”

Master Zi’los. It was a name that she had all but forgotten about in her maddened need to justify what she was doing. There had been a time when meditation would have been the key, but she knew that if she allowed herself to slow for a moment she would lose focus on what had to be done. Somewhere on the horrible planet Master Zi’los was a captive, more than likely being tortured in the same way that the others on the feeds had been.

She had to wonder then, if Ban Garus actually did know anything about Master Zi’los. It was a thought that immediately placed into every action she had done, and try as she might to brave that reality she could not. The deaths of those by her hands were meant to purchase her comrade’s freedom. If it was all for naught then she was solely responsible for their deaths without proper counterbalance; a murderer and nothing more! Verra realized then that she did not believe Ban Garus because she wanted to; she did so because she had to. If anything he said to he was false, then everything she believed would come crashing down. To place her morality in the hands of a Sith lord hardly seemed to be the best decision she could make, but there was no way around it. She was, after all, a Shadow.

“You have footage of so many things,” Verra began as she tried to draw herself away from the horrible moral quandary she had placed herself within. “Why is it that you do not have any proof of what you have said – of Q’leeta and Erectus?”

There was an expression then that crossed Ban Garus’ face that she had never expected to see. Hurt, was it? The look appeared and faded so quickly that she could hardly identify it before it was gone. “Because that which he did to her is something that still haunts her. She has suffered enough indignity; keeping proof of it would betray the trust I have with her.”

It was the first time that she had heard Ban Garus refer to “trust” with absolute certainty. Verra eyed him for several more moments and rose to her feet.

“I’ll do it,” she said briskly. “But after this you had better be able to provide me with proof that Master Zi’los is close at hand.”

Ban Garus nodded. “After it,” he intoned, “Master Zi’los will be close at hand.”

The confirmation was all that Verra needed to find the courage to continue onward. Q’leeta was a kind and gentle woman who had shown her that there was someone worth trusting in the sea of Sith. Ban Garus, for all of his flaws, was a man that seemed relatively capable of keeping his word. If the two of them would lead to her rescue of Master Zi’los, then so be it. Verra turned about and began to make her exit.

“But there is one more thing,” Ban Garus said as he stood up. Verra half-turned to look at him, one of her eyes was concealed by her bangs.

“Yes?”

“There can be no witnesses,” Ban Garus stated definitively. “This business about ‘the Shadow’ has created enough media. If you are connected with Nicus’ death, then there will be no doubt that you act as my agent in all of this mayhem.”

Verra accepted the charge without thought, her mind returning to the maps that she had seen of the governor’s mansion. Finding entrance into it would be nearly impossible and to do so without allowing anyone to see her even more challenging. She brushed her robes behind her as she started back toward the study. There was much to prepare for and precious little time to do it in.

No witnesses.

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Gestahlt
01.17.2012 , 08:09 AM | #9
Chapter Eight: Going Down

If ever Verra So’Quan had wondered how one might spend three-hundred years worth of savings, Ban Garus was quickly showing her the way. Magestus City was several hundred kilometers away from the Garus Estate and as she did not have any intention of riding on a transport shuttle until she arrived at the city, her latest means of transportation would have to do. As the door to the jet slid open, Verra’s hair was sent to whipping about in the gale presented. She glanced to her side, where the pilot droid remained focused upon his task. An aerial drop was the only means of breaching Darth Erectus’ defenses, she had surmised.

But that did not mean she was mentally prepared to jump from a speeding jet!

“One minute to drop location,” the droid reported as it steadied the plane and prepared to position Verra safely in the trajectory of her target. While the jet was surprisingly quiet and stealthy she could not help but wonder how well it would do in depositing her without drawing the attention of more persons. Perhaps the two events would be linked – the death of the governor and the mysterious jet. Regardless, the two events would occur: she would jump from the jet and Darth Erectus would die. As the seconds ticked away the first of those conditions fast approached.

“Paurneux.” Q’leeta’s voice suddenly transmitted through Verra’s com-link and drew her mind away from her encroaching jump. She lifted a hand to her ear in order to silence the lacerating wind.

“Yes, Q’leeta?”
“Thank you.”

It was an utterance that came without further explanation. Generally when she was given her pre-mission briefing it came from Ban Garus, but with the Sith lord’s absence she was instead treated to the sound of earnest gratitude from his beloved wife. She did not need to question the reason for the thanks – in many ways it had a great deal to do with how she had rationalized that the governor needed to die.

“I’d appreciate some Ba’jiin-ara when I return,” Verra finally responded.

A rich and velveteen laugh escaped from Q’leeta then; reassuring, yet near teasing. “As you wish it.”

The droid spoke then, drawing Verra away from her conversation. “We have arrived at our target destination.”

Verra nodded her head and removed her hand from her ear. With her visor pulled down once more, she inhaled for courage and then pushed away from her position in the jet. Arms spread outward; she fell backwards through the darkened sky toward her destination. The HUD on her visor constantly counted down her meters, each one that passed reminding her of how soon she would need to begin her manipulation. There were Jedi that had fallen from extraordinary heights and landed without injury, though not many had done it from a speeding jet she supposed that there was a first time for everything. Either her manipulation worked or she’d splat into little more than a smudge. As the latter outcome was undesirable, she focused on the former.

Alone in her descent, Verra considered everything that she would need to do in order to reach Erectus. Ignoring the legion of droids that were at his command and the boundless mercenaries, his estate would be the first that had the potential for Sith warriors to truly enter the fray. Minutia’s castle had little more than boys pretending to be Dark Side proponents, but without a doubt a man as fierce as Erectus would have his own cadre of Force users. It would be an extremely difficult battle to overcome, but she had placed herself on a path but with one outcome: success.

But what was that success costing her, she had to wonder? It seemed the oddest time in the world to consider the course of her actions, but freefalling and without anything other than the whistling of air about her, it was not at all inopportune. She had become an assassin – a person contracted to kill for a reward. Was the life of Master Zi’los truly any different than accepting credits? Had she been in the Republic, the answer would have been a definitive no. But since arriving on Thorne IV she had made deals… compromises, that while a Jedi might do a Shadow – no, the Shadow had to in order to survive. This latest mission would just been another drop in the bucket, she told herself.

It did not have to be anything more than that.

The HUD marked off the maximum allowable distance she could fall before she needed to begin her Force manipulation. She returned her mind to the very serious fact that the ground was fast approaching and she was without a parachute. Her eyes closed and she began to picture the various currents working against her. With a careful grace that denied the very present threat of crashing into the ground, she pulled upon strands of gravity until her body began to feel weightless. The HUD beeped once more, marking that she was ever closer to the ground, yet her speed had not slowed in the slightest. Time was of the essence; she had to act quickly.

The Jedi’s spiraling dive came to an end when she drew the Force into herself entirely and landed in a crouch upon the ground. Other than a faintly jarring sensation she felt no different than if she had jumped from a small ledge onto a nearby one. Pleased with herself for her masterful landing, Verra lifted her hand and checked her lightsaber, then rose from her crouched position. All she had to do now was –

A wave of bright light flooded Verra’s eyes, forcing her to lift a hand to shield her visor as it frantically struggled to dim its settings to protect her eyes. The entire courtyard came to life then, the sound of additional spotlights flashing on preceded the emergence of several silhouettes.

“So the Shadow has come to me at long last,” a booming voice announced from the distance. Verra looked in its direction and found that though the lights originated near him, she could easily discern Darth Erectus’ frame. He was no less imposing in person than he had been on the holo-feed. “I do not know who has put you up to this spree of yours, but I know that it ends here, tonight.”

Verra did not bother to respond to the boast. She noted that the silhouettes were drawing closer to her. The HUD indicated several organic life forms and even more droids approaching from the distance. It was most definitely a trap – a trap crafted to capture a shadow.

“Remember to keep her alive,” Darth Erectus shouted from his position on the balcony. “If she is dead then we cannot confirm who it was that sent her.” With that said, the large Sith lord turned about with a sweeping of his cloak and vanished back inside. The lights that showered the area dimmed and Verra was allowed to take in all that were about her. It was not a very appealing reality.

The majority of those gathered were assault droids, weapons at the ready and an obvious order not to kill her. Interspersed through their number were a few Empu’dunz and other sentient, though otherwise uninteresting bruisers. While she was certain that she could fend off two or three of them, she knew that to take on the entirety was more than she was capable of. Luckily, their order not to kill her placed them at the disadvantage. But more important than that was they believed “the Shadow” to be a mere assassin by the look of it. Who would have thought her to be a Jedi?

For a moment reality came to a single point of existence. The hoisted weapons and their superheated payloads; the tension in her muscles as she prepared to move; the billowing of Darth Erectus’ cape as he made his escape; the twitching finger of the Empu’dunz brute that had his weapon level with the Shadow. There were an infinite number of possibilities that could be played out within the following second, yet none seemed to manifest for that briefest of seconds. In the blink of an eye, however, all of those chambered realities were ushered to the fore.

Leave no witnesses.

The first blaster had not yet fired by the time that Verra sent herself strafing to the right. The plangent report of endless fire streaming toward her position placed the Jedi within a zone that few could comprehend unless they were blessed with an affinity for the Force. Her left hand lifted to her shoulder, willing her lightsaber from its carrying case into her hand. She dashed directly for the Empu’dunz guard whose finger seemed ready to compress his trigger a moment before. With the woman charging him, but under orders not to kill her, he thus was forced to hesitate as he sought a safe location to shoot. She held her hand out and then yanked backwards, the lout dragged forth from his position and into the trajectory of the incoming blaster bolts. Utilizing his larger mass to her advantage, she slipped around him and shielded herself with his body before shoving outward with the Force to send his bolt-riddled body in their direction.

One of the bolts grazed her shoulder, but the catsuit held true to its promise and diminished the feeling to little more than a sting. That she felt pain at all informed her that a direct strike would more than likely be incapacitating, which gave her precious little leeway with her maneuvers. She followed in the wake of the fallen Empu’dunz and jettisoned into the air, her feet connecting soundly with the chest of one droid, before she twisted sharply and executed a rising kick across the face of one of its comrades. The torque, augmented by her Force-based rotation, was enough to jar the droid’s sensors and send it toppling to the ground. As she landed she rolled herself against the droid she had used to purchase ground and shifted it into the way of another of its comrades’ bolts. Its hull absorbed the majority of the shots, to which end she charged with it as a shield to impact soundly against another cluster. Lightsaber at the ready, she made short work of the nest she found herself within.

Where she had previously felt uncertainty and perhaps a tinge of fear, Verra felt a much more powerful, though foreign sensation wash over her. In many ways it was similar to Q’leeta’s touch; soft, yet reassuring in its presence. While she may not have known what it was, the pristine experience granted her the valor to forge onward against her opponents. She dashed in the direction of another of the Empu’dunz guards and slid between his legs, clearing the distance in less time than it took for him to realize that she had moved. Springing upward, she placed her feet to his back as her lightsaber zipped into her hand, then pushed away and slashed outward to part his flesh and spiral once more through the air. She landed with her left leg extended to the side and right bent, lightsaber gripped in a reversed position and held before her. The sound of the Empu’dunz falling forth was all the warning she needed to be set forth to rejoin the battle anew.

True to Ban Garus’ words, the droids would continue to follow their directives even if it meant they would be destroyed; however, the various organics about them were the ones that began aiming for more pernicious locations to strike. While the catsuit would do well to protect her lower body and torso, her face was woefully revealed in its current state save for the mask that addressed its lower half. She lifted her lightsaber so that its luminescent blade nearly obscured her features and ran forth; deflecting blaster bolts as best she could in a maddened dash to hunt down the few remaining brutes that numbered amongst the droid army.

There was more to her newfound energy than a simple increase in her physical prowess. Faster and stronger though she may have been, that would have accounted for little if not for the acuity that her ever expanding power introduced to her. The only source of fuel it required was the violence of the moment, and as she had more enemies on hand than she knew how to count, that was a supply that she did not doubt could be sustained. Her presence within the Force was one that created, rather than sustained – it commanded, rather than supported. Whatever it was inside of her that continued to grow in strength begged to be unleashed and she saw no reason to hold back.

Her shoulder slammed soundly against the torso of an Empu’dunz, bending the creature against her as her lightsaber made a forceful thrust through its chest cavity. She twirled away as he grip reversed and slashed to further part flesh from the creature. With her left hand extended, she caught hold of the falling alien through the Force and flung him toward another cluster of droids. Rather than wait for him to land, Verra dashed in his wake and then sprang into the air. Her trajectory shifted several times as she made minute adjustments to her course before, like a comet descending from the heavens, she careened into the midst of a droid cluster. Twisting about, her lightsaber became a torrential force that sundered all within its path. The dismembered droids fell apart as she leapt away.

Blaster bolts continued to shower her direction, but Verra no longer operated on the same plane as the mundane implements that sought to strike her. Her HUD sent a cursor all about the area directly before her, clicking onto each of the droids in her field of vision. Performing a backward aerial, she unleashed her lightsaber and sent it in a swooping arch along the designated path, each of the previously targeted droids severed in its wake before she twirled to the ground and caught it once more within a reversed grip. Her position presented her with a closer proximity to yet another of the Empu’dunz, who after seeing all of the death wrought in her wake, sought to kill her rather than join the kill count. It swung the stock of its weapon in her direction, but she pivoted around it and dispatched it with a slash across the lower back, only to encounter a second and run up its torso. Performing a back-flip as she reached the creature’s head, she slashed across its neck and landed only to spring for another.

She could hardly believe that she had not dealt with one of the mansions like this before. Although dangerous, the exhilaration that washed over her as she gave herself over to her unleashed vehemence was not at all an unpleasant one. She was quicker; more powerful. Where at one point she may have been captured within the threshold of an opponent’s assault, she now moved with a confidence that denied them the opportunity to harm her. Zigging this way and zagging that, she sundered, slashed, sliced, and struck whatever that was placed before her. It was not until her lightsaber’s blade slowly crept back into its base that she caught her breath and looked about her immediate area. The courtyard had become a testament to her aptitude. Carnage littered as far as the eye could see.

From the mansion’s gates, a new troop of soldiers emerged. Garbed in black attire and with masks adorning their faces, Verra understood at once that her expertise had finally drawn out a more worthy adversary. Though the guard force consisted of no more than a three men, the influence that the Force held over them was a powerful and vicious beast. They were far more dangerous than the army of slovenly mercenaries and droids that she had just emerged from. Even if ordered to keep her alive, they surely would value their own lives over orders.

Each compressed his lightsaber blade, sending a crimson blade off to the side. It was a nightmarish sight for any Jedi to behold – in truth; it was a sight that Verra had once feared.

But as she looked up them at that moment and held her deactivated lightsaber up, it was not fear that she felt. Once more did its amber blade projected itself to the side as she held the blade in its once more-reversed state.

Her burgeoning power yearned to be tested.

Darth Erectus was close to exploding.

He had known that the Shadow would be arriving: his information was never incorrect; however, to see her tear through his defenses was not at all a pleasing sight. The mercenaries and droids should have been enough to stop her, yet as his holo-feed reviewed there was more to the woman than simple acrobatics. The glowing of her lightsaber said it all – she was a Jedi and she had come for him. While normally that thought would have brought nothing more than smug satisfaction to his face, as he watched the woman engage his three apprentices he could not help but feel a small amount of concern grow within the pit of his heart. She would die, undoubtedly, but that did not mean that he was necessarily pleased to see so many investments brought to an end.

The governor’s estate was a palace unto itself, with countless servants that could be placed between himself and the approaching wraith. During the Great Hyperspace War he had heard of Jedi that fought with unrelenting intensity and fervor, but nothing had ever spoken of what he saw at that moment. There was a rawness to her combat that he knew all too well and although he knew it was possible she was a Sith in disguise, the sheer audacity with which she battled was bereft the requisite ruthlessness to truly label her as anything more than a Jedi lost within the maelstrom of the Force. It had been too long since he had a worthy opponent and something told him that anyone that could kill Vitro, Prematus, and Minutia would indeed be just that challenge.

True, those three had been little more than demented beasts pretending to be Sith, but they did have a presence in the Force that was relatively well balanced. It had been their potential that kept him from removing them from power on his own accord; however, the Shadow had done that service for him, and in truth had she not predictably come for him he would have been more than willing to allow her to continue her rampage. The more that died, after all, simply meant that there would be more room for him to expanse his influence. That those three had died in such quick fashion though, told him that someone else was looking to as well.

And just who could that someone be? In years past he would have contented himself with removing the problem and being done with it all, but as years became decades and decades became centuries, Darth Erectus had wizened. The Shadow was nothing more than an agent; a symptom of a disease far darker than the catsuit that hugged her delectable physique so. The black eye patch that covered his now vacant eye socket was proof enough that being overly concerned with the present would in no way lead to victory. He touched against the emptied socket then, his irritation at his past failings reborn anew. Organic implants could have easily been purchased to refit his eye; however, he did not believe it necessary. The loss of his eye was a lesson in warfare; the last one that his brother had ever shown him.

Until now, anyway.

There was no doubt that Conseptus was behind this latest string of attacks, but his belief of fact was not proof. The Emperor had always favored Ban Garus, even when they were children, and to move against him without complete proof of his treason would simply not do. For all he knew, a preemptive strike may have been exactly what the sniveling coward desired. Only the Force truly knew just what he was planning, for it always seemed to land him ahead. Had any been asked who would emerge victorious in a battle between the brothers, Ss’elo Nicus’ would have been the name to paint every list. Yet against the odds Ban Garus had been the victor, and in his most sinister act ever allowed him to live.

The very thought of it was enough to draw him away from concern and back toward anger. Yes, that was exactly what he needed to feel. Melancholy and fear were motivators, but anger was a power source. The more vehemently he felt, the more powerful he became. He thought of having to surrender Q’leeta to his brother’s demands; how she had been the exchange for not only his life, but a promise of non-aggression. Q’leeta, his most prized possession. Though he did not believe in the fanciful notion of love that Ban Garus professed, he did understand that there was much to be desired from the Haur’nii woman. Hers was a touch that was ever ready to please; a voice that could only bring joy. How long ago had it been since he last experienced either?

Anger. That was exactly what he required. He could feel his muscles filling with rage; his ligaments with acrimony. The more that he allowed his mind to wrap around the entirety of the situation, the more furious he became. If the “Shadow” was as skilled as she was rumored to be then she would surely make her way to his throne room, eventually. And when she did? He would be waiting.

A century’s worth of hatred would be waiting.


The crisp clashing of lightsabers bounced off the walls of the mansion as Verra engaged the remaining two Sith apprentices. It had been a moment of indecisiveness on behalf of the fallen one that claimed his life, but as his comrades saw just how quickly she capitalized on that weakness they each vowed not give her a chance to dispatch them with quite as much ease. Whatever standing orders may have existed were forgotten: no Sith would sacrifice his life simply because he was ordered to do so. If Darth Erectus wanted the woman alive, then he would have to rescue her from their combined might. Or at least, that was the manner in which they believed events should have proceeded.

Fighting two to one, Verra still managed to control the flow of the battle. What had begun as a simple desire to have her prowess tested had become something more. These vile creatures were responsible for more than Master Zi’los’ disappearance. They were the cause for the Sacking of Coruscant; for the fall of the Jedi Order’s honor. It mattered naught that neither were actually at the battle. All that she cared about was the singular notion that they were Sith and she was a Jedi. The Shadow would seek vengeance against those that had harmed her former comrades; who had ripped Master Doseir away from her. The fuel that pumped through her veins was of a quality far greater than she had ever known before, and rather than shy away from it she gave into it willingly. None would deny her vengeance.

One of the Sith apprentices approached from Verra’s left, his lightsaber poised for the strike. Verra met the slash of his comrade, then pushed away and twisted to her left to address him directly. Rather than hold the interlocking of their blades she spun sharply in a pivot that placed her at his side and swung downward to catch him in the side with her blade. He predictably blocked, but as he did so she projected a gust of the Force to blast him away and send him smashing into the wall behind him. Plaster spiraled away from the point of impact as an overhanging picture fell, momentarily stunning him. Not to be forgotten, the other Sith closed in upon her, but she answered his presence with a rising, underhanded slash that forced his lightsaber away, then converted the strike into a horizontal cut that he narrowly evaded.

The two met in a fervent series of lightsaber slashes the likes of which rang through the hallway with a nearly endless report. Where Verra slashed, the Sith blocked; where the Sith blocked, Verra thrusted. The Force’s hold upon each increased their acuity and with that awareness came the ability to strike in ways that previously would have seemed impossible. The Sith behind her began to arise from his injured state, his refractory period nearly completed as the Force worked to correct his previous errors. Hardly a fool, Verra realized that if she did not quickly deal with the Sith before her then the other would come up from behind to assault her. Caught between the two, she’d be able to do little more than wait for them to exploit whatever openings they could find.

She refused to be bent out of shape over the possibility.

She committed herself entirely to bringing the Sith down in front of her, but just as she had become aware that his partner would soon be rejoining their frenzy, so had he. Assuming a defensive stance, the Sith did his best to ward off Verra’s strokes even as they became more feverish and focused. The clasping of their weapons began to form a steady rhythm, Verra’s moans of frustration met with the Sith’s own groans of exertion as he fought to remain on his feet under her unleashed assault. The sooner that his ally recovered was the sooner that the two could make short work of the Jedi in between them. The end was coming; he could feel the tingle of victory at hand.

The fallen apprentice’s lightsaber activated once more. Verra heard the sound and narrowed her eyes more intently upon the apprentice before her; however, whichever way she attacked he seemed to be prepared for her. Though she could not see behind his mask, she was certain that he was smirking as he noted the Sith behind her begin to rise. Time was quickly working against her, and as she gave off a mighty cry she pushed with all of her might to penetrate her opponent’s defenses. He resolutely checked her strike and she was left without an opening against him. Behind her, the sound of his ally rushing toward her told her that she was out of time.

This was her chance.

With her opponent focused upon denying her lightsaber, she was not at all surprised to find that his upper torso had been left open following his denial of her attack. She jumped in the air, each of her heels forced outward to impact soundly with his chest. The Force exploded through her then, sending her rocketing backward and toward the approaching Sith, whose attention had been primarily on catching her unguarded rear. Now sailing over his head, she made a deft movement with her lightsaber before completing her back-flip and landing in a sliding crouch. The action had hardly come to completion before she propelled herself forth and past the standing Sith, whose head slid away from him as she rushed by.

Verra opened her free hand and caught the defeated Sith’s lightsaber through the Force. She struck savagely against the sole remaining adversary’s lightsaber, and then pulled forth upon the other to unleash a second strike from her newly acquired weapon. Battling with two lightsabers against his one, despite the fact that she had hardly trained at all in the art of dual wielding lightsabers, it was simply logical that she would be able to do more damage than he – who had specifically trained to handle a single lightsaber against multiple adversaries. Where one of her strikes landed, the next was already incoming for a pass, and the Sith found himself incapable of properly erecting defense against her.

The trial was decided when Verra slashed with the former Sith’s lightsaber and her opponent eagerly blocked it. With her latter hand still free, she executed a sharp slash that bisected his arm, and from there used both of her lightsabers to first behead, and then disembowel him. The Z slashing came to an end as she deactivated the lightsabers and twirled them in her hands, walking away as her final opponent toppled over to the ground. She had overcome her adversaries, but still she was not sated. Darth Erectus needed to go down and she’d use every technique that she knew to make sure it happened.

Once she took the head, this would all be over.

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Gestahlt
01.17.2012 , 08:10 AM | #10
Chapter Nine: Taking the Head

It was the sound of her lightsabers deactivating that brought the Shadow’s mind back to the fore. The carnage and mayhem that had ensued within the palace had come to an end; however, the echo of death still rang crisply within the air. What had begun as a mission to assassinate a single man had turned into a quest to eliminate as many people as possible, and as the final count was totaled it was a number far greater than the Shadow would have ever imagined possible. Vitae decorated her catsuit, most of which came from those that had fallen before her heightened prowess. Though she had not emerged unscathed from the massacre, she was for the most part unharmed.

Relatively speaking, that was.

The taint of combat had not at all been lost upon her; though it was a simple matter to abandon herself into her fighting, once she emerged from that zone she was confronted with all that had been done. The Sith were not fools and once they realized that the woman attacking was a Jedi that had done everything that they could to slow her. This initially meant placing inexperienced fights with weak constitutions in the fore, hoping that their pleas and nervousness would cause her to falter – it did not. When this failed, they sent forth servants to further slow her. Like meat to the grinder, they were devoured within her voracious warpath just the same.

Her body was near the point of collapse; no mortal could have engaged in the feverish fighting that she had and not wish nothing more than to surrender the will to go on. Yet with each step that she took, she forced herself to take one more. Fatigued as she was, her steps slid against the blood slickened floor and her gait was that of a tree swaying precariously within a powerful storm: one powerful gust and she would fall; there was no doubt of that.

But she could not stop, nor was she able to relent. The blood that now dripped from her gloved hands was the sole responsibility of the man that stood behind the arched doorway before her. It had been his cowardice that placed his loyal subjects before her; his weakness that necessitated her to slaughter those that rose to his call. What sort of man would be capable of standing by as those that looked to him for protection were culled in so ruthless a manner? What sort of a governor could watch those that he governed be dispatched without moving to assist them? The greedy, avaricious, despicable Sith, that was who. They were scum of the galaxy and at last, she would set to removing them all.

Ragged breaths punctuated the air as she trudged to the door and placed her hand against it. The lightsaber hilt that she had taken from the Sith, whose blade was as red as the blood that dripped from it, bashed once against the door before it gave way and allowed her to enter. She did not wish to think of how savagely she had been forced to fight as she cleared the halls; did not want to recall the sound of bone and cartilage being crushed under the battering strike of her lightsaber’s hilt, or the horrified shrieks that came from dismembered opponents as she set to ensuring that they would not rise to stop her. All of those things were the property of the Sith lord, not herself. He had forced her hand. There was nothing more to it than that.

The room that she emerged into was that which she had seen within the holo-feed. Although her visor had done well to keep stray fluids from entering her eyes, it nevertheless had taken to caking. She lifted her right hand and pulled at the screen before dropping it and allowing it to clatter to the ground. Technology would no longer be required: the fight that was before her would be one settled between mastery of the Force and experience in combat. Freed of the detritus that had previously marred her vision, she looked about the throne room.

Ornate tapestries greeted her eyes, lining the floor that separated the throne from those who were permitted audience above it. She was certain that in times past the room had been filled with sniveling vassals that requested new means by which to harm or demean their subjects. Perhaps Vitro, Prematus, and Minutia had even walked the ground at one time, scheming and plotting on how to best betray their masters and increase their own lot in the world. That thought brought to her lips a thin smile, for theirs were evil ways that would never again be relived. Vanquished into the darkness, they would be forgotten in due time – just like their master.

Even if she had been without her eyes, the Shadow would have been capable of seeing Darth Erectus. His was a presence that far exceeded the need for mere sight, as the Dark Side of the Force coalesced about him with fervor the likes of which a tumultuous storm would have easily been likened to. By his side were two smaller, though no less admirable swellings of Dark Side potential. The Shadow looked and noted that the Force came from a pair of stone-crafted maces that held unknown runes upon them. Sith alchemy, more than likely, was at play. Hardly intimidated, her narrowed gaze returned to Erectus.

“It would be a bit of an understatement to say that I am impressed with your antics to this point,” the Sith lord said as he clapped his hands without much effort. “A pity that it was all for nothing.”

She could feel the heat wafting off of his body; a strong and virile beast in itself. That intensity, coiled and chambered tightly within him, was so raw and passionate that it brought color to her cheeks simply from being within its vicinity. The man was a volcano, and she the island upon which he would erupt. Although she would never bring herself to admit it, she desired very much witness that explosion firsthand.

“I have killed everyone that has been presented to me.” The statement was without room for interpretation; the Shadow was a creature that feared nothing. Her shoulders slumped and she clenched her hands tightly upon the deactivated lightsabers in each hand. “You will perish just as they did.”

Darth Erectus eyed the Shadow as she came to a standstill at the base of the throne’s summit. “You can hardly take another step. Am I to believe you think yourself capable of defeating me?”

“I do not ask you to believe anything,” she said. “I am telling you that you will die.”

The chilled determination in her voice was more than a simple boast. Frail and exhausted as she may have been, Erectus was both incensed and intrigued by the impetus displayed by the woman before him. He looked down on her, the shafts of his maces clutched in hand. Still, he could not help but grin at her determination.

“And you do all of this for Ban Garus?”
“No.”

He had expected her to deny his question, but the manner in which she did it – swift and without hesitation, bespoke something far more important than mere deception. The confidence that he had built upon the reality that Ban Garus was to blame for everything was suddenly brought into question and he felt suddenly uncertain as to how to perceive the threat before him.

“Then for who?”
“The Jedi.”

The answer was so unexpected that Darth Erectus chuckled – no, he laughed. He had heard many things attributed to the Jedi; arrogance, apathy, blindness, but never before had ruthless slaughter been on said. One of the maces was placed against his broad shoulder as he shook his head. “If you believe that the Jedi would condone what you have done here tonight, girl, then you do not know the Jedi at all!”

The Shadow shook her head slightly and closed her eyes. In the void of darkness that was presented to her she heard not only the screams of those she had felled, but also saw the faces of her friends and mentors that had fallen at the hands of the Sith. “I do not speak of those that now sit in Republic space; nor do I speak of Codes or ideals… the Jedi that I do this for are those that your treacherous government and people have torn from this life and thrust into the Force. The Jedi that I speak of are those that at this moment perish at the hands of a war machine built of nothing save for hatred and malice.”

“Hatred and malice,” Darth Erectus chuckled. “Look at yourself, girl! Think of what you have done to stand where you are now! How have you done anything other than give into your hatred and malice?”

It was a boast that she did not wish to hear and certainly not one that she could abide by. She knew that something had been assisting her throughout the fight, she simply did not want to know what. The Force was an ally she knew well, and that she was not certain that it was the Force at all told her that the answer was undesirable. Yet even in the face of Erectus’ words, she refused to relent. Her eyes narrowed all the more, sizing up the Sith before her.

“You have no clever rejoinder or denial?” The Sith asked. “You have no admission to being as corrupted as the beast that you seek to slay?”

“I have but one thing to say to you.”
“And what is that?”
“You will die.”

The return of her statement this time did not fill Erectus with the same bemusement as it had the first. Her impetuous nature was a quality that he found less than endearing and that he, the Governor of Magestus, would be forced to debate with a faceless minion of a defunct order only further aggravated him. The rage that he kept so tightly coiled about himself then snapped to life as a fire fed gasoline. Roaring and boundless, it expanded as he held his hand out. “Enough words!”

The Shadow could sense the wave of intensity approach her; however, her body did not seem ready to properly react. Caught in full by the Sith Governor’s unleashed vehemence, she was thrown backward and struck soundly with the walls behind her. A mighty bellow escaped Darth Erectus as he dove from his throne toward her, each of his maces borne overhead before being brought down in a hammering motion to clobber the woman should she be unaware. Despite her frail state, the Shadow rolled to her left and heard stone upon which she had previously been positioned shatter under Erectus’ assault.

First a yellow blade and then a red; the activation of her weapons was all that she could think to do as she fought to find the strength to face the raging beast before her. The Sith lord rolled after her, his mace slamming against the wall as she ducked, while its counterpart made a near-fatal strike for her head that she evaded only be stepping backward. The Shadow moved to strike the Sith lord before he could right himself; however, as her blades sought him out she was met with a resolute parry before being shoved backward by the Force once more. Her muscles, long strained, all but surrendered upon her as she executed a slash and was rejected with authority from the larger combatant.

“This is the best that you have? I had always known Prematus and Vitro to be weak, but even Minutia’s odalisques should have been capable of stopping you!” The boast came with a booming laugh as Erectus gave a dismissive wave with his left hand. The gesture sent the Shadow backward once more, and she weaved slightly to the side in an attempt to return equilibrium to her mind. She felt the Force wafting off of Erectus and her newfound power thirsted to give into it; however, so uncertain was she of her actions that she dared not. Verra So’Quan would never flirt with the Dark Side, would she?

Erectus closed the distance between himself and his adversary with surprising speed. He swept outward with one mace while striking overhand with the other; however, Verra jumped over the former and twisted out of the way of the second. Using some of her last remaining energy reserves she kicked her heels out against his chest and sent herself backward with the Force. As her jump met its apex in mid-flip, she slashed outward with her lightsabers but was reward with nothing save for a laugh from her opponent. No sooner had her body righted itself than was she caught in her chest, mid-air, by a push from the Force. The strength of the strike sent her hurdling backward and careening into a wall, where her back slammed without mercy against it and she was given to arch. A pained moan left her then, her hands nearly dropping both lightsabers.

“How does it feel?” Erectus shouted as he thrust his hand outward and once more slammed the woman’s body against the wall. With each thrust of his hand she was given to let off one of her pathetic moans, the repetition of skin striking stone enough to fill him with untold glee before finally with a chuckle he flicked his wrist and sent her sliding across the ground. Her lightsabers each rolled from her grasp and she lay upon her stomach, eyes all but closed under the assault that she had endured. “There has to be more to you than this. Show me, ‘Shadow’! Show me how it is that you will avenge the Jedi!”

His boasts weighed upon her nearly as heavily as his strikes had, for although she wished nothing more than to rise and defeat him, she had not the energy to do so. She listened as his heavy footsteps brought him closer to her, and tried placing her palms to the ground to push up, but nothing save for trembling came from her muscles. She felt his hand in her hair then, commanding and painful as it pulled her head back. Without concern for the pain it caused, and rather reveling in her pathetic mewling, he drew her up and ripped the mask down from her face. “Not at all a bad sight. A shame it is that it will not see another day.”

The chuckling statement was followed by one of the Sith’s massive maces striking her in the abdomen. Pain unlike any other rose through her, as her previously broken ribs were once more placed onto the verge of collapse. Her eyes widened, she bent forth only to be slammed backward and against the wall she had previously been mercilessly bashed against. Erectus placed his elbow against her sternum, grinning as he held her suspended in position.

“Now then. I know that the Jedi did not send you with the specific task of killing Sith lords. That is a concept far too ambitious for those cowardly fools.” Once more he struck her, the sound resonating through the chamber room as he did so. “So, who is it that sent you?”

“The Jedi,” she said in a voice that lacked neither conviction nor determination. It was a statement that did not at all stop the undulation of the swells of pain that washed over her. Once more she felt her body slammed against the wall, and yet again did a tired moan leave her.

“Your mind can be broken, but I would sooner bring your body to its knees,” Darth Erectus chided as he pressed himself closer to her. Nearly smothering the woman with his presence, his massive hand caught hold of her neck as he leaned forth and whispered into her ear. “The Force is a powerful thing; it can be used to heal or harm. Tell me, which do you think I will unleash upon you?”

She was not given the chance to answer – not that it mattered. The smell of fabric burning met with the air as Erectus closed his hand about her throat. A heat, far darker than simple fire, washed over her body and sank into her mind, burning her with an intensity that denied physical description. She gasped and threw her head back as he tightened his hold, the sensation to gasp for air blocked out by the need to voice her pain. Carelessly he rolled her once and drew her back to him, so that her back rested against his chest and he was given better range by which to strangle her. “Continue to resist me, Shadow, and know that the last sight you see will be the wall before you.” To show that he was hardly one to jest, he increased the heated sensation and caused her to lean forth just a bit as she struggled to free herself.

“Who was it that sent you?”
“The Jedi.”

That she could force the words out was a testament to her determination, but it was a showing that established nothing other than his need to harm her further. He lowered his free hand to her abdomen and struck her soundly in the ribs once more, the need to cry out silenced as he clenched his hand upon her throat and prevented a sound from escaping. He growled into her ear then, a sound that interrupted her pathetic moans for reprieve.

“Who was it that sent you?”

What sane person could possibly withstand the torment that she was being placed through? Her eyes focused upon the wall before her and she saw, quite clearly, where her body had been slammed against it time and time again. Spiraling cracks signified the force with which he used to harm her, and yet while her body was shattered her mind refused to relent. She could feel even her will beginning to slip away as the heat from the man’s hand melted away her catsuit about her neck and left shoulder. Still, she held on. Silently.

In frustration Darth Erectus let forth a mighty shout before slamming his fist into her rib cage and casting her away. The display was quickly growing irksome to him and as he watched her slide across the ground he could not find it in himself to do anything other than glower. “You weak, pathetic little girl,” he began as he lifted each of his maces by their shafts once more. “Do you not see how foolish it is to resist me further? You will give me what it is that I desire! Tell me! Who was it that sent you?”

It could have well been that her body could take no more damage, or that her mind was on the verge of collapse, but in that instance the Shadow realized who it was that sent her. To say “Ban Garus” would have been partially correct, but it was not in itself the answer that was required. The injuries that she had sustained spoke to her then, reminding her of all that she had gone through in order to now take to her knees before Darth Erectus. To even struggle up that far was a task, but as she looked up at him she spoke in a voice that required no effort to be heard.

The answer? It flowed through her then. It revitalized and rejuvenated. The answer was something that she had never wanted to admit to, but that had always been in her heart. The utterance of the word sent through her body a wave of euphoria, for once unleashed it could not be taken back.

Vengeance.

Darth Erectus’ lone eye expanded as he heard the word. He gave an incensed shout and rushed toward the kneeling woman, his maces drawn over head once more. The Shadow held out each of her hands and willed her lightsabers back to her, then compressed the activation plates and formed a cross over her head to effectively block Erectus’ attack, but what should have been a suicidal gesture from the defeated woman instead held under his grunting disapproval. She focused her narrowed eyes on his through the interlocking of their weapons and revealed that which he could already feel.

Erectus broke removed the shafts of his weapons quickly from the embrace, his eye focused intently on the woman that rose before him. If he had been a furnace of hatred, then she had become… he did not know. Staring at her was no different than looking at the Uterus of the Force! She gave birth to the very essence that now sustained her, and unleashed it anew onto her adversary. Though that presence may have been tainted within darkness, her thirst for vengeance was one so powerful that Erectus was certain he should have killed her when she had the chance. It would have been wiser to take her head when she was kneeling, than face her now as she stood.

Had Erectus not seen her moments prior near death, he would not have believed that the woman that came rushing at him had ever been injured. She closed the distance between them with such swiftness that he was forced backward and though he swatted outward, he found that her lightsabers attacked from every direction other than those which he was capable of evading. Her lightsabers several times struck his armor; however, too persistent was he in his defense to allow her to penetrate beyond superficial wounds. Snarling, he batted outward and forced one of her lightsabers out wide, but rather than correct the error she abandoned it all together and whirled about with a nearly mortal strike that cleaved across his chest armor.

To the Shadow, Erectus no longer stood before her. He had become everything that she despised: everything that she felt needed to be slain. It went beyond the mere corruption of the Dark Side or the Sith, no what he had become was the totality of every misdeed she had ever seen. From the Sacking of Coruscant to the Treaty that followed; the emotionless Jedi that had sent her to the forsaken planet; the servants that she had been forced to slaughter on her way there. It was no longer simply a contest between Jedi and Sith – it was the Shadow against the evils of the galaxy and she refused to lose.

She struck low at him and forced him to parry, then twisted about and executed a sharp kick across his face. Erectus let off a grunt as he fell backward, but lifted his maces to prevent her from following up on the offensive. To his surprise she did not attack him directly head-on, but instead jumped into the air and descended upon him at a diagonal angle to meet with the upper half of his maces. Swiftly she dispatched a series of slashes that tore against the alchemical devices, then extended her palm and blasted herself backward by using the Force to propel herself into another back aerial. Erectus charged in after her, swinging madly with enough strength to shatter stone, but as she set to performing her back handsprings he was ever second behind her.

The Shadow crouched low and awaited his roaring appearance as with one mace overhead he bore in upon her, but she pitched forth and slid past him, only to twist about and slash at the back of his legs. He skillfully turned to deny her attack, but she swung herself forth, utilizing her legs and caught him about the neck with her thighs. With as much force as she could muster she pitched herself backwards and released as she twisted, sending the Sith lord bellowing over her and crashing to the ground. She was quick to her feet and though disoriented, Erectus rose as well.

Once more they met in a fevered melee, each vying for position over the other. The pulsating wound that Erectus had given to her torso was not at all forgotten, but rather than allow it to slow her she instead personalized the pain and brought it into herself for more fuel. She took the hatred that she felt from Erectus and allowed it to energize her; she absorbed the fear that came from his desperate strikes and permitted it to fuel her.

Verra So’Quan may not have been able to defeat Darth Erectus, but the Shadow could.

It was after the second of a pair of hellacious strikes befell her lightsaber that she struck out. She attacked not the man’s underside or his shoulders. No, in a single strike she made certain that the fight would be brought to a close. Without hesitation, without fear, she slashed across Erectus’ face and tore from him his remaining eye. An agonizing bellow unlike any other met with the air, and as he recoiled did she close in upon him to slash first his right wrist and then the left. To finish the onslaught, she cut against his leg and brought the behemoth toppling to his knees.

“I am defeated!” Darth Erectus cried out into the darkness that was before him. “Is that what the Jedi do to unarmed opponents?”

The Shadow lowered her lightsaber then and closed her eyes. He was correct; an opponent that asked for mercy should be shown it. The Jedi had on countless occasions allowed their foes to capitulate, but as the thought came to her so too did the pain from the burn he had placed upon her. “No,” she said softly.

“Then –“

He was not given the chance to finish his statement. A deft slash parted his head from his shoulders, leaving him to topple forth. “But I do.”

The mighty Sith lord’s fall heralded the end of her battle frenzy. All of the pain that she had experienced came rushing back upon her with such force that she was forced to slump against a wall and gasp for breath. To continue on would be a pain unbeknownst, yet to surrender at that point a failure in the face of all that she had done. She weakly pushed herself away from the wall and began making her way back toward the door. There would be no need for stealth any longer, she had slain everyone within the building.

Or had she?

A soft murmur through the Force emerged then as she prepared to leave the room. She lifted her eyes toward the throne and felt the strings of familiarity pulling at her once more. Although she could have left, she knew that to leave it uninvestigated would have been a failing without explanation. With each step that she took up the stairs a soft groan left her, until finally she stood before the now vacant chair. Where was the Force’s influence coming from?

Had it not been for the sound of a sniffle she would never have known. Shocked to hear another’s voice, she canted her head and stepped closer to the throne. A startled cry followed as from behind it emerged a young boy, seeming no older than a youngling. His features held the same mixture of characteristics that Ban Garus and Ss’elo Nicus did. The tears that wetted his face spoke more than enough as to his terror.

The boy’s presence in the Force had been masked by that of his father – it all made sense. Darth Erectus had retreated in hopes of preventing his son from being detected, and thus being kept from harm. What better way did he have to protect his son than to place his life before him? The Shadow was the aggressor and he was the defender. For whatever reason he had to protect his son, he had given his life doing so. The snot-nosed, teary eyed child that was before her certainly did not seem like much of a Sith.

She watched him for several moments, uncertain of how to proceed. He was but a child, innocent of the actions of his father. True, he might become a tyrant just the same, but his future was not hers to command. She closed her eyes and drew her breath in, the sound of the child’s sniffling drowning out the cries of terror that had previously haunted her. A single line came to her mind to answer the problem that the situation presented her. The Shadow could only do one thing, and it was whispered just before she acted.

Leave no witnesses.