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One Light in the Darkness


kneedan's Avatar


kneedan
02.28.2014 , 01:21 PM | #51
Loved this story so far! I only discovered it earlier today and have managed to read it all in one sitting! A really interesting protagonist and one that I find myself caring about!

Really well written and I can't wait for the next instalment :-)

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
03.16.2014 , 03:09 PM | #52
Thank you I wish I could be more reliable with my updates but, unfortunately my free time can sometimes disappear in a hurry thanks to work, other games, and shiny objects

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Revel proved to be more useful than I expected, decrypting the information that Casey Rix had provided us with in a matter of only hours. That wasn’t to say I was pleased with the man – every additional moment I spent on Tatooine was one too many – but it was less painful than I had imagined it would be.

Not that I did not value a little time to contemplate what the man who called himself Vharmir had said. I was not surprised that my actions on Nar Shaddaa had caught the attention of the Republic – a Sith power play was something the SIS was bound to notice, regardless, let alone one that resulted in a cult being repurposed for charity. I failed miserably in containing a laugh at the thought of the SIS analysts that must have been tripping over themselves trying to figure that one out.

It was an opportunity of sorts – to reach out to the Republic without having to abandon my mission – but it was also a danger I had not anticipated and did not particularly want to embrace. Involvement with the SIS, however incidental, would no doubt create attracting unwanted attention. If not from the Sith, then from Imperial Intelligence. Even the best of that organization were like that Chiss, Mina; pleasant enough on the outside, but cold and impersonal killers within. Vharmir P’loesti might offer me the hope of reconnecting with my past; he might also doom me to having no future.

No matter. You have things to accomplish in the here and now, you cannot distract yourself with what might never be.

I collected Khem from the cantina, where he had spent the previous several hours glowering at the customers while nursing what appeared to be some sort of toxic mix of radioactive materials, alcohol and what was likely to be the blood of the local wildlife. I decided it was best not to ask any questions, though; my usual policy around the Dashade. It was a policy that had served me well so far, and I anticipated it would continue to do so in the future. Khem seemed more than happy with the arrangement, in any case. I supposed that he would be comfortable with almost anything so long as he was allowed to maim and murder his way across the galaxy.

The odor from whatever he had been drinking was just about awful enough to do that on its own. I wrinkled my nose and turned my face away. “Khem, I try not to intrude into your personal life and choices, but please refrain from drinking whatever that was in my presence.”

<As you wish, Little Sith. Dewback urine was a delicacy among my people.>

I skewered him with a sharp look out of the corner of my eye, uncertain how to take that comment. Khem was a sour creature, but also strangely fond of sarcasm. Like Ayrs had been. I frowned at that thought – my brother had been nothing like this monster that now traveled by my side. Nothing.

Of course, if Khem was a monster, what did that make me?

Revel was waiting for us in his room, surrounded by several trays of half-eaten food from the cantina below. I was pleased – and somewhat surprised – to not see any bottles around him. Dealing with a sober Andronikos Revel would no doubt be quite the adventure.

“Tell me what you’ve learned, Revel. Make it quick – I would like to be off this world sooner rather than later.”

The pirate smirked at me; I did not like that. “Ease up there, Sith. I want to talk about our arrangement, first.”

I rolled my eyes and wished Revel’s assistance was not as important to finding Wilkes as it had turned out to be. The man was the very definition of aggravating, turning the simplest of requests into the most complicated of situations. I would have liked nothing more than to send his tattooed face flying into a window – or perhaps out of one – but I refrained from indulging myself and merely ground my teeth some more.

“Yes, of course you do. It would not be a proper conversation with you unless you took it off on a needless tangent that wasted time.”

His damnable smirk merely grew.

“I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here, Sith. No need to get your robes all aflutter.” He eased himself back into his chair, reclining as if he hadn’t a care in the galaxy. It was clear enough, even without the Force, that he did. “We agreed to take down Wilkes together, and that then we’d go our separate ways.”

“And that remains our agreement, only I have also decided to rescue Casey Rix at the end of the mission. You and she can live in happy, piratical, bliss for all I care.”

“Heh.” He snorted slightly. “I’m still not convinced you won’t just off me and screw us both over. You’re a Sith.” His eyes flicked to Khem for a moment. “No offense, of course. Heh.”

“And you are quite the keen observer of the world around you.” I struggled to hold back the fiery explosion I could feel within me; I had little patience for his antics, but I also knew that slicing my way through everyone that annoyed me would leave a body trail as great as any Sith’s and make me as great a criminal as one. “I gave you my word that I would not harm you; are you suggesting that I may not be entirely honest.”

I heard someone sputter and was unpleasantly surprised to realize it was Khem.

“I’ll think about it.” It didn’t seem like either one of us was particularly happy with the arrangement, but it would have to do for now.

We began our excursion by trading our speeder in for a larger model – the dealer looked less than happy about the prospect of Khem being in the vehicle, but we were able to persuade him with the promise of a few extra credits. I let Revel take control of the vehicle – Khem’s piloting of our ship left much to be desired, and I had never spent much time behind the controls of a speeder back on Ithaca, so I doubted mine were any better. It was…strangely amusing to see Revel’s clear, almost childlike, joy at being allowed to play pilot, as well.

“You seem rather happy with yourself,” I opened – cautiously.

“No feeling like being at the helm of your own ship. Even if it’s some broken down speeder that should have been broken down for parts years ago.” He gave us a sardonic grin. “Especially when you get to drive around good-hearted folks like yourself.”

I stifled a grin by covering my mouth with my hand and coughing loudly, a gesture which Revel did not fail to notice, though he had the sense not to say anything.

<You are a fool to think that there is any true joy in frivolous activities such as this.> Khem always knew how best to be a part of a conversation. <Joy is the feeling of striding across a battlefield with a weapon in one hand and the severed head of your enemy of the other. Only then can one understand what being a true warrior means, knowing that your enemies tremble from your very presence and abandon all hope when you come into view.>

“Thank you, Khem. That was very…enlightening.” Revel and I exchanged a look. “Now, if you don’t mind, I-“

I was cut off by the squawk of my communicator. Concerned, I quickly deciphered the source of the transmission – Imperial command in Mos Ila. A curious thing – they had not thought to speak with me while I had been in the settlement itself, yet now it seemed to be imperative. I sighed and activated the comm, motioning for my uncivilized passengers to keep quiet.

“Yes, who is this?”

“Sir – uh – Ma’am. My Lord. Lady. Uhhh.” A low level Imperial soldier, no doubt barely capable of putting his own uniform on. “Uh. I was told to speak to you by Major Dyer. Ma’am. My Lord.” The voice trailed off into awkward silence. “Please don’t kill me.”

I sighed loudly.

“Please refrain from saying anything until I allow for it. I would not want you to strain yourself any further.” I had not thought to familiarize myself with the command structure of the Imperials on Tatooine, largely because I simply did not care. I wondered if this Major Dyer was at all important, or whether this was some trivial matter – a local heavyweight hoping to look impressive by calling on a Sith. It would be prudent to find out. “What does your Major Dyer want?”

Only silence answered me. I waited for a few moments, then realized my mistake.

“You have permission to speak.”

“Uhhh yes, my Lady. Major Dyer had, ummm, a situation she wished to discuss with you, in private. It regards certain Republic activities on the planet. The major was hoping you might assist us with the situation.” There was an audible gulp after he finished speaking.

I found myself in a difficult position. There were no words in Basic that could accurately describe how little I cared about helping the Empire solve its problems on this or any other world. If the local garrison was so concerned that they would call upon a Sith, then it most likely meant that something had gone terribly wrong. If so, my only regret was that it had not gone worse. On the other hand, I might learn something of value – about either side, or even both. Something that might be useful to the SIS or my own plans. Information was a power of its own, and I could not deny that I was curious about what might have transpired.

“Very well.” I could sense the man’s relief from clear across the planet. “I have some matters to attend to first, a private matter that is neither your concern nor Major Dyer’s. When I return, I will contact you on the appropriate frequency and we can arrange a meeting.” I let a moment go by before finishing. “Do not speak. Simply nod your head and inform the Major as best you see fit.”

I disconnected from the call, making sure to silence my comm at the same time – I had no interest in risking having to hear the man stumble his way through another inexplicably butchered sentence.

“Problems, Sith? Maybe I can help you out.” Revel’s leer was back, as was my desire to see him dead.

“Nothing you need to concern yourself with, Revel. Rest assured, the matter will be handled once we return.” I flinched involuntarily at the we. “For now, just do your best not to get us all killed while piloting us to the first of Wilkes’ camps.”

He snickered. “We’re already there, Sith. Guess you’re not used to having a real pilot around.”

Khem and I exchanged a look, knowing all too well that the man, however distasteful, was right. I could not begrudge him for being good at his one profession I could tolerate, in any case, not when it spared us further travel time on this Force-forsaken world.

The camp looked deserted from afar – unsecured, with cargo containers strewn about as if thrown around by a windstorm. At first glance, I would have assumed that that was precisely what had happened, but the scorch marks on several of them belied that easy explanation. And the corpses, them most of all. There were four bodies lined up on the ground of the largest of the tents; each felled by a blaster bolt to the head. I could still sense their fear, distant but real, and Tatooine suddenly felt like a rather cold place.

Revel, of course, did not seem at all bothered by the grisly scene, even rifling through their gear. Presumably, he hoped to rustle up enough credits to buy another drink back at the cantina, though I did not deign to confirm my hypothesis. Instead, I inspected each body more closely, doing my best not to get too close to the blood and gore. The wounds were relatively fresh, only several hours old from what I could tell, and the contents that remained in the containers seemed to be items of little value – implying that their more valuable counterparts had been removed from the encampment. That suggested an attack of some kind, though it was unclear who would have been responsible for such an action.

“What do you make of this, Revel?” I kept my tone light, to encourage him to be more forthcoming with any insights he might have.

“Only a few hundred credits,” he replied dejectedly, shoulders slumping slightly. “Looks like whoever hit these guys took anything of value.” He spat on a couple of the bodies as he stood up. “Never liked those guys anyway, Garr and Vakar, always trying to be my best friend. Sure showed their true colors, didn’t they?”

I grunted softly, trying to remember why it was I had agreed not to kill the man. “Do you believe it was Wilkes and his men that were responsible? Or was it the…what were they called, Khem?”

<Sand People. A foolish name.>

The pirate shook his tattooed head swiftly. “No chance, the shots are way too personal. Sand People would’ve just taken them out and left their bodies where they fell. This was Wilkes. Probably will see the same at the next sites Casey had picked up on, too.”

And so we did – the second and third sites were in the same shape as first, although both of them had only two corpses left for us to find. Their bodies were even fresher, however, which suggested they had been attacked after their compatriots. I had to clench my fists and grit my teeth as we surveyed the scene – the echoes of their screams resonated in the Force...as did all of the fear and horror that they had felt in their final moments. I tried to remember that these men and women had been pirates, just like those responsible for Ithaca, but I could not find it within me to accept that wholly.

Avenging those that had been denied justice was one thing, particularly when those that fell were able to defend themselves. This…this was butchery, coldblooded slaughter that was exactly what a Sith would want. And I am not a Sith. Not yet, at least. The second thought had me nearly in tears, but I realized that it was something I could never forget – the moment I assumed I Was not at risk of corruption would be the moment that the corruption began to take hold over me. Eternal vigilance was difficult, and would sometimes feel unrewarding, but it was a small price to pay for preserving my soul.

“Casey did not have all that much information on the data pad she gave me. Is there anything to suggest where Wilkes might be launching these attacks from? He obviously has mechanized transport of some kind, so he could be in any number of places.”

“Maybe. But if he hit that first camp before these two, I don’t think he would’ve left hostiles to his rear. Four people aren’t much of a threat, but it’s four more than is necessary.”

“You almost sound like a soldier,” I offered, jokingly.

He flinched at that. Noticeably. I wondered what kind of sensitive spot I had hit on. Mostly, I wondered which side he had previously served.

“I know Wilkes – he was my second in command for a reason. If he’s hiding somewhere, it’ll be back in the direction of that first camp to the south. Maybe southwest, if he wanted a little more distance from your Imperial friends.”

This time, it was my turn to flinch, but I had no need to correct Revel’s mistaken understanding of my loyalties – to the Empire, or anyone. Instead, I gestured at our speeder. “Shall we?”

The sly smirk I hated so much returned to the pirate’s face as he returned to the speeder, keeping an eye on both Khem and me out of the corner of his eye. His presence in the Force did not so much as flicker, but I noticed a small twitch in his eye. His concern was misplaced – it was not as if we would kill our pilot before we dealt with Wilkes and returned to Mos Ila. And it wasn’t as if I was planning on killing him then, either.

As we approached the first camp site, Revel began fiddling with something on his data pad. I was tempted to ask him what he was doing, but refrained upon realizing that the answer was likely to be so obvious as to be embarrassing. Instead, I found a particularly interesting series of sand dunes to the left of the vehicle and focused my attention on them instead of my companions, neither of whom seemed particularly bothered by me ignoring them. A half hour later, a building came into view – some kind of secure bunker which had no business being out there in sands; it was clearly only a few years old, and the armed sentries on either side of the entrance spoke to the intentions of its builder.

I did not need to ask the obvious question. Khem, Revel, and I slipped out of the speeder and approached the building from the side. The two guards were hardly paying attention to begin with, no doubt convinced their bunker would never be attacked, that I did not even need to cloud their minds with the Force for us to achieve complete surprise. A slash from Khem’s blade and a pair of bolts from Revel’s blaster took them out quickly enough.

“Wilkes’ crew. About as sloppy as I remember, too. Heh.”

“Not so sloppy that they couldn’t mutiny against you,” I noted evenly, doing my best not to reveal how amused I was by that. “How many more men would he have inside?”

Revel glared balefully at me for a moment before regaining his composure. “Heh. You’re funny for a Sith. There shouldn’t be too many more, probably about ten or so. Depends on if he’s killed any others.”

A morbid statement, but a useful one.

There ended up being eight in all; five that we killed as we quickly cleared the majority of the bunker, and two fools guarding Wilkes in his office. I felt like Khem for a moment as we strode in – the fighting had been cursory at best, and my blood was up.

Wilkes was a grungy looking man, his face weathered by hard years of living, and those ugly features were twisted even further when he saw Revel. His two guards were unsettled as well, nervously running their hands over their holstered weapons. It would have made for an amusing scene were its inevitable results not so…unfortunate.

“I’m gonna rip out your throat and laugh as you try to scream, Wilkes.” Revel made a slashing gesture across his throat that might have put fear into an akk pup or a small child. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

“Nicky , as unpleasant as ever.” He glanced away from Revel to look at me; I did not like the way he did so. “And you’ve brought a Sith! She’s cute.”

“I am here for the artifact. If you hand it over now, things will be less unpleasant than they otherwise will be.” I slid the sleeves of my robe up slightly, already knowing what his answer would be. “If you make this difficult, you might end up looking as bad as Revel.”

“Ha!” Wilkes laughed loudly, baying like a donkey in labor. “I like you. After we finish with you, I’ll urr******-“

As it happens, the human body is not properly equipped for speech when the windpipe is being crushed by a Force-sensitive individual from across the room. I reached out, lifting him off the ground so that is stocky legs flailed about in desperation. His two guards were dissuaded from taking action by Revel’s blasters, and remained where they stood. Having secured the situation, I returned my gaze to Wilkes.

“I asked nicely, and you ignored it. I have no patience for scum like you, who prey upon the weak and relish being parasites. The galaxy will be a better place without you.” And anyone like you I thought to myself, afraid to vocalize something that might identify me or my pain. I used the Force to hurl Wilkes clear across the room. His collision with the wall was marked by a satisfying crack, and his lack of movement was a satisfying end to the encounter.

“Remind me never to get on your bad side, Sith.” Revel was eyeing me closely, but remained in place.

<You should worry more about me than the Little Sith> Khem intoned. <If you step out of line I will tear you apart so that there will be nothing left of you to distinguish you from the sands of this world.>

“Uh, yeah. I’ll just look for your artifact and my blasters then.”

I crossed the room with crisp, determined, strides. Wilkes’ two guards were still where we had found them as we entered, though they were now mostly focused on their former boss’ corpse. They snapped to attention quickly enough as I approached, though, clearly eager to avoid his fate.

“You will surrender your weapons and be taken into Imperial custody for your crimes against the Empire and the galaxy.” I felt slightly disgusted at legitimizing the Empire’s authority in any way, but it was not as if I could find the nearest Republic-affiliated settlement and drop the two men off there. “My associate will take you in a speeder from your hangar.”

The two men started toward Revel.

“No, not the pirate. Khem.” I smiled innocently as I pointed at the Dashade.

<I will ensure they understand their position.>

I smiled tightly and retraced my steps back to the Dashade, leaning in close so no one could hear. “Scare them all you like. Just be sure they arrive alive and intact.”

Khem nodded and began to saunter his way over to our prisoners. At least, what I assumed was the Dashade version of sauntering – his posture was somehow beyond proper description.

When I was satisfied with those arrangements, I made my way over to Revel, who was still rummaging through some of the cargo containers and safes Wilkes had piled up along the side wall and in a pair of small attached offices. I quickly noticed the Sith artifact that Zash had been after – its twisted and cruel design left no doubt about that. Revel seemed to be inventorying the rest for valuables, which seemed logical enough for a man that had made a life out of acquiring other people’s property.

“Are you ready to depart, Revel? I would prefer to leave before Wilkes begins to stink as badly as you do.”

Revel merely chuckled. “Heh. You keep that up and you might want to reconsider your career choices, Sith. You might have a future as a comedian, just as long as you don’t send hecklers flying across the room.” He turned back to the box he was inspecting, while I violently squelched a giggle.

I was not going to be amused by a man like Andronikos Revel.

Instead, I picked up the artifact and walked a short distance away before looking at it more closely. It looked to be some kind of holocron, though corrupted by the Dark Side – I could feel its seductive tentacles trying to worm their way into me just from my first touch. There was something deep-seated to its evil, which was not surprising for an item that Zash would want, but concerned me nonetheless. It occurred to me that I had not actually done any work to investigate my “master’s” plan, and still knew nothing about why each of these artifacts was so important to her.

All other things being equal, it is something I need to look into. Sooner, rather than later.
After what felt like an eternity, Revel walked up with a large sack in each hand. My curiosity got the better of me.

“What sort of treasure has the galaxy’s least successful pirate scrounged up this time? All of Tatooine waits with bated breath.”

I was expecting and almost hoping for an angry glare, but he just laughed. “Some mementos.” He carefully ran his hands up and down his holsters. “My guns.” Then he got rather sheepish. “Something for Casey, too.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what else to say, and it was too late to cover for my reaction. “Perhaps we should return to Mos Ila – I…I doubt it would be good for anyone to have Khem waiting around for very long.”

“Alright then, Sith.” Revel winked and gave that annoying grin of his as he swept past me and headed down the corridor to the entrance. I trailed behind him, pretending to be studying the artifact.

The trip back to Mos Ila was pleasantly silent, as Revel seemed content to enjoy my obvious discomfiture.

I was unable to determine anything useful about the artifact, but I could not say I had put forth much of an effort. I had not spent enough time researching Sith archaeology or history while on Korriban, instead focusing on Force techniques that I thought might be useful for the fight ahead. I did not regret my decision – it still seemed like the clearly right one – but it left my ability to analyze the strange device in my hands rather lacking.

“We going after Casey after we take stock of everything back at Mos Ila?” His voice was fraught with worry, though I was unsure if it was concern about Casey, about my intentions, or both.

I nodded. “I made her a promise and I intend to keep it. I will need an hour or so to take care of some things in Mos Ila, though. You can wait in the cantina again, if you so choose.”

“Only if Khem keeps me company, heh.”

I snorted before falling back into a contemplative silence for the rest of the trip.

After we pulled into the docking facility in the settlement, I left Revel and made my way to the local Imperial garrison. Khem was waiting outside, having delivered the two prisoners. For a moment, I wondered if I had spared the men anything but a quick death they might have preferred. It was too late now, though, so I informed Khem of my plans and left a message for Major Dyer, who was ‘indisposed’.

Lacking any kind of plan beyond meeting with the woman, I decided to return to the ship to review any messages I might have received.

Most were rather routine – communications sent to broad swaths of the Sith order, commercial communications that urged me to purchase one item or another, and the occasional request for aid from bureaucrats I had never heard of and would never care about. More interesting was the encrypted message from Zash, which contained some information on the last item she required – an artifact on Alderaan currently in the possession of House Organa.

What was most notable was the lack of any messages from Quorian, something that bothered me far more than it should have. We had made no commitments or promises…but….

Being with him is more than physical pleasure or even an emotional salve. He...I….

I did not have the words for it; the ones I might have used back on Ithaca would be wholly inadequate now. Instead of wasting time on a hopeless endeavor, I began to write out a short message to him, to let him know what my plans were. After a half hour of struggling with that, however, I realized that I didn’t have the words for that, either. I wanted him to know I wanted to see him, not merely read some words saying that I did, and there was only one – risky – way to do so.

I queued up the recorder.

“Quorian, hi. It’s me.” I grimaced at my own stupidity and awkwardness. “I wanted to let you know that I would be on Alderaan shortly, and thought….maybe you could find the time to meet me there. Or respond to this message, either way, it’s not that important. I just wanted to…I just thought it would be nice to see you again or hear your voice. Anyway, I-“

I cut myself off as my comm buzzed an alert. Major Dyer was ready, which meant I had to be, too. I sent back a signal to let her know I was on my way, and turned back to the console.

“Anyway…I just thought I would let you know. I hope to hear from you soon. I lo-....I'd love to hear fro you.”

The recorder closed with a soft click.

I sighed softly, but somehow felt a little better.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
03.29.2014 , 07:52 PM | #53
Imperial headquarters in Mos Ila was a nondescript building that would have been completely unremarkable had the roads leading up to it not been blocked off and patrolled by pairs of Imperial soldiers. I supposed that such security measures were always necessary for Imperials, even on a backwater planet such as Tatooine. I wondered if they even understood why that security was necessary. Somehow, I doubted it. Imperials always seemed to have a certain hint of obliviousness about their evil.

The soldiers paid me little attention, no doubt well-conditioned to avoiding eye contact with anyone wearing a black robe and wielding a lightsaber. I imagined it was a life lesson ingrained into the heads of every Imperial growing up by their parents. The ends of my lips curled into a small, vicious, smile at that thought – it was the epitome of the stupidity of allowing power-mad sociopaths to have any power at all.

I would need to keep such sentiments to myself, however. Somehow, I doubted that the local Imperial troops would be too fond of a Sith that exhibited such…unorthodox political ideas, and I suspected that they would be more than happy to express their displeasure with anything ranging from words to a blaster bolt.

The command center was easy enough to find, particularly with the personnel inside practically falling over themselves to direct me toward Captain Dyer. In some strange way, their obsequiousness was amusing to me – that they would practically fall over themselves to show respect to someone that wanted to destroy the system they held so dear. The irony would have been delightful, had the reality of my existence not been so terrible.

No matter. Now is not the time for idle amusements.

Captain Dyer was hunched over her desk, focused intently on a data pad, when I entered her office. She was surprisingly young for an officer of her rank, though her assignment to a world like Tatooine probably said much for her standing with the people that mattered. As she glanced up from her reading, I was struck by how normalshe seemed – if it hadn’t been for her uniform, she would not have been out of place back on Ithaca.

“Captain Antonia Dyer, my Lord. Thank you for agreeing to see me.” I could sense some apprehension from her with the Force – probably because she assumed I might kill her if I felt my time was being wasted. “There is a situation at an Imperial outpost not far from Mos Ila and I could use your assistance.” There was a flicker of outright fear in her hazel eyes. “If you have the time for it, of course.”

“What sort of situation?” I was intrigued at the possibilities, but I wanted something concrete before I wasted any more of my time on this Force-forsaken planet. “And why does it require my assistance when there are plenty of Imperial soldiers around to do your bidding?”

“My apologies, my Lord.” She flushed slightly. “The Moff has taken most of the garrison for his own purposes, so I am left with a skeleton crew. I would not think to trouble someone of your importance if I had any other option.”

“Of course.” I gave her an enigmatic smile. “Now, tell me what your situation is, and I can determine if it is worth my time and effort.”

“Yes, my Lord.” Dyer straightened up, smoothing her uniform. “A Colonel Gorik had been operating a…research team…in a small facility to the northwest of Mos Ila. That facility went dark two days ago – no communications, no energy signature, nothing. Ordinarily I would not be too concerned given the colonel’s secrecy about his project, but long-range scanners picked up what looked to be an explosion, and sources in Anchorhead reported Republic activity in the area.”

“And you suspect that the Republic might have attacked the facility?” She nodded, which raised another obvious question. “What was Gorik doing at the facility?”

Dyer flushed again. “I’m not sure if I am authorized to give you that information, my Lord.”

“Come now, captain, if you don’t give me the information I need, I can’t possibly provide you with the help you need.” I was still uncertain about whether this was worth my while, but I suspected it might be. Captain Dyer seemed reasonable enough for an Imperial, so a friendlier approach would likely be more successful. “Help me help you.” I smiled slightly, and was pleased to see her posture relax somewhat.

“Yes, my Lord, of course.” She smiled tremulously for a moment, then seemed to think better of doing so in the presence of a Sith. “Colonel Gorik and a defector from the Republic were working on experimental designs for explosive devices.” Dyer leaned in conspiratorially. “I wasn’t supposed to know that, but the colonel reassigned some local troops, who were more than happy to provide details.”

I was taken aback for a moment – Captain Dyer had seemed friendlier and more rational than most Imperials, but I had not suspected such openness. Still, I would not look a gift nerf in the mouth. “A defector for the Republic and explosives testing on a world like this? That hardly makes sense.”

Dyer flushed yet again, though this time the red in her skin seemed almost angry. “The explosives were being tested on civilians living in the settlement of Anchorhead. Being Republic-affiliated but outside official Republic jurisdiction made it a prime target for the colonel. I attempted to dissuade him, but…”. The captain trailed off, leaving her reasoning unclear.

“Explain why you attempted to change his mind.” It might have seemed irrelevant to her, but it might mean the galaxy to me.

She pursed her lips and clicked her heels together, clearly steadying herself to give an answer she expected me to disapprove of. That alone made me optimistic.

“My Lord, I recognize that politics and history make the Republic our enemy, but I cannot condone the wanton murder of innocent civilians, regardless of their affiliation. Colonel Gorik’s methods were barbaric, and his insatiable lust for destruction even worse. He was a disgrace to the uniform and the principles that are meant to be represented by it.”

I smiled slightly, though I was still unsure whether she held truly progressive views, or was merely another of the many useful idiots the Empire employed in order to convince its people that it was the only appropriate master for the galaxy’s population. Still, even the latter meant that I would have a sympathetic ear in the future, if I needed one.

“I agree, Captain Dyer. Such criminal activities only undermine the Empire.” It was my turn to purse my lips; I wanted the Empire destroyed, not merely defanged, but meeting the likes of Captain Dyer always weakened my resolve, somewhat. They were not evil, simply misguided, and there was always the chance to turn someone that was misguided back onto the right path. So we were always told, at least. So I’d like to believe.

“If you could investigate what’s left of the base and determine if there’s anything the Empire should be aware of, I’m prepared to compensate you generously,” she said. "Not that you are a mercenary, of course." Dyer must have mistaken my lack of an immediate reply as anger, because her cheeks turned an unhealthy shade of red. “I meant no offense, my Lord.”

“Of course not, captain.” I unconsciously waved away her concerns with my left hand. “I will investigate this facility for you.” Seeing her obvious sense of relief forced me to repress a laugh. I decided to give her an overstated wink, instead, causing all of her discomfiture to return in a rush, and again requiring me to refrain from laughing. “Can you provide transportation? I have colleagues in Mos Ila, but they have their own matter to attend to.”

Dyer nodded briskly. “Of course, my Lord. I’ll assign a speeder to you and provide a pilot for it.” She paused, as if going over some kind of mental checklist. “And anything else you need, of course.”

I decided I had had enough fun with poor Antonia Dyer for the day, so I merely nodded in appreciate and let a number of more…amusing…responses die in my mind. “Have the speeder prepared immediately. I will contact my associates and brief them, and then I will be ready to depart.”

There didn’t seem to be any need to wait for another reply, so I left the captain in my wake and made my way to a conference room down the hall. I suspected that anything I said would be recorded and scrutinized, but – for once – I had nothing to fear on that front, unless Casey Rix had another surprise up her sleeve when it came to her background. Since I felt safe in assuming she was not on any Imperial watch lists, I calmly dialed Khem. It will be so nice to hear his voice again.

<Yes.> His voice was more sullen than usual, most likely because Khem had spent so much time around Revel.

“Khem, I’m afraid plans have changed. You and Revel will go and retrieve Casey Rix from her settlement, while I handle another matter for the local garrison. I don’t anticipate it being too much trouble, but if you require any assistance, you may contact me directly or speak with Captain Dyer at the garrison.”

<My place is by your side, Little Sith.>

I choked back an amused chuckle. “Your place is where ever I need you to be, Khem. In this case, I promised revel that we would rescue Casey Rix, and so you will ensure we uphold our end of the bargain. I will not need assistance where I am going.”

Khem responded with what sounded like a harrumph, but acknowledged my command and closed the channel. With that torturous bit of socialization complete, I returned my attention to the task at hand.

The speeder dock was technically located below ground, with a carefully secured ramp leading up to the streets above. There was a single row of command speeders, notable for the rather obvious target the command module made, and two rows of six standard speeders each. The machines looked old, though not quite decrepit, but serviceable enough for what was supposedly going to be a relatively routine scouting mission. The pilot Dyer had provided, a pasty-looking man named Kurtz, waved at me as I came into his view. He was pleasant enough to look at, but had the demeanor of a small child let loose in a candy store for the first time.

“My Lord, over here!” He waved again, paying no attention to the sheepish and worried looks the mechanics nearby gave him. “I can’t believe I’ve been given this honor!”

“Of being a glorified chauffeur,” I noted drily. “Yes, quite the honor.”

The point flew over his head and soared into orbit.

“I have never been presented with such an opportunity before. To serve as the personal liaison to a member of the Dark Council! The Emperor has blessed me this day.”

“I’m not a member of the Dark Council.” I wrinkled my nose and studied the fool more closely, looking for signs of mental incapacity.

“A true Sith Lord, in that case. Truly, an honor.”

I sighed, already tired of his antics. “I am merely an apprentice.” The light in his eyes went out, and a gratifyingly glum expression took hold of his face. “Now, unless you plan on licking my boots clean, I believe it is time to depart.”
Kurtz, apparently eager to prove even my low expectations were too optimistic, knelt halfway down to the ground and hunched down toward my boots. He removed a small white cloth from a pocket in his uniform and began to lean in closer. “Like this, my Lord?”

For a moment, I could do little but cover my face with the palm of my right hand. I should not have been surprised by the man-child’s rank stupidity; one generally did not end up assigned to a world like Tatooine if you had the potential to learn to breathe without orders. Unless you are a political liability, like Captain Dyer, I suppose. I sent a small burst of Force energy toward his hand, causing him to cry out in shock and drop his cloth on the ground.

“Enough. Retrieve your cloth and show me to the speeder; I have no time for mindless fawning or childish antics.” I tapped my foot loudly, making sure to send a look of death at the mechanics that were now alternating ogling at me with their mockery of Kurtz. The threat of a painful, Force-influenced, death proved to be enough to get them back into line, though there was still some grumbling.

Kurtz was mercifully silent during the trip to where Colonel Gorik’s forces had presumably met their end, even managing to contain his excitement about the chance to give me a detailed description of the sand dunes as we passed by. There was a moment of concern when the ululating cries of the Sand People rang out, but we never caught sight of them. In order to ensure we weren’t going to run into any kind of ambush, Kurtz decided to park the speeder several minutes away, hidden from view in a small scouting emplacement Gorik’s men had set up.

There was no ambush, though, or any sign that there ever had been one planned. I did sense -something -within the smoking ruins of what had once been Gorik’s base. A familiar presence. No. Two presences, but one has faded away. I reached out with the Force, trying to identify what or who I was feeling, but the presences slipped away like grains of sand through one’s hand. All I could determine for sure was that there was still someone alive in the base, and that they were doing an excellent job of masking their intentions, let alone their true identity.

I bit down on my lower lip as I considered my options. Kurtz would most likely be completely useless in any kind of fight, particularly the kind I would expect from anything brave enough to explore whatever was left behind after the Republic destroyed the base. On the other hand, it was rarely a good idea to dismiss potential assistance in an uncertain situation – Kurtz might well prove me wrong, or at least prove enough of a distraction if I needed one. He might also serve as adequate cannon fodder. I frowned at that – he might be stupid and Imperial, but I had no reason to hope for his death.

“Kurtz, follow me in. I am not sure what we will find inside, but I imagine I will be better equipped to deal with it than you.” He nodded slightly and slipped behind me. If there is something I don’t want you aware of, you won’t be able to see it, either.

The base was surprisingly intact for a place that had apparently seen major combat so recently – there was still smoke and some isolated fires, but it could probably be salvaged. The computer systems looked completely shot, of course, and it wasn’t as if I wanted the Imperials to be able to rebuild, but I supposed it would be a small morsel of information I could give Captain Dyer. As we continued to progress through the facility, it became clear that it might be the only one, though, apart from being able to confirm that the entire garrison appeared to be dead.

Then, I felt the presence again. One of them, at least, but a familiar one at that. If my sense of him as right, he was also someone I could not afford to have Kurtz see, unless he died soon thereafter. I turned to my companion and smiled broadly, hoping to throw him off balance. I succeeded.

“Kurtz, be a dear and keep this floor secure. I will attempt to meditate on what happened here, but I require silence and security.”

The poor fool nodded and turned back towards the doorway we had just come through, not even bother to spare me another glance. I wondered if that meant he was as oblivious as I imagined, or if he was simply smart enough to know not to ask any question. Either suited my purposes well enough, so I decided not to question it.

No. There is someone else here that needs my questions as much as I need his answers.

I made my way to him using the Force, as he had dropped whatever cloak had kept him partially hidden before. Whatever Vharmir P’loesti or his SIS wanted, it was obvious they did not entirely trust me, which was entirely fair given that I did not trust them, either. I was not a fool – they viewed me as a potential asset, not a person, and I suspected that P’loesti was here to make his pitch again. It would be interesting to see if his song had any new notes.

P’loesti was leaning against the burnt-out remains of a standard Imperial shuttle when I found him in the hangar, acting as casual as a teenager would at their favorite hangout. His eyes were brown now – whether from some kind of lens or from removing ones he had been wearing, I did not know. His clothes were still the same nondescript civilian attire that Khem had mentioned was fashionable out on the Rim. He offered me a smile as I approached, but I could easily discern that it was a professional one.

“Greetings.” I noticed that he had dropped any pretense at an Imperial accent. “I see you left your driver elsewhere.”

I smirked slightly. “I was worried you might murder the poor thing. Bad enough that you waste my time with this cloak and daggers nonsense. What is it you want?”

“No doubt.” He winced. “I realize you haven’t had the time to properly consider what we discussed in the cantina.”

“And yet you are here,” I noted pointedly. “But not answering my question, I see.”

“I meant no offense. I got in contact with certain other members of my organization, and apprised them of your situation. They have agreed to allow for some flexibility.” Flexibility? Why does he speak as if I have already accepted his offer? “They wanted me to prove that they have only good intentions for your potential partnership.”

“How considerate of them.” I bit down hard on my lip to avoid releasing a laugh. “And how do they plan on doing that.”

It was P’loesti’s turn to bite down on his lip. “They have arranged for certain discretionary funds to be made available to you. And…” He glanced down at the pack around his waist as he rummaged around in it. “They wanted you to have this.”

He extended his arm out; a package was in his hand. I let out an audible gasp as I recognized what he held.

“I haven’t seen any wellberry cake since –“

“Since you left the Inner Rim,” he finished with a triumphant smile. He knew before we had ever even met. “I thought you might like it.”

I narrowed my eyes as I calculated the situation, but the SIS knowing I was from the Inner Rim meant very little given how quickly some of my mannerisms could probably be read. It isn’t as if wellberry cake narrows things down, anyway. It still left me feeling like I was at a disadvantage, though, as I knew next to nothing about the SIS or its agents.

“Time for me to go.” P’loesti tossed me a jaunty salute. “I’m sure you can hide the cake somewhere in your robes. Force knows you’ve got all sorts of things hidden there.”

For once, I found my tongue hopelessly tied in a knot for too long to reply, and was forced to respond by shaking my fist at his retreating back. I was unnerved to learn that the SIS had a leg up on me. Even more so when I realized that in order for P’loesti to have been waiting here in the first place, he must have been made aware that I would be coming. That suggested a traitor within the Imperial ranks…or that my own ship was not as secure as I would have liked. A troubling thought.

I shifted my direction to return to Kurtz when I noticed what appeared to be a marking on the wall across from the shuttle. I decided to investigate – after all, what was a minute spent on idle curiosity compared to a lifetime of regret? As I drew closer, I realized that it was not just any symbol; it was one that I had seen regularly growing up.

The shield of the Maker.

My mother’s faith had always meant more to Ayrs than it had to me, but the shield had been an ever-present part of my childhood. The Faith was primarily practiced by the human population of many Inner Rim worlds, but it was not nearly common enough to expect to see it here, in this place. I doubted that one of Gorik’s soldiers would have been responsible for it – Imperials weren’t known for overt displays of religious belief, and the Faith was almost entirely followed within Republic borders. If all of that was true, though, it meant that one of the Republic attackers was likely responsible for the marking. Why, though?

The shield was not merely a symbol for the Faith as a whole; it also represented the duty that adherents had to those that required their aid and support. Most of all, it represented a way of life that had led hundreds of thousands to dedicate their lives in service to the Republic, including so many members of my own family. It was…curious…to find it here, today. And strangely unsettling.

There would be plenty of time to consider the symbol in more depth later, though, so I forced myself to step away from the wall and continue on my way back to the central part of the base. Kurtz was there waiting for me, casually leaning against what was left of a control panel. He looked different than he had when I had left him, somehow, though I could not quite decide how or why. In the end, it did not matter all that much – people like Kurtz were not who I needed to be concerned with. Fortunately, he seemed to agree with that sentiment without me ever needing to vocalize it – he said nothing to me as we returned to Mos Ila.

As we pulled into the hangar at the Imperial base, that changed. He swiveled in his seat and gave me a strange look – not quite a leer, but something like it. “I trust your visit to the base was productive, my Lord. Perhaps we shall meet again.” He gave me an impish smile as he left without the groveling salute he had given when I had first met.

I felt a cold wave pass through my body. You were a fool to let your guard around him so easily. Every bit the fool you thought that he was.

My cheeks were still somewhat red when I reported back to Captain Dyer, who seemed strangely disappointed by the news that the base had indeed been destroyed, with no survivors. Then again, I imagined that this sort of incident was probably the most interesting thing to happen to the Imperials on Tatooine for some time, possibly ever. I felt a strange sense of satisfaction when the meeting was over and failed to convince myself to not feel guilty because I was helping a decent person specifically, and not the Empire.

I sighed as I left the building and headed back to the cantina. Life was much easier when the Imperials I were dealing with mirrored the personalities of the Sith on Korriban. It was more…confusing…to deal with someone who seemed a better fit for the Republic. I had no quarrel with such people, only with the system that they served, sometimes unwillingly. It was a lesson that I sometimes felt I was continually relearning. Perhaps that was for the best, though, as I could not afford to forget to distinguish between those Imperials that were truly my enemy and those that were not.

Khem and Revel were waiting for me in the room where our misadventures had begun, along with a very relieved-looking Casey Rix. I spotted the hint of disgust at the number of empty bottles in the room, but she seemed in good spirits otherwise, which pleased me more than I would have expected.

“Sith, good to see you.” Surprisingly, Revel sounded like he meant it. That realization immediately put my mind on alert. “We’ve been waiting for a while. Have fun with your Imperial friends?”

I snorted in response. “Is there anything else you require of me before I depart? I am more than tired of this world.”

“Heh. As social as ever.” His laugh was filled with something other than mirth, though, and it looked as though he was gathering himself for a difficult question. “Got a favor to ask of you, Sith.”

Of course.

“Zash can arrange for your reward better than I can, so I fail to see why you would need to ask me.”

“Not something she can offer.” He took a deep breath, then continued. “I want a place on your ship.”

“What?!” I was not sure who was more surprised – Casey or me.

“I got to thinking – the only reason Casey got into trouble was because of me, and I can’t have that happen again.” I was flustered at the thought of Revel acting selflessly – it was like the galaxy was upside down. “I need to do something more, anyway. Figured you might find me a spot aboard your ship. Heard you need a pilot, anyway. Heh.”

“What I don’t need is a pirate,” I managed to sputter.

“Look, Sith, I’m not saying we need to be friends. Just saying we could be good partners in crime.” He flinched, as he realized he’d used a phrase he shouldn’t have. “Partners, at least. You never know when you might need a good gun by your side, either.”

I chewed on my lip – every instinct I had was screaming to turn him down and throw the offer back in his face, but there was a certain, unwelcome, appeal to it. I did not want to admit it, but Revel had proven himself to be useful in a fight, and I could use someone to pilot my ship. He isn’t what I would have expected a pirate to be like, either.

“Andy, are you sure –“

Revel gently stroked her hair, a surprisingly sweet gesture from a man that seemed to have lived a very bitter existence. “Don’t worry, Cas. The Sith here’s good people.”

“I –“ You, what? “I am not fond of pirates.” I decided to begin with the understatement of the century.

“So I’ve heard,” he replied drolly. “We don’t need to be friends, Sith. Not sure I’d ever want to be friends with a Sith, anyway, heh. We have something in common, though.”

“And what is that?” I narrowed my eyes, attempting to disintegrate his head with the power of my imagined telekinetic powers.

“We both want to make people pay for hurting us….and the people and things we care about.” He gave me a curious look, not unlikely what the SIS agents had earlier. “We work together, and we can make that happen.”

I wanted to say no. I should have said no. And yet, when I tried to open my mouth to say the words, I found I could not.

“You will pilot my ship, but obey my commands. You will commit no acts of piracy or commit any crimes against anyone but my enemies. You will not speak unless spoken to, and you will not – under any circumstances – refer to me as anything but your superior.” He bristled at the last one, but said nothing. “And if you cause me any undue problems, I reserve the right to throw you off the ship and/or dismember you.”

Rix’ eyes went a little wide, but Revel just laughed. “I think we’ll get along just fine, Sith.”
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

frauzet's Avatar


frauzet
03.30.2014 , 05:20 AM | #54
Oh, I like.
To miss her brother so narrowly. She was so close, even thinking about him, and she still does not know.
I mean, I knew she was too late from the beginning, but still I sat here and hoped with every sentence.
Very nicely done!
And I think having Revel aboard her ship will lead to some interesting situations. Looking forward to it.
Storyindex in chronological order

...From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire... (Frost)

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
04.12.2014 , 03:05 PM | #55
I contacted Zash from my cabin after we returned to the ship; it had been bad enough when I had Khem looking over my shoulder, and I had no interest in hearing any sort of commentary from Andronikos Revel. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I wondered what I had been thinking when I allowed the pirate to come aboard. Perhaps I had not been thinking at all; it would not have been the first or last time for that, either. A small smile crossed my lips, until I killed it by remembering that there was nothing particularly happy about my lot in life.

Strangely, Zash seemed to be in good spirits as well. Not that I should be complaining – there were few things in the galaxy more unpleasant than a Sith in a bad mood. Her smile broadened as my picture came into focus on her end, a toothy grin that reminded me more of a predator advancing on prey out in the wild than a person.

“Apprentice! I was so happy to hear of your success on Tatooine. I hear you were even able to assist the local garrison with an unpleasant military situation.” She clasped her hands together.

“Yes, I was busy winning the hearts and minds of Imperials across that sand-covered wasteland. Rest assured, if you ever find yourself on Tatooine, you will find your name will open many doors.”

“Oh, how wonderful.” I did not appreciate her effort to be even more sarcastic than I was. “I look forward to the day I am greeted by hordes of admirers in the streets of Mos Ila.”

I managed to avoid rolling my eyes too conspicuously, but the conversation was already becoming rather tiresome. “Did you have information about the artifact on Alderaan?” I raised an eyebrow at her in lieu of calling her Master, a practice which I found distasteful in so many ways.

“I have made inroads, yes. Unfortunately, it appears this particular artifact may have fallen into the hands of Republic-aligned forces on the planet.” She paused to take a breath. “Fortunately, I have an old acquaintance on the planet that should be able to assist you in your efforts to reclaim the artifact. Tell me, how much do you know about Alderaan, apprentice?”

More than I would ever admit to you. My grandmother had been intended for an Alderaanian nobleman, once, a member of House Organa. My siblings had never cared too much about that episode – save for Ayrs, when he had another of his jokes to tell – but it had always fascinated me. So much of our lives depended on individual decisions, where even the slightest of alterations might unravel the entire thread. I had often wondered what my life would have been like had things been otherwise…of course, that was all too common a hobby for me now.

“I know a little – it is a Core world with historically strong ties to the Republic. I believe that it recently seceded, though.” I knew all of this for a fact, of course, but I did not know if it would be wise to reveal that I kept abreast of politics to Zash. It was a delicate balance – appear too ignorant, and I would lose my position and any chance at meting out the justice so many in the Empire richly deserved, but appear too intelligent and I would be too obvious of a threat.

Assuming Zash operates along those lines, of course. Even after all this time, I still had far too little understanding of what made my ‘master’ tick. She wanted power and influence, like any Sith, but there was something more to her than the base desires of a normal Dark Side Force user. Khem had mentioned as much before as well – Zash was after something more than titles and power, it was only a matter of what and how. And here I am running around the galaxy running her errands and assisting with whatever she is doing. I regretted not doing more to try to discover the truth, as Khem had suggested – any surprise Zash had planned would almost have to be unpleasant for me.

“Yes, the politics of the planet are quite intriguing,” she was saying. “Fortunately, the intricacies of Alderaanian politics also presents us with a glorious opportunity. I believe that House Organa is hiding the artifact somewhere in one of their vaults. Naturally, that suggests we approach their rivals – House Thul – and secure assistance.”

“I assume this is where you tell me that your third cousin ten times removed is the former roommate of the head of House Thul’s daughter’s friend’s cousin?” I was not in the mood for more games, not when my entire life was a game to her.

“Something like that.” Zash was smiling, but the expression was a mask for something else – anger, annoyance, I was not entirely sure, but there was more than a hint of menace to it. “I have made contact with Elana Thul, a noblewoman in that house. She has agreed to provide assistance in exchange for you assisting her house with their war against House Organa.”

“And if I do not deign to assist them with their petty war?” I had little interest in attacking or harming a house affiliated with the Republic.

“Apprentice, you are so amusing. I will leave the specifics in your hands – you have proven more than capable. That being said, I would ask you to remember that House Thul has proven to be a valuable asset to the Empire’s interests on Alderaan.”

An asset – not an ally. I wondered if that was an intentional slip from Zash or an unintentional revelation of how the Empire truly viewed House Thul. Perhaps it was both – I doubted that Zash cared all that much about Elana Thul, and it would hardly be the first time that the Empire had expressed less than total care for those fighting for it or on its behalf. Either way, I resolved myself to dealing with the Thuls as coldly as I could. As it should be.

“I will do so,” I heard myself say out loud – it would be regrettable to show my hand to Zash if I was wrong about her choice of words. “Is there anything else I should be aware of?”

“Do try to keep the Force pyrotechnics to a minimum. Our role in the Alderaanian civil war is currently unofficial at best, and it would be best if your presence went unnoticed for as long as possible.”

I snickered slightly as I nodded in understanding and terminated the link. My experiences had demonstrated that Sith activities were rarely the kind to go unnoticed, and I could not imagine a scenario where reclaiming an artifact from a hostile noble house would be any different. Then again, it cost me nothing to give Zash off-the-cuff reassurance. If things went sour, it was not as if she could realistically hold it against me.

Of course, the Sith don’t particularly care about what’s logical or ‘realistic’.

Small comfort, then.

I slipped away from the holoterminal before Khem could get into range, and beat a hasty retreat to the cockpit. It was not that I preferred Revel to Khem, but he was at least circumspect enough to not question me about details and information he did not need to know. In addition, I had found another use for him.

He tilted his head from the pilot’s seat as he heard me approach. “Sith, what can I do for you?”

You can start by calling me by my name. Only, I did not want him to do so, not really. I did not want him to begin seeing himself as a part of my life or as having the potential to be anything more than an inconvenient business partner. Not to mention his shady underworld contacts could no doubt do all sorts of damage with even a first name.

“I was reviewing our mission parameters on Alderaan and I believe I have found an opportunity for you to prove your worth as a member of this crew beyond piloting the ship.”

“Oh?” He cocked an eyebrow and gave what he must have thought was a charming smile. It was anything but.

“My task is to retrieve another artifact for Zash., as you might have expected. Unfortunately, it looks like this will require certain…skills…that I do not believe are in your repertoire.’ Revel gave me a look of wounded pride, though I did not need the Force to see right through it. He said nothing, though. “It occurred to me that you might be able to assist me in a different way, though.”

“I’m listening.” Revel had swiveled the seat to face me and was reclining with arms folded across his chest.

“I assume you have retained at least a few contacts on Alderaan. Black market contacts, I mean, scoundrels and never-do-wells like yourself.” Revel eyed me carefully but did not reply. “I want you to reach out to them and see if you can establish a business relationship with any of them. Nothing overly formal or extensive, but I feel I can trust your judgment in that area.”

“A business relationship?” The pirate looked as if he was unsure whether to be amused or baffled by my instruction. “What kind of Sith are you?”

“An odd one.” We shared a smile, which only made me even more uncomfortable, so I attempted to steer the conversation back on course. “Essentially my problem is this – I am entirely too reliant upon Zash and her resources for everything I do – nothing gets done without her being aware of at least some aspect of it. That needs to change.”

“Little Sith is growing up and looking to leave the nest? How charming, heh.” I squelched the sudden impulse to strangle the man.

“Indeed. There are other words I could use to describe it, but I would also label it prudent.” I paused to gauge his reaction. His face gave nothing away, but he seemed content with the plan when I reached out with the Force. “I believe you can establish the connections we need to secure alternative methods of financing. Should Zash prove to be as untrustworthy as any other Sith, it would be rather unfortunate if I was cut off entirely from my funding.”

“Some of my contacts are going to be Republic side. That going to be an issue?” I got the distinct impression he was interested in my response more because of what it would say about me and less because of how it would affect his activities.

“That won’t be a problem unless you get yourself arrested by Republic authorities, in which case you are on your own.” I considered that for a moment, then pointed an accusatory finger at him. “You are to avoid causing any incidents.”

“Yes, mother. Heh. Not like I want to risk hurting future business.”

I suddenly felt like I was talking to a child, despite the fact that he was at least a decade older than I was. For a moment, I contemplated asking him exactly how old he was. After consideration I realized that that idea ran the risk of having him take the question as an invitation for further conversation, and conversing with Andronikos Revel ranked somewhere near the bottom of the list of things I wanted to do in the near future. Or ever.

“I’ll consider that a promise, then, Revel. In exchange for your service, I will include you in any profits we make. Say, 30% of any profits, less operating expenses.”
The pirate twisted his tattooed face into a grimace. “Let’s not play games, Sith. I deserve more than that.”

“Forty percent, then, and a share of any loot we acquire during our rousing adventures.” I stretched out a hand, which he gripped firmly and shook.

“It’s a deal, Sith. I-”

“Oh!” He frowned at my interruption. “Anything I deem necessary for my studies of the Force will always be mine.”

“We had a deal,” Revel retorted.

“I am altering our deal,” I shot back, favoring him with a look that would freeze the blood of any but the bravest of people. “Pray I do not alter it any further.”

“Sure.” He put his hands out in front of himself, protesting his innocence. “Whatever you say, Sith.”

“I say you should pilot us the rest of the way to Alderaan and keep any other opinions you might have to yourself. Or tell Khem Val,”

Revel tossed me a jaunty salute as I left, angering me further. I hoped I had not made a mistake in allowing him on board – my psychological strength was not what I would have wanted it to be. Every night found myself confronted by the dark whispers and every day was greeted by even darker urges. I had thought I could easily control the darkness bound to be unleashed by training and working with the Sith. I…I was wrong. I would have to try harder, work harder, do better.

The rest of the flight was pleasantly uneventful, so I was able to meditate on my circumstances the entire time. Revel had managed to work out some kind of arrangement with customs, allowing us to land directly at House Thul – a minor, but quite welcome, convenience. Khem and I disembarked first, drawing more than a few stares. For once, I was unsure whether they were directed at Khem or me; while a Dashade was quite the sight for anyone, the foolish nobles of Alderaan were also the type to be taken aback by a young woman wearing decidedly unfashionable black robes and wielding a lightsaber.

After pushing our way past a few Thul lackeys that wanted our attention – no doubt to assist them with their war against House Organa – we arrived at the main building of the palace. Opulent to the extreme, the palace exemplified why so many viewed nobility with such disdain – the credits that had been spent on its construction and maintenance could have fed and housed thousands of poor, but was instead wasted on sculptures imported from off-world and other nonsense. Even Khem seemed put off by the extravagance. Rather – more put off than usual.

Elana Thul was waiting for us in one of the first entry halls, escorted by a tall hulk of a man with the telltale eyes of a Sith. Whether he was on loan to House Thul or the noblewoman’s personal lap dog was unclear, but it was an unwelcome complication. For her part, the Thul representative was a petite woman with sharp facial features and an irritating voice that echoed across the chamber as she spoke.

“My lady, greetings!” She gave me a half-bow which I chose to ignore, causing her to step back, flustered. “I – I spoke with Darth Zash prior to your arrival and she informed me of your mission here on Alderaan. I will assist you to the best of my ability, of course.”

I stared at her through narrow eyes, trying to decide how best to approach our conversation. I had no use for Elana Thul or her house, but she was still my most useful source of information and assistance. Given that, I decided it would be unwise to alienate her unnecessarily, even if I found her Sith pet distasteful.

“I’m glad to hear it, Lady Elana. Have you any information regarding the artifact that I am after? Darth Zash suggested that it was under the control of your enemies in House Organa.”

Thul nodded. “Indeed. But, first, let me introduce you to Urtel Moren.” She gestured toward the behemoth next to her. “He is a fellow Sith, serving House Thul and its interests.”

“How intriguing.” I gave the Sith another look, then returned my gaze to Thul – though Moren might prove to be an obstacle regardless of what I did, showing interest would only increase the likelihood, by my calculations. Better to be rude and avoid further dealings with him than risk having a new ‘friend’ to deal with. “What can you tell me about the artifact?”

“I, uh-.” She stammered for a moment, then recovered. “I was unable to locate much information, but I was able to pinpoint its location – the Elysium, a storehouse for many of our houses’ greatest treasures.” Thul bit her lip before continuing. “Unfortunately, there are significant security systems in place, and even if you were able to circumvent those, you would need the appropriate key for the vault…and that key is in the hands of a Jedi Master.”

Damn.

“Which one?”

Thul sighed softly. “Nomar Organa – a proud and virtuous Jedi that left his noble house behind to serve the galaxy.” I noted that the woman spoke those words with barely-contained contempt behind them, where most people would have had admiration. “He is off-world, and I do not know how we might ‘convince’ him to return to Alderaan.”

I pondered that for a moment – I needed that key, but I did not need trouble with the Jedi Order. I don’t want any trouble with them, either. They were my father’s family before we were. It seemed that conflict might not be something that I could avoid, though, and I found that prospect…troubling.

“A thought.” It was Moren this time. His voice was strangely pleasant, particularly for a Sith. “House Alde is responsible for maintaining the records for every house on Alderaan. Perhaps there is something within their archives that we can use against Nomar Organa to force his hand. Some secret or relationship.”

Thul furrowed her brow. “It is possible. House Alde is a staunch ally of House Organa, though, so you would almost certainly find yourself fighting your way to their archives.”

“Perhaps.” I gave Thul and her pet a crafty smile. “On the other hand, I have proven to be quite persuasive before. Perhaps I can speak to the members of House Alde and…convince…them not to take up arms against me.”

Khem growled softly, but I quieted him with a sharp hand gesture.

“As you say, my lady.” Moren bowed politely at me, further irritating me. “If I might have a word in private?”

Elana Thul was already leaving, but Khem was still available to avoid the Sith. After studying the man more closely, though, I decided it would be better to deal with him now, rather than run the risk of him interfering later on.

“Yes. Urkel, was it?”

“Urtel, my lady.” I felt somewhat guilty when his voice remained perfectly calm even after my provocation. “I merely wished to express my satisfaction in being allowed the chance to work with a Sith of your caliber.”

“Oh?” I hadn’t been aware I had any caliber.

“You were the one responsible for killing Darth Skotia, yes?” For a moment, Urtel Moren almost reminded of my younger sister eagerly pestering me for another story or details of the day’s events with my friends. “That was quite an achievement.”

“I try to remain modest.” I shrugged slightly, radiating an aura of cool disinterest. “Given the homicidal nature of so many Sith, I find it best to maintain a low profile and avoid making myself a target. I trust I am not a target to you.” I eyed him closely, but he did not flinch.

“Not in that way, my lady.” I narrowed my eyes as a slight blush grew on his cheeks. “I-I merely meant I find you intriguing. Your career, that is.”

Somehow, I could not find anything good in having a Sith admirer, so I decided to beat a hasty retreat instead. “I should go, Urtel. I still have to determine how best to deal with House Alde.” I glanced behind me and saw Khem staring at us with his mouth open. I still could not read him well enough to tell if he was amused or disgusted – or, perhaps, both – but I could sense the potential for trouble. “And deal with Khem, naturally.”

“Of course.” Moren bowed his head again.

I did not wait for him to say anything else, so I returned to Khem’s side, giving him a side-eye glance to forestall any commentary. “It seems I have a fan among the Sith. You best prove yourself to me again, Khem, or I might have to replace you.”

The Dashade gaped at me in silence for some time before speaking. <That is a joke, Little Sith?>

“I’ll let you puzzle that one out.” I sighed softly, wondering if the Force had decided to torment me today, and began heading for the entrance. I was still concerned about how to deal with House Alde – I was not interested in massacring anyone, let alone for something as mundane as gossip about one Nomar Organa.

I was still mulling things over as we secured a speeder and began our trip to the northeast, where House Alde’s holdings were. Elana Thul had helpfully provided the latest scouting reports on Alde’s forces to help us avoid running into patrols, but that also reduced the amount of time I had to plan. Clearly, any nonviolent solution would require leaving Khem behind – somehow I doubted the Alde forces would be too pleased having a Sith monster roaming around their lands. Beyond that, though, I felt helpless – the only thing of value I could part with was the book on Sith history I kept with me, and I doubted that would be enough to convince anyone of my good intentions.

Well, not good intentions, per se. My non-hostile ones.

Still, the book was as good a place as any to start, assuming the guards at House Alde did not choose to simply blow us up on approach. As we neared the main entrance to the Alde compound, I turned to Khem to alert him to my plan.

“I do not wish for this to end in a bloodbath, so you will have to remain with the speeder, Khem.” I pre-emptively silenced his complaints with a sharp look. “I realize that you would like nothing more than to tear through dozens of helpless soldiers, but I have neither the time nor the inclination for such an encounter. I am after information, and it will be easier to obtain if we avoid starting a major battle.”

<Very well, Little Sith, but if you continue to deny me battle, I cannot say I will always be so willing in the future.>

I was silent for a moment, mostly because I had not anticipated such an easy resolution to the situation – Khem routinely expressed great frustration when denied the chance to slaughter people, and this seemed like yet another of those times. Still, after a day of somewhat trying situations and conversations, I was not particularly interested in creating more trouble for myself. Instead, I remained silent and piloted the speeder up to the central guard post, where we were stopped by a middle-aged man wearing a captain’s uniform and a completely absurd hat.

“Halt, in the name of House Alde!”

“We’re halted,” I noted as the speeder came to a full stop. “I need access to your libraries.”

The man seemed taken aback by my frankness and casual bearing. “B-but you are a Sith! You are with the Thuls!”
I smiled sweetly at him. “Let’s consider the Sith thing an alliance of convenience. And I am most certainly not working with or for the Thuls.”

“Then why are you here?” His eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“I have personal business that requires some research. I am not looking for trouble, despite what the frightening face of my companion would suggest. Al I seek is some time in your archives, and in exchange I will donate this book I appropriated from Korriban.” I reached into my robes and removed the tome, displaying it for the captain’s benefit.

“You wish to patronize our library?” His eyes were bugging out now, stage two of the normal reaction to reasonable requests coming from a Sith. “You are quite the odd creature.”

“I get that quite often. Unfortunately, though, I do not have time to banter about this. If you could please extend my offer to the curator, or whoever is in charge, I would appreciate it.” And if this does not work, I will be forced to kill you. I For the first time in what felt like forever, I found myself praying to the Maker, hoping it would not come to that.

It didn’t. The captain returned from calling his superiors within minutes, and they had agreed to my proposal as long as Khem remained off of their lands and I was monitored to ensure I did not sabotage the archives. Both conditions were reasonable and hardly unexpected, so I found myself traveling into the Alde compound with a handsome soldier as an escort mere minutes later. As we drew closer to our destination, I wondered if I should ask whether they had agreed out of principle or because they feared a massacre, but I was not sure I wanted to know the answer to that question.

The archives were rather impressive, with each section dwarfing all of the libraries on Ithaca put together. There were many ancient books, electronic records, holos; a virtual smorgasbord of resources for learning and intellectual development. Somewhat disappointing, then, that I was here to dredge up gossip and dirt about Nomar Organa.

My search proved to be quite difficult – there were numerous restrictions on my access, and much of the information on Organa was heavily sanitized due to his position within the Jedi Order. What scraps of information I could find were useless – virtually a list of talking points one would expect a politician to read from during a speech. I spent hours within the Alde system, but could find nothing – I was nearing my breaking point when I happened across an old looking still picture of a young Nomar Organa holding hands with a woman. They were both smiling and seemed happy. I wondered how it had gone wrong.

The same way everything went wrong for you, no doubt. The galaxy does as the galaxy will.

I decided to inspect the still and its related files more closely – perhaps this woman could lead me to something that would entice Nomar Organa to return to Alderaan. Several layers into my search, I found something – an old and short story about the impending nuptials of one Nomar Organa and a Rehanna Rist. I did a separate search for Rist and found myself looking at the older copy of the woman from the still. A simple query revealed that Rehanna Rist was still alive and living on the planet.

So Nomar Organa was betrothed to Rehanna Rist, and something made it all go wrong. Interesting.

There was no other information available, but it was a start. House Rist was not aligned with House Thul, but neither was it allied to the Organas, so it was possible that I would be able to speak with Rehanna Rist and determine if there was something I could use. I suspected there was, but something in my heart recognized it would end badly for someone. Or everyone, possibly. There was not much I could do about it now, though.

I retreated from the console I was working at and returned to my escort, who had been quietly suffering through hours of watching me do research. To make up for his misfortunate, I gave him a salacious wink, which threw him off balance and nearly caused him to fall down. To cover for himself, he huffed loudly and stood up even straighter as he caught up to and then passed me, leading the way back to the vehicle that had brought us in.

As we left the building, I glanced at my comm and saw that I had two messages. The first, heavily encoded to anyone but me, made me smile. Quorian.

The second...I had to check a second and then a third time to be sure I was not reading it wrong. When I realized I had seen the name correctly the first time, I felt a cold chill pass through me – there were few people in the galaxy I wanted dead more than Harrion Vular, the man that had taken me to Korriban and started me down the treacherous path I now found myself on.

No matter, you will deal with him.

Perhaps I could ensure he never left Alderaan, ensure he never ruined another life. I smiled slightly. Something more enjoyable to plan, for once.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

AKHadeed's Avatar


AKHadeed
04.12.2014 , 07:03 PM | #56
While I'm catching up, I absolutely love your take on Khem, who's usually my most hated character.

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
04.26.2014 , 06:02 PM | #57
Spoiler


I decided to take advantage of the somewhat lengthy trip back to House Thul by contacting Vular. If the conversation ended up being as unpleasant as I suspected it would, I would feel less constrained about following social norms if we were traversing the Alderaanian countryside than I would be in a palace surrounded by the likes of Elana Thul.

Particularly when he is taking this long to answer the call.

“Ah, Veresia. It is good to hear from you again. I had feared our interactions on Nar Shaddaa might be our last, but the Force has smiled upon us.”

“If the Force is doing anything, I suspect it is something other than smiling,” I retorted. “Also, refrain from calling me Veresia, if you would.”

“What should I call you, my lady?”

“Nothing. I would prefer you not call me at all.” I waited patiently during the silence that followed; perhaps the fool would be self-aware enough to know when to cut his losses.

“I can indulge some of your requests, my lady, but not that one. I still believe we have quite the future together as Sith rising to the top, as we were meant to.” I had never heard a man that sounded so smug before. “IF you would only just agree to meet with me again, I am confident I could persuade you of this.”

“Did you ever stop to consider that I may not want to be persuaded of anything by the likes of you, Vular?” I was tired of the man; tired of his posturing, tired of his harassment, tired of his existence. “I have no interest in your delusions of Sith grandeur. I never will. Accept that as the answer to your question, or be destroyed.”

The silence was as deafening as it was welcome, and it was almost enough to convince me that I had rid myself of the detestable man for good. Of course, the galaxy was rarely that kind to me, and it proved that maxim yet again.

“I…regret…your obstinacy. I had hoped that we could find common ground and reach some sort of arrangement. Perhaps you will reconsider my offer – think it over. I believe we have a future together, even if you do not yet see it.”

“Perhaps you will see the light about where we stand soon, Vular. For your sake, as much as mine. I think it is you that needs to consider their position and meditate upon it. If you are wise enough to heed my warning, you will leave this planet and never make the mistake of attempting to contact me again.” I sweetened my voice somewhat, to better emphasize my point. “If I were to encounter you in person again, I might be forced to commit all sorts of terrible misdeeds. It would be a shame if you were found dismembered or otherwise hurt.”

“Of course.” He sounded about ready to say something else, but the moment passed and I heard him close the channel instead.

I could not deny that the man confounded me. He had been the one to take me from Imperial custody to Korriban, but he had always treated me with a twisted sense of gentleness. Not to spare me the horrors I was about to see, of course, but to feather his cap and look good for his masters. That was the way of the Sith, after all – they did nothing for anyone else unless it would improve their own lot. Or cause someone else to suffer.

Vular wanted me, but not in the same way that Quorian did. The latter wanted to be with me, to share in my joys and support me I had none. Vular wanted to control me, to own me. He wanted me to be his, and I never would be. It was a disturbing realization, and one that suggested I might need to take action against him.

There was no time to do anything for the time being, though. Elana Thul and her Sith pet were waiting for us upon our arrival, looking entirely too pleased with themselves. I hoped their expressions might be due to having information regarding Rehanna Rist, but I had learned to never hope for the best since entering Imperial space. It was far more likely that they had devised a scheme to poison orphans or some such thing than anything useful.

“My lady, you have returned.” Moren bowed slightly, a respectful gesture that did not quite reach the subservience of a servant’s bow. It was rather obnoxious, either way. “We were able to locate Rehanna Rist and I have begun plotting a strategy for incorporating her into a plan to lure Nomar Organa to Alderaan.”

“Truly?” I left the sarcastic edge in my voice somewhat understated. “And what plan have you managed to concoct?”

An awkward silence followed, which answered my question as well as either of them could have. Thul fidgeted with her hair, and neither her nor Moren could seem to meet my gaze.

“You were unable to create a plan, I take it? I suppose you did emphasize that you were only plotting a strategy on how to incorporate the information into a plan.” I slapped my thigh with exaggerated gesture. “I cannot imagine what madness led me to believe an actual plan might have resulted.”

The pair shared a look, far too quickly for me to read accurately. Their nervousness was more than obvious in the Force, though. I decided to allay their fears with a soothing gesture.

“There, there. I am sure you worked as hard as you could. Rest assured, I have begun my own contemplation of the issue, and I formulated my own plan.” They nodded their heads in approval, as if that mattered to me. “Before I begin acting on that plan, though, can you think of anything I should know about House Rist in general or Rehanna Rist in particular?”

“House Rist has a rather poor reputation here on Alderaan, my lady.” Thul’s face was scrunched up, as if carefully considering what she was going to say next. “They have long been surrounded by dark rumors of being master assassins and poisoners. How much of that reputation is true…I cannot say for certain, but I must admit I am surprised the Organas would have ever considered such an arrangement.”

“Perhaps the houses did not arrange anything,” I speculated. “Perhaps it was simply a matter of two people falling in love.”

Moren seemed to agree that my hypothesis was at least possible, but Thul was regarding me as if I had said the Alderaanian sky was purple.

“That…that would be most irregular. Most irregular. I would never even consider such a rash course of action, and I somehow doubt a man of Nomar Organa’s psychology would do so either. Why would a man who a dedicated his life to the Jedi Order be so irresponsible?”

I shrugged; the woman was beginning to irritate me. “I cannot say. Perhaps it fell apart and that trauma was what drove him into the Order. Perhaps his adherence to the Order was wavering and he encountered Rehanna Rist at precisely the right time – or the wrong one. For the moment, it does not matter; the only thing that does is that Rehanna Rist represents a potential opening for drawing Nomar Organa to Alderaan. I must speak with her and determine how much of an opening that is.”

“That…that is the other problem, my lady.” Thul and Moren both looked nervous. “House Rist is hostile toward House Thul and has allied itself with house Ulgo, another of my house’s enemies. I fear that Rehanna Rist may not be receptive to working with you.”

I skewered the woman with a harsh glance.

“I believe she intends to coerce Rehanna Rist into assisting,” Moren murmured.

“Nothing too extreme, I hope.” In fact, I hoped I could discuss the situation with the woman peacefully. “I would not want House Rist to hold any grudges against House Thul, after all.”

“Of course.” Elana Thul’s face scrunched up again, a most tiresome display. “My lady, I was wondering if it would be too forward to ask a favor of you, while you are already working with House Thul.”

I was tempted to say that it would be too presumptuous, but managed to restrain myself through a supreme effort of self-control. Instead, I made a noncommittal gesture toward her. “I can consider it – my work iis of paramount importance, though.”

“Of course, of course. The political situation on Alderaan may be in disarray, but no one in House Thul would ever fail to appreciate the sacrifices the Empire has made to support us.” She coughed twice, though both seemed natural and unrelated to what she had just said. “I have heard rumors of planned operations by House Organa that may place this house in jeopardy. Can House Thul call upon for aid should we require it?”

“You can certainly call.” I left the rest unsaid. “In the meantime, I have a meeting with Rehanna Rist to attend to.” Elana Thul bowed her head somewhat shakily.

As we neared the entrance to the palace, I felt a hand around my right arm, a gentle grip despite the potential firmness behind it.

“My lady, I was wondering if I might speak with you for a moment?” It was Moren again, with his damned Sith eyes and creepy voice.

“One might say you have just spoken with me for several moments, Moren.” I planted my hands at my hips. “However, I am in a forgiving mood. What is it you want?”

Moren frowned . “A man came to House Thul while you were away. A Sith. He spoke of you and wished to learn about your movements and plans.”

“Harrion Vular.” The name was a bitter taste upon my tongue. “He has haunted my life since the day I was taken from the camp that made me and was brought to Korriban for training. What did you tell him? Be truthful.”

“I told him nothing of value, my lady.” Moren’s clipped tones were somehow reassuring now. “I spoke in general terms of you operating on behalf of Darth Zash but stated little beyond that. I believe that he accepted my words as truth, but I cannot say for sure.” The lumbering oaf flushed slightly. “I must admit that I am not as proficient at lying as one ought to be as a Sith.”

I eyed him curiously, wondering if that was a true admission or merely a lure to draw me in. “One must always look to one’s weaknesses to know where next to begin work. Perhaps your encounter with Vular was meant to be a lesson to you, to show you how you might better develop within the order.” I wonder if that even makes any sense – I am hardly one to be giving motivational speeches to a Sith of all people.

He nodded. “I will take your words under advisement, my lady. You are as wise as you are beautiful, if it is not too much to say.”

It was with exasperation rather than surprise that I replied. “It is not too much to say, but it is too much to expect me to care. You would do well to remember your place.” I whirled on Khem as I heard the chuffing of laughter from behind. “You would do well to remember the same, Khem. I am your master, not your friend.”

The Dashade’s facial expression was a profoundly irritating mixture of annoyance and faux shame.

“I regret any impertinence on my part, my lady.” Moren gave another of his apologetic bows; I almost hoped that he would unbalance himself and fall over. At least he would then be amusing as well as annoying. “I only wished to express my admiration for you.”

“Yes, of course.” I gave him a cursory nod. “And you wished to express your interest in bedding me.” His face turned a delightful shade of purple. “Oh, don’t play the coy innocent with me, Moren, I have been around the Sith for too long, to say nothing of males in general. Perhaps I can spare you further blushes by leaving now?” I arched an eyebrow.

“Y-yes. That would be good, my lady. I think.”

I smiled sweetly. “Do try to get ahold of yourself, Moren. It would be a shame if Elana Thul discovered you were nothing but a foolish boy in a man’s body.”

His mouth snapped shut with a satisfyingly loud noise as Khem and I resumed course and made our way back to our speeder. I let my murderous companion take the controls, while I took out my comlink. Khem was hardly the kind of company I wanted during a call to Quorian, but it wasn’t as if I had all that many options. Not with so much more work to do.

The wait I experienced after dialing the necessary codes and entering the appropriate catchphrases felt interminable, but at long last I heard his soothing tones in my earpiece.

“Veresia? I was hoping to hear from you.”

“As always, Quorian.” There was something strangely tense about him; I could sense it in his voice alone. “I hope you are well?”

“Much better now.” I visualized him giving me a trademark wink and smiled. “I did manage to find my way to a certain Core planet, though what the Imperials and Sith scum are doing here is quite beyond me. Perhaps I can interrogate you and find out. Make myself look good for Master Shan.”

I wrinkled my nose even as I laughed – despite his playful tone, there was definitely something off about Quorian. “I am sure you would fail no matter how hard you tried.”

Khem glanced over at me and glared menacingly, baring the tips of his fangs.

“Perhaps.” He took a deep breath. “I am not sure what your…schedule…is like, but the Jedi have a safe house near House Alde that happens to be available for a few days.”

“That sounds like something I might be interested in, though I require some time before I can arrive…perhaps hours, I am not quite sure.” My stomach was strangely twisted into knots, both because of Quorian and because I realized that Khem had parked the speeder beneath some trees and looked about ready to murder me. “I have some business to attend to.”

“Some business to attend to,” Quorian replied, somewhat dubiously. “Do I want to know what it is? Are you hacking and slashing your way through Organa soldiers, or blasting herds of akk hounds with Force Lightning?”

Jedi humor. I snorted. “Nothing quite so macabre, though you seem to have quite the Sith-like imagination, if you ask me. I have a meeting with a representative of House Rist that I must attend. If it isn’t too much of a bother, I can contact you on this channel after I finish and arrange for our rendezvous at your safe house?”

Khem growled something at me that I did not quite catch. It did not matter, though; I could already sense an argument with the Dashade brewing once I finished the call with Quorian.

“That, uh, sounds like a plan. Is my dear friend Khem there, by any chance?”

I pondered how best to answer the question, seeing as I did not want to spark a larger argument that might end up with one or both of them dead. “Yes, did you want to say hello?”

Quorian laughed uneasily at that. “No, was just checking. Can’t be too careful, even around my favorite Sith.”

“Of course.” I felt suddenly tongue-tied, as if I was back in middle school. “So, I’ll contact you when I finish with House Rist. I will attempt to keep any bloodstains away from my clothing, to enhance your experience.”

For a moment , Quorian’s silence worried me, but then I realized he was merely trying and failing to come up with a snappy comeback. “Looking forward to it, Veresia.” He was strangely serious again, but the connection was dead before I could even begin to ask why.

“Little Sith, it is time to speak.” With his arms crossed over his monstrous chest, Khem suddenly felt like an unwanted parent or older brother. “You demean both of us with your continued dalliance with your Jedi lover.”

“And you need to learn your place. I will offer some advice, Khem, my love life is not it.” I frowned at him, feeling the beginnings of genuine anger forming in the pit of my stomach. “I’ve spoken with you about this before, and I thought we had reached an agreement about it. Why are you raising the subject again?”

“We had also discussed the importance of our mission, Little Sith. Yet again, you have placed your own unnatural desires above fulfilling your destiny as a Sith. Tulak Hord would never have allowed himself to be distracted by passions of the flesh.”

“Tulak Hord was also so consumed by the Dark Side that he probably would not understand what we’re talking about. I grow tired of explaining myself to you – if you cannot accept the fact that I have no intention of becoming a grim and brooding beast such as yourself, perhaps I can find a black hole to shoot you into.” I raised an eyebrow at him. “Or, you can remember your pledge to me on Korriban and ignore those aspects of my life that do not concern you. The choice is yours.”

His jaws tensed, as if he was considering a sharp response. Or he is considering whether to eat me.

“This Jedi fiend will bring you only shame and despair, mark my words. You may be strong with the Force, but you are still a foolish little girl, Little Sith. The galaxy is no place for the likes of you.” He huffed and returned to the controls.

“Perhaps even foolish little girls need their rays of sunshine,” I murmured, too quietly for him to hear.

House Rist was located in a mountainous region, with every one of the easy-to-access paths patrolled by large groups of guards. If what Elana Thul had stated was accurate, I could expect a hostile greeting from them, and there were far too many to hope to force my way through. Fortunately, I had an ally that the planners of the fortress had not anticipated; the Force. I infused my muscles with the raw energy flowing through me, and used my newfound ability to begin clambering up an otherwise unclimbable outcropping of rock, stopping only to use the Force to levitate Khem along with me. It was not an easy exercise, but the weight pressing down upon my chest grew lighter as we progressed toward the top.

At long last, we found ourselves looking down upon the Rist palace, though the complex was so large and complex that I realized our task was only beginning. I reached out with the Force, but soon realized that it would do me no real good because I did not know how to tell Rehanna Rist from anyone else. We will have to do this the old fashioned way. At least Khem will be happy.

As we carefully made our way toward the buildings, I noticed a security captain patrolling the courtyard alone, the perfect target. When he approached our position, I silenced his attempt at a scream by choking off his airway as gently as possible, and then levitated him toward us. His eyes were as big as sensor dishes when he arrived.

“Puh-puh-lease don’t hurt me. I m-might have a wife and children some day!”

Khem snorted. “You are a pathetic creature and it would please me to rain death and destruction on all in this house, but the Little Sith requires information.”

I leaned in and offered the panic-stricken man a slight smile. “Hello. I am looking to become acquainted with Rehanna Rist. Where might I find her?”

“I-I don’t…” His voice trailed off as he carefully studied my face and realized that I was not in the mood for games. “She is located in the library tower, over there. She has chambers marked with a crimson blade.” He gestured toward a tall, thin, building that was a few minutes’ walk from our location. “P-please don’t kill me.”

Khem looked at me with expectant eyes, like an akk dog pup waiting for a treat. I shook my head, and sent a wave of Force energy into our captive, rendering him unconscious. Khem then draped the man’s limp body over some rocks, out of sight of anyone in the courtyard. After I ensured he wouldn’t be discovered any time soon, Khem and I began our march toward the tower Rist was in. We were fortunate – the patrols we encountered along the way were filled with weak enough minds that some careful persuasion convinced them to leave us alone.

We reached the door with the crimson blade over it, conveniently located on the ground level of the tower. With the door magnetically sealed, I was left with no alternative except to slice through the metal with my lightsaber, cutting open a large enough circle to fit both Khem and me . Once Khem had pushed the smoking remnants of the door aside, we stepped into a console-filled room. A woman about two to three decades my senior was waiting, more handsome than beautiful. She jumped back as we entered, clearly startled.

“Who are you?” Her hand hovered over a hold-out blaster at her hip, but I dissuaded her from any foolish action. “W-what do you want?”

“Lady Rist.” I gave her a half-bow, though even I was not sure if I was being sarcastic about it. “I have come to discuss someone you were once acquainted with, Nomar Organa.” Her eyes lit up for a moment, betraying her recognition…and his importance to her. “I need to speak with the man, and I believe you may know how to get in contact with him.”

“Nomar…” She shook her head. “That was a long time ago. I have not spoken with him in too long. Many years, that is. I am afraid I would not be too useful , even if I were inclined to help you. The monster beside you suggests caution, at the least.”

I could not really deny the wisdom of being skeptical of anyone that traveled with a Dashade.

“I realize that my companion is…a sight. However, I have no interest in harming anyone; I merely need an artifact that he has control of access to. Surely you could at least help me communicate my need to him?”

“What need does a Sith have of a Jedi artifact?”

“My…master…requires it. I do not share her taste for violent resolutions, though, and am hoping to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.”

Rist shook her head. “I still don’t understand what you hope I can do for you. Obviously, you must have discovered our engagement, or you would not be here. That was years ago, though…I doubt he even thinks of me any longer. Not after he broke it off to dedicate his life to the Jedi Order.”

“I was under the impression that the Jedi Order did not strictly forbid romantic relationships, perhaps he was unaware of that.” It did not take the Force to sense that the woman still had feelings for Organa. “I will leave if you ask me to, but it seems to me that this situation is an opportunity for you as much as it is for me.”

The Alderaanian woman was silent for some time, pursing her lips and twisting a loose strand of hair around her index finger. She was not nervous; if anything, she radiated a hopeful feeling in the Force, which suggested that she was inclined to agree with me. For a moment, I wondered if I should retract my statement – some part of me did not want to see someone else hurt so I could secure a trinket for Darth Zash. The moment passed – I could not afford to derail my greater project over trivial matters.

“Why should I believe that you won’t simply kill one or both of us once you have whatever it is you need?”

“A fair question. However, I believe you have answered this yourself with how you have approached this conversation, Lady Rist. You have not summoned any guards or attempted to set off any alarms – you are aware of what I might do, but you also realize that I do not intend to act in that manner. The same is true here. “ I grimaced. “While I do not doubt that Nomar Organa would gladly run me through with his lightsaber if given the chance, I do not feel the same way and…I also know what it is like to lose that which you love. Some Sith are born into their role. Others are….forced.”

“To ensure I understand properly, you want me to contact Nomar and entice him back to Alderaan with false talk of reigniting our relationship.”

“No.” I spoke more forcefully than I intended, because she took a step back. “The talk need not be ‘false’. I do not need the Force to detect your unresolved feelings for him. Regardless of what you think of me, not all Sith have forgotten what it means to love. I certainly have not.”

Rist eyed me suspiciously. “What would you know of love?”

A difficult question in the best of times for most people, an impossible one for me right now. How do I explain the friends and family that I lost? How to describe what I feel when I am around Quorian?

“I know,” I replied quietly, hoping my intonation would answer her in ways my words never could.

Her voice was quieter now, too. “And you swear you won’t harm him in any way? That this isn’t some trap for your own gain?”

“I’m not here for any of that,” I replied as reassuringly as I could. Silently, I cursed the fact that I was fond of wearing dark robes to imitate the Sith that people assumed I was. “There is nothing I need that requires violence – my master never decreed that I could not make this a diplomatic mission. I ask that you trust me on that.”

“Very well. I…I do wish that Nomar and I had resolved things. One way or another. I-I will need to…prepare myself.” A small, shy, smile flashed across her face. “I feel almost like I did back then. How strange.”

“These are strange days for all of us, Lady Rist. When you have news, please contact me on my personal channel.” I glanced behind me. “I will be sure that my intimidating friend is not there to meet Master Organa.”

With that, I bowed my head slightly and led Khem out of the room. We retraced our steps back to the outcropping we had started from. The captain was still lying there unconscious, so the descent proved rather simple, though Khem’s weight was more difficult to manage through the Force than it had been when we were going up. I made a mental note to more closely monitor his diet.

I contacted Quorian the moment we were safely away from House Rist. His voice was livelier this time, which cheered me somewhat. “How’s my favorite Sith doing? Did you manage to avoid getting your robes stained with the blood of your enemies.”

Khem snorted loudly, so I began by shushing him. “My meeting was successful, yes. I appreciate your concern. I would appreciate directions to your safe house even more.”

“This conversation is nauseating,” Khem interjected.

My system beeped as the coordinates arrived. I entered them into our navicomputer, allowing Khem to put the speeder on autopilot for the remainder of our trip. Khem continued to grumble about the insult to the memory of Tulak Hord under his breath, but soon realized that I did not give a damn about his continued judgment of my social life, and then fell silent. The Alderaanian landscape was much more enjoyable without Khem’s commentary and the ever-looming threat of imminent death. A part of me was saddened by the fact that the petty war between the nobles was likely to damage much of the lush foliage beyond recognition.

We arrived at the Jedi safe house half an hour later; it was another nondescript building that would never have drawn any attention to it if I had not been looking for it. Quorian was waiting by a tree near the front door, partially hidden by its large branches. Khem stopped the vehicle so I could get out. I landed softly on the grass, then turned back to my Dashade companion.

“Feel free to roam as you please, Khem, so long as you are ready for action when I call. Please try to avoid any mass murder while I am occupied.”

He glared up at me, but I no longer cared about Sith artifacts or Alderaanian nobles or even the feelings of my closest to companion. It was important to remember that there was far more to the galaxy than the machinations of those around me.

Quorian’s arms were warm as they enveloped me, and his lips were even warmer as they brushed against mine. I let you a girlish squeal as his kisses moved down my neck. The wind blew gently through my hair as we went inside. For a moment, I was no longer the conflicted woman on Alderaan; I was the dreamer on Ithaca, the girl with so many potential futures ahead of her.

It was a nice feeling.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

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Lesaberisa
05.17.2014 , 01:49 PM | #58
So losing your internet is fun. Anyway, back to Veresia on Alderaan.

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I felt a chill run down my spine as a light breeze invaded the room – as usual, Quorian had been too…distracted…to properly close the window. And he stole the warmest blanket as well. Still, there were worse situations to wake up to. I smiled slightly, and I gently moved his arm from where it was draped across my stomach, kissing him lightly on the cheek to distract him in case he was more awake than I anticipated.

For a moment, I wondered what Ayrs would have made of Quorian. I think he would accept him, if only after he went through the proper routine that every overprotective older brother had. Or, so I imagined.

My lips twisted into a humorless smile, and my heart stung for a moment. Yet again, I wondered if it would not be better to find some way to at least find out how Ayrs was doing, if not contact him, but I was not sure my resolve could survive that kind of temptation. How could I truly commit myself to undermining the Sith and Empire if I knew there was a far easier and more pleasant life in the Republic for me? Truth be told, I could not risk that possibility. The war against the Sith required people like me to use every advantage they could, and my position was too important to abandon for easy emotional comfort.

Quorian murmured something under his breath as I crossed the room, carefully tracking down each article of clothing where they had been discarded the previous night. The undergarments and dark robes were hardly the height of fashion, but I needed them in order to continue to pass as a generic Sith within the Empire. As I leaned over to pick up my utility belt, I heard Quorian’s voice again, louder this time.

“You know, if staring at you like this is wrong because it violates the Jedi Code, then I don’t want to be right.”

He shot me a mischievous grin. I replied by using the Force to send a discarded pillow flying into his face. Then, I used the distraction to my advantage, slipping into the bathroom and claiming whatever warm water we’d have for the day for my own. The bathroom door’s locking mechanism activated with a satisfying click that was only matched by Quorian’s jokingly plaintive begging to be allowed in. A part of me wanted to leave him outside to revel in the schadenfreude, but the more rationale part of me realized that I would do well to find what joy I could in life, for the path I was walking was unlikely to lead me to any on its own.

It was strange how different the world around me felt when he was with me, when he had his arms around me and I had mine around him. I wanted to berate myself for wasting time on frivolities but there was no point in such recriminations. Sooner or later, the Sith would discover my true intentions and it would take more than the Force to save me then.

Besides, he’s remarkably skilled for a Jedi. One would have thought his upbringing would have left him lacking in some ways.

I left the refresher first, not wanting to but knowing I needed to - as much as Quorian offered a refuge from the darkness, he was still a distraction. I disengaged slowly, but firmly, and took advantage of my initiative by seizing the larger and softer of the two towels to dry myself off with before returning to the bedroom to get dressed. Remember, the most difficult part of any journey is beginning it.

Each step was more unpleasant than the previous one, but I forced myself to don my robes and equipment. Much like how children make things more difficult for themselves by delaying what needed to be done, I knew that I would only make my departure more painful if I stretched it any further than was required. It was not that I wanted to remove him from my life; rather, it was that I recognized the need to carefully ration the time I spent with him, especially when compared with the time spent on planning for the future.

While Quorian was getting dressed, I contacted Khem and let him know to return to the safe house. He was not entirely forthcoming about what he had been up to during his time away, but I was not all that eager to pursue the matter. More than likely, I would find out soon enough if he had done anything particularly unfortunate anyway, so I decided it would be best to avoid provoking a fight now. My second call was to Rehanna Rist, to let her know that I was ready for our rendezvous at the coordinates that she had provided in her last message. She was not likely to respond – making social calls to a reputed Sith would probably do little to endear her to Nomar Organa – but the plan was already set. I hoped that her meeting with him was progressing well. Perhaps their youthful romance might bloom again.

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with how smoothly things were going on that front, but I was also unwilling to risk ruining a peaceful solution to my problem unless I absolutely had to. Perhaps Nomar Organa is coming but is unaware of my mission. That seemed to make the most sense – I somehow doubted that a Jedi Master would be all that eager to travel half the galaxy to help turn a Jedi relic over to a Sith. I grimaced at that thought. Logical though that point might be, I realized that also meant it might have rather unpleasant consequences when he learned of the true reason for Rehanna’s message and invitation. No matter – you can fight that gundark when you get to it. There is nothing to be gained from excessive hand-wringing before the fact.

Quorian finally rejoined me a few minutes later, his hair still dripping from his shower. I smiled slightly and ran my hands through that hair, squeezing some of the moisture out.

“You look so dashing with your unkempt hair and scraggly beard,” I said with only the most barely perceptible hint of snark. “You might well be the most handsome hobo Jedi in the galaxy.”

He flushed slightly and rubbed the stubble on his right cheek ruefully. “We’re taught to avoid negative emotions like vanity when we’re young in the Jedi Order.” His frown suddenly inverted itself into one of his usual, decidedly un-Jedi-like, grins. “Though, for you I’d gladly break with the Order on that point.”

I rolled my eyes and snorted loudly, in case he did not take the hint. “You’re just a scruffy-looking nerf herder.”

“Who’s scruffy-looking?” He replied, a shocked expression painted on his face even as he wrapped his arms around my waist to draw me in closer. “That’s not what you were saying last night.”

“You’re scruffy-looking down there too, hotshot.” I gave his chest a gentle two handed shove before kissing him quickly. “I really should go, though. If you remember how disagreeable Khem can be on a good day, just imagine what he is like after I’ve left him on his own for a few days.”

“Not to mention when you’ve been spending that time with me. He’ll be like the demonic child you hope to never have.” He smiled at me, but I sensed something else behind it. “Before you go, though, I’ve been meaning to talk with you.”

I knew that the words ‘been meaning to talk’ were rarely followed by an enjoyable subject. I was not entirely sure what Quorian’s would be, but I suspected one thing more than any other. “What about?” My tone was cheery and untroubled, but I doubted he would fall for the act.

“You. Us. What we have, I mean.” He sat back down on the bed, motioning for me to sit next to him. I could not take that risk, though, so I shook my head in response and pulled a chair in closer, taking a seat there. “You know that I’ve always wanted you to come back with me , to leave the Empire and your quest for vengeance behind you.”

“And you know that I cannot join the Jedi if there is to be an us, Quorian.” I felt my throat dry out in an instant. “Just as you know that I cannot let the murderers of my friends and family run free so long as I am in a position to stop them.” I tried to wet my throat by swallowing, but the Force was not with me on this matter. “Quorian, I don’t want to fight –“

“We’re not fighting, we’re talking. It’s what people who care about each other do.” He looked almost confused, but I supposed that made sense. Life in the Jedi Order hardly prepared someone for relationship troubles. “I understand what drives you, I really do, but…” It was his turn to swallow hard. “I can only guess what it is like for you when we aren’t together, but I know that it’s torture for me. Even worse when I know that you are just as likely to find yourself on the wrong side of the wrong Sith and I might never know what happened.”

“I am not as foolish as that.” It was a comforting line, but not one that really addressed the heart of the matter. “I…I hate our time apart as much as you do, but I cannot abandon my mission. Not now. Not yet.” My heart sank as I sensed his reaction in the Force.

He took my hands in his, gently stroking them with his fingers. “When will it end, though? When every Sith has died and you find yourself the new leader of the order you swore to destroy? You can fight those responsible for what happened to your friends and family as a Jedi, too. Or even just as someone fighting for the Republic. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“Maybe it does,” I heard myself say absent-mindedly. “We cannot choose what path the Force sends us on, only how we choose to walk it.”

Quorian’s lips twitched slightly. “I want to walk that path with you, Veresia, but you’re making it difficult. They starting to ask questions about my absences, wondering why I can’t always be contacted as easily as I used to. What do you think they’ll say when they find out I’ve been going behind their back to spend time with a Sith.”

I felt a sudden surge of anger at that word and extricated my hands from his grip. I pointed an angry finger in his face. “Don’t call me that. You of all people should never call me a Sith.”

He flinched before responding. “That’s how they’ll see you, though.” He sounded almost resigned. “I understand why you feel the way you do, but I don’t understand why you are so willing to throw your life away….throw everything else away...when you know you can never truly satisfy your need for vengeance. Why can’t you –“ He shook his head. “Why can’t we find our own path. Together.”

I could not meet his eyes. My voice was even weaker than my resolve. “I’d like that…someday.” I felt his answer even though he did not say anything, and wanted more than anything that things could be otherwise. “I cannot promise you that right now. I would not lie to you like that.”

“You probably need to go.” His response was surprisingly abrupt. And harsh. He did offer a weak smile before continuing. “Give Khem my regards.” He stood up somewhat shakily, and I followed suit a moment later.

Realizing that the situation called for a softer touch, I stepped forward and cupped his cheek in my hand. “Please, Quorian. Know that I understand what you are saying. I know that I cannot make a life out of nothing but vengeance, but it is the life I must lead for now. If…if that cannot work for you, I understand, but I will never lie to you about that.”

He shifted uncomfortably on the bed before rising to his feet and enveloping me in a firm hug. I felt him rest his head on the top of mine. “I know, Ver. It’s just hard sometimes when both you and the Force tell me so little about our future.”

I slipped my head out and kissed him on the chin. “I will endeavor to keep you better informed then.” He smiled slightly, and then more broadly when I gripped his head with one hand to either side of it and lifted it to face me. “In the meantime, consider our escapades the Jedi version of a teenager’s rebellious stage.”

Quorian smirked and kissed me for an eternity that did not last nearly long enough. I disengaged reluctantly. You have a mission to accomplish. After you have secured this artifact, you can take the time you need to consider your path going forward. Now is not the time, but soon you will have plenty of it.

Khem was waiting impatiently outside, arms crossed in front of his chest and fangs bared unpleasantly. There was some red splashed across his claws which might have been blood, but I decided it would be best not to ask him about it, particularly given the expression on his face. Quorian gave him a sarcastic wave, which Khem did not seem to appreciate, and then did his best to avoid looking directly at me. I did not blame him, for I had a similar problem facing him as well. As I piloted the speeder out of its hiding place, I looked back long enough to see Quorian tossing a jaunty salute. It was as childish as it was sloppy, but somehow made me feel better nonetheless.

Rehanna Rist had chosen an odd location for our rendezvous – an old farmhouse to the northeast of House Rist. I suspected it might have been where she and Nomar Organa met in secret, because I could think of no other reason to meet there, unless she was planning to double cross me. She seemed entirely too intelligent for that, though. The buildings were obviously old and abandoned, somewhat strange for such prime real estate, but a war wounded the land as much as it did the people fighting it. There were scorch marks from blaster fire, and I noticed several pock marks from where grenades must have been detonated during fighting. The mild breeze was somehow sad, too, echoing the whispers of the dead through the Force. I wondered if Organa would sense that too.

They were waiting for us in the main ranch house, which was mostly notable for the way its orange paint job remained nauseous long after its vibrancy had faded into familiar dullness. I decided to allow Khem the chance to appreciate that fact more fully and left him outside; I had also determined that my odds for success would probably be substantially increased without the potential intervention of an already-grumpy Dashade. He did not appreciate that logic, judging from the expression on his face, but he also understood his role and accepted my judgment.

Nomar Organa must have detected me immediately with the Force, because I encountered him in the entryway I first came into, hand wrapped around the hilt of his lightsaber. His eyes were narrowed, and the tension was thick enough that even a Force-blind person could detect it. Rehanna trailed in his wake, looking decidedly worried as she reached a hand out toward his shoulder.

“You. You are a Sith.” The Jedi Master was a master of observation as well as the Force. He whirled to face Rist. “You never told me that your ‘friend’ was a Sith. I suspect because you knew that I would never come. I can’t believe that you would abuse our past relationship like this.” His anger was most unlike a Jedi, and it concerned me.

“Nomar – it isn’t like that at all.” Rehanna’s eyes flitted between him and me. “I knew she was a Sith, yes, and I knew you would not be pleased by that. But I did not lie about my feelings for you.”

Organa’s face was an unpleasant shade of red – clearly, his years spent as a Jedi had not done much for his ability to control his emotions. I decided to intervene before matters got worse.

“Master Jedi, what she says is true. She did avoid mentioning me because she feared your reaction would be negative, but she also genuinely wished to see you. I cannot say anything with regards to that matter, despite being as much of a romantic as one can be after spending time on Korriban.” I paused, attempting to gauge how well my good humor was going over with him. “I am merely here to collect an artifact for another Sith. I do not intend any harm to anyone, and I do not wish for anything unpleasant to happen. I am not like the Sith you expect me to be. Far from it.”

“Sith lies, no doubt.” Organa turned on his companion again. “What did this…woman…tell you to get you to agree to be a part of her schemes? I would have thought you better than this, Rehanna.”

Rist had managed to gather herself somewhat. “She told me precisely what she told you – that she had been sent here to retrieve an artifact from the Elysium, and that she wanted to avoid any conflict over it. She was the one that…” Rehanna’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “She was the one that noted that I still had feelings for you and suggested that we could kill two gundarks with one stone.”

He did not respond right away; instead, he alternated his gaze between the two of us. His expression had softened somewhat, though I could not tell if it was genuine relaxation or merely resignation to a particular course of action. “I see,” he said, demonstrating the Jedi talent for saying things that sounded profound to no one but themselves. “Perhaps I misjudged you, Sith. I am not used to meeting reasonable members of your order.”

“There are not many to meet,” I replied with a wry smile. And I am not much of a Sith.”

“You could have taken the relic by force,” he noted without directly acknowledging my statement. “It would have been bloody work, but the Elysium’s security is hardly impenetrable for someone like you.”

“True, but I did not come to Alderaan to murder innocents. My master, such as she is, ordered me here to retrieve the artifact; she did not give any instructions on how I needed to do so. If I can recover it without any bloodshed at all, then I would consider my mission a greater success than if I had to fight for it. As I said before, I am not the Sith you think I am.”

“That does not mean you are a Sith that I would want to help in any way. Do you even know what the artifact is or why your master wants it?” I kept silent, as I was not entirely fond of revealing my own ignorance. “Perhaps you are not a threat to the peace or to the innocent people of Alderaan, but what if your master is?”

Truth be told, I knew almost nothing about the objects that Zash had me traversing the galaxy for, and even less about why she wanted them. I had always found that problematic, but it was not as if I had that many options – Zash was not the kind of person I could approach to casually ask prying questions about her business to.

“I know that I am fully capable of handling any issues that might arise from her acquiring these objects. I may be a mere apprentice in their eyes, but I am more than that in reality. Use the Force, if you must, and you will discover that I do not make empty promises and am free from deceit. The Jedi are supposed to be open-minded and fair, impartial judges of the truth as it is presented to them. What does it say about you and your order if you judge me solely on your preconceived notions?”

Organa did not look particularly convinced by that line of argument. “It could simply say that you and your Sith brethren have earned our distrust after millennia of doing nothing but bring darkness and sorrow to the galaxy. Perhaps you are somehow different, but please forgive me if I do not shed any tears for your supposedly maligned reputation.”

I shrugged slightly, doing my best to pretend as if he had not correctly pointed out that the actions and philosophy of the Sith Order were largely to blame for the inevitable hostility that I faced. No doubt, there had been other ‘Sith’ before me that had encountered the same problem; implacable hostility not because of what they had done but because of what others using their name had once done in some long-forgotten place during another of the intermittent wars between the Sith and the Jedi.

“I cannot speak for the actions or motivations of others that call themselves Sith, I can only do so for me.” I grit my teeth, wondering if this might well end in violence despite my best intentions. “I do not wish for this to end in violence, and have always sought to avoid unnecessarily causing conflict since arriving on Alderaan. I came to Rehanna peacefully, and suggested a mutually beneficial arrangement that would solve all of our problems without spilling a drop of blood. I do not deny that you have no particularly compelling reason to trust me given your past experience, so I can only ask you judge me for what I have said and done and not what others have.”

“Nomar,” Rehanna began as she slipped her arm into the Jedi’s. “This woman has been nothing but diplomatic with me since she…err…accosted me at my residence. I do not believe she is attempting to deceive you, and I know that I am not trying to do so either.”

“Indeed,” I interjected. Better to catch Organa while he was still off-guard. “If the relic were truly of any importance or posed any danger, the Jedi Order would not have placed it in a personal vault here on Alderaan. It would make no sense to potentially endanger such a populous world if the object could be safely housed in a Jedi temple or repository. I admit that I am not entirely sure what the capabilities of the artifact are, but I believe we can be reasonably sure that they cannot possibly be as catastrophic as you fear.”

“Perhaps.” Though Organa still had a disturbed look on his face, I could sense he was at least considering what I had said, which was a start. “Even if I were to believe all that, though, what reason do I have to assist you? If I give you the relic, then I have aided my order’s sworn enemy for nothing.”

I smiled gently and removed the package I had been carrying on me since we had landed on Alderaan, opening it to reveal several scrolls I had appropriated from the libraries on Korriban. “These are descriptions of Sith history dating back several centuries. If I read them correctly, they also include navigational data for several Sith worlds located beyond Republic space. I cannot say whether that information would be of any value to you, but I believe the Republic would be interested in analyzing its potential. I believe that would be a fair exchange for a single artifact.”

“And you would give this information to me, knowing that the Jedi and Republic might well use it against your Sith brethren?” Organa eyed me suspiciously. “Again, I must question your motives.”

My smile grew. “You mistakenly assume that I care even a whit about the Sith and their minions. I do not. Whatever you or the Jedi Order or the Republic decides to do with the information I have provided is not my concern. My only interest is in acquiring the artifact and then returning to Dromund Kaas so I can find something better to do with my time than serving as an errand girl for…my master.” It had occurred to me that Zash might be known within the Republic, and not for good reasons. “You can also consider me in your debt if you choose to cooperate, for whatever that is worth.”

“Nomar, please.” Rehanna reached her hand out to him and I was pleasantly surprised to see him reciprocate the gesture. “We can discuss this somewhere more private, and you can consider her offer more fully.”

Organa glanced back in my direction for a moment and gave a surprisingly sly grin. “Perhaps. I will have to be on my guard; you were always rather persuasive.”

Something I did not need to hear. I grimaced at the imagery in my head. “Take the Sith scrolls as a gesture of good faith. Keep them, send them to the Order or Republic, do with them as you like. Rehanna knows how to contact me, once you have made your final decision.” I inclined my head slightly and retreated the way I had come, taking several deep breaths as I did so. The meeting had been more confrontational than I had hoped but less than I had feared. Perhaps it would require Rehanna’s…feminine wiles…to complete the deal, but I was reasonably satisfied that the Jedi would at least consider my offer.

And if he does not…

I decided to push that thought aside. Though I had not known any of my father’s comrades in the Order, I had heard enough of his stories to know that the Jedi were trained to approach such situations with an open mind so that they could judge the proper course of action free from bias. It was hardly surprising that a man like Nomar Organa would not jump at the chance to make a deal with someone he viewed as a representative of everything he had been trained to fight.

I also decided that I could use a drink.

Khem was waiting for me, my own Dashade-sized akk dog pet eager to do my bidding. As I approached him, he reached out with his hand and returned my comm. “The pirate wished to speak with you regarding your….business dealings.” Khem said business dealings the same way a normal person would speak of a repulsive substance or event. “I informed him that you were busy committing treason against the Sith Order, but the pirate merely laughed. Tulak Hord would never have brooked such insolence.”

“Tulak Hord would not have had such a splitting headache, either. Please shut up and wait in the speeder, Khem. I will be along shortly.” We glared at each other for a few moments, but he broke first and sulked his way back to the speeder. Once he was safely out of range, I punched in the code for the slightly less-unpleasant member of my crew.

“Sith,” he said as he answered.

“Revel.”

“You free to talk?” He sounded like he was lounging in some third rate cantina, stretching his arms and being exactly the kind of lout that had made me so hesitant to accept him aboard my ship in the first place.

“No, Revel. I decided to call you in the middle of a furious lightsaber duel with Grand Master Satele Shan. “I rolled my eyes. “What did you want?”

“I’m over at the Republic spaceport, have a few deals I’m working on. Good stuff, heh. Heard some interesting stories about your friends in House Thul, sounds like they had some major units taken apart by a Special Forces unit from the Republic. Really fascinating stuff, if you ask me.”

“I don’t believe I did.” My head was pounding.

“Well, I thought you might wanna know that the Thuls need you. Guess they got hit hard enough that they’re calling in all the favors they can. Not sure why they didn’t contact you directly, but they asked I play messenger boy. Heh.”

“Most likely, they did not think Khem would do an adequate job as a secretary.” I pondered the situation – I did not know how long Nomar Organa might take, but I was also uninterested in becoming entangled in the planet’s civil war. I glanced over my shoulder at the Dashade glowering at me from the shade. I do not want to have to keep him busy, either. “Very well Revel. We will return to House Thul. I would suggest you wrap up whatever arrangements you have going on, as well. I believe we will be leaving sooner rather than later.”

“You got it.”

I disconnected from the call before he could say anything more – conversations with men like Andronikos Revel were best killed as soon as possible. I made my way over to Khem and looked him squarely in the eye. “There is trouble with the Thuls, Khem, and I believe we may be forced to resort to violence. Extreme violence.”

He grunted in approval and then smiled.

It was an uncomfortable trip back to House Thul
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
08.26.2014 , 03:46 PM | #59
So after a move, lack of internet access, job change and various other things, I return.
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Elana Thul was waiting for us at the speeder pad when we arrived. I noticed a sharp uptick in activity kn the area; dozens of Thul soldiers and support personnel were scurrying about the area like headless chickens. There were at least three dozen heavy tanks lined up toward the road leading north out of the palace, and behind them were another fifteen or so armored vehicles, quite the formidable display of firepower. Ayrs would have been so excited to be here...if he was not charged with blowing it all up. I smiled slightly, but the warm memory quickly turned sour in my mouth and I spat to the side of me, as if that would remove the bitter taste.

I forced a smile for Lady Thul as she approached our speeder. “Greetings, Lady Elana. I was informed that you might be in need of some assistance.” I hoped that my similarly forced interest in the troubles of House Thul was not too obvious.

“Yes, yes. It is good to see you, my lady.” Her disheveled appearance belied the routine nature of her words – clearly something had gone quite wrong for her house. I carefully maintained my concerned expression, adding a dash of sympathy. “I fear that the situation has become quite dire over the past several days. Had events proceeded otherwise, I would not have thought to impose upon you, but...” She trailed off.

“Go on. What is it that you need?” I motioned for her to continue. I was enjoying this topic far too much for the conversation to end so abruptly.

“Of course.” She took a deep breath and ran a hand through her hair, smoothing it slightly. “Our war against House Organa has taken a decided turn for the worse over the past week. A secret arms project was d, and Duke Organa was able to enlist the aid of several Jedi to capture Bouris Ulgo and return House Panteer to the throne. Naturally, they have thrown their support behind the Republic, and we now face invasions across our territory.”

“Is there nothing that can be done to rectify the situation?” It was growing harder to contain my desire to smile, and I sensed that even Khem was having a similar problem.

“I sent Urtel Moren with several other Sith to join our conventional forces in an attack on an Organa palace to our northwest where their Jedi allies were congregating. We received a transmission from him approximately a half-hour ago, stating that they were encountering heavy resistance.” She licked her lips. “I ordered additional forces to join the attack, but I am still concerned about the situation.”

“If I were in your position, I would be concerned as well.” I just barely managed to contain a smirk. “What is that you are desire from me?”

To her credit, Thul looked slightly embarrassed to be essentially begging for assistance. “I will be leading further reinforcements…these soldiers and vehicles you see before you. I am requesting that you join us in the assault at the head of another relief column.”

I shook my head. “I am afraid that my assistance is not something I can offer – my mission is of paramount importance, even more so now that the strategic situation has been altered so drastically.” Her face fell, which inspired a strange pang of shame in me. “However, I may become available as time goes on. I cannot say anything definitively until I learn more about the progress of my own mission.”

She nodded tentatively. For a moment, I thought that she might argue with me further, but my reassurance seemed to assuage her fears. At least for now. “Will you be waiting here at the palace, my lady? It is a lengthy trip to the Organa compound.”

“For the moment.” Truth be told, I was not entirely sure how best to pass the time while I waited for Nomar Organa’s response. The Elysium was located fairly close to the Organa palace that the Thul forces were attacking, but I was not particularly interested in loitering in that area, particularly if it meant being out and exposed with only Khem for company. In addition, the Jedi might well view my presence in or near a Thul attack force to be sufficient reason not to turn the artifact over to me. “I anticipate that I will be leaving shortly, though - my final objective is within reach. Perhaps I will have news for you sooner than you anticipate.”

“I understand. I wish you luck, my lady. May both of our efforts prove fruitful.” She bowed her head slightly, and then strode off toward a thick-chested man that appeared to be the commander of the forces Elana Thul was taking with her.

I turned to Khem, lowering my voice to avoid being overheard. “I do not wish to be here for any longer than is necessary, but I also wish to avoid committing ourselves to what will likely be a futile assault on the Jedi. Do you have any ideas?” I could have stopped there, but I could not resist. “Perhaps some inspiration from the spirit of Tulak Hord?”

Khem’s face darkened. “You should not toy with me, Little Sith. You are not as capable as you believe yourself to be, and my patience for your games grows thin. Our bond is strong, but if it becomes a leash, it can be broken.”

“Perish the thought, Khem. I simply wanted to hear your opinion on the situation.” I flashed another of my patented smiles at him, which did not seem to go over too well.

“We should join the Thuls in their attack.”

For a moment, I was caught off guard by the Dashade’s sudden interest in Alderaanian politics. Then, I realized that Khem did not give a damn about the Thuls or their war; he simply wanted the chance to murder some Jedi. A part of me wanted to give him what he desired. Most likely, some Jedi would die, but so would Khem and the Thuls.

I knew that idea was wrong even as I first contemplated it, though. The Jedi did not deserve that fate. Most of the Thul soldiers did not, either. I was not entirely convinced that Khem did, either, despite his terrifying presence and ominous intentions. So far, he had proven his worth as a traveling companion, and had remained true to his word that he would obey my commands…even if I could never entirely trust him.

None of which helped much in deciding what to do while waiting for Nomar Organa.

Perhaps it would be best to simply make myself scarce for the time being. I only wish that I had thought to ask Quorian to stay longer so I could return to him.

Unclipping my comm from my belt, I gave in to desperation.

“Revel? Are you there?” I bit down gently on my lip, almost as eager to end the conversation as I was to hearing whatever ideas he might have. “Do respond, if you can.”

There was a burst of static and what sounded suspiciously like Revel chuckling. “Is that you, Sith? It’s been so long since you honored me with a social call.”

“Indeed, it is a rare honor for you.” I contemplated testing the hypothesis I had read in a Sith tome on Korriban about the possibility of Force Choking someone across a communications connection. “You must be so proud of your accomplishment.” I tried to ignore the sudden appearance of a twitch in my eye.

“You need something, Sith? I’m taking some of the goods I picked up bac to your ship.” I was pleasantly surprised that he had enough self-awareness to refer to it as my ship.

“Do try to control your excitement at hearing from me, Revel, difficult as it is.” I tried one of my father’s old Jedi calming techniques before continuing. It only helped a little, but I had long ago learned that every little bit of additional self-control was always helpful. “I find myself in need of something to pass the time for the next few hours.”

“You didn’t mention anything about providing entertainment when you brought me into your crew, Sith. Heh. What did you have in mind?”

I ducked into a less crowded corridor, eyeing the passersby carefully to ensure none were eavesdropping on the conversation. I could ill-afford a slip up that would tip the Thuls off as to my true intentions. My voice was a mere whisper when I replied. “The Thuls are assaulting an Organa base to the northwest of the palace. They requested my assistance, but I fear that it might interfere with my business and I have little interest in involving myself in their civil war, regardless.” And I have no wish to fight the Republic and Jedi. “With that in mind, perhaps my presence would facilitate further business arrangements with your contacts.”

“Hmm. Would love to help you out, Sith, but I can’t really think of much. I wrapped up what deals I could, and I don’t think having a sour-looking Sith hovering around would do much to help with those I couldn’t.” Revel cleared his throat loudly, most likely to irritate me. “Not sure what else I can do for you. Wish I could help.”

The line cut out, prompting an annoyed growl from Khem. That he was simply amusing himself at my expense was a possibility, but one I discarded quickly. Whatever else Revel was, he was no fool. He would not needlessly antagonize me, nor would he put his own interests in jeopardy by. Not that any of that actually helps my situation. I sighed, and turned to my companion.

“We will rest for the night here, Khem. In the morning, we will join Elana Thul’s assault on the Organa palace.” I noticed, and was dismayed by, the sudden gleam in his eye. “That being said, remember what our true goal here on Alderaan is. We will not allow ourselves to get overly entangled in Alderaanian politics, not even if the very survival of House Thul depends upon our assistance.”

“I do not care for our allies from House Thul.” Khem smiled a savage grin that made me distinctly uncomfortable. “But I will relish the chance to fight our true enemies again, to tear the throats of the Jedi from them as they whimper for mercy. It will be a glorious day, Little Sith!”

The Dashade was eyeing me closely, and I could tell he was quite pleased with the discomfort he was causing me. Of course, he took pleasure in the discomfort that everyone felt when they were around him.

“Naturally.” I wrinkled my nose and glared back at him. “Do try and contain your excitement Khem. I would hate for you to have no energy left for our true enemies.” He nodded his head slightly, but it was all too obvious that he was not entirely on the same page that I was. I lowered my voice and hardened it, to emphasize the importance of what I was saying. “Regardless of how much pleasure you get out of murdering the defenders at the Organa Palace, our priority is the artifact. And our true enemies are not some Alderaanian Jedi or even the Republic. Do not forget that.”

He glared at me balefully before nodding his head again. Then, he wandered off into the palace grounds for the night. I found myself praying to the Maker that he was not engaging in any last minute murderous antics elsewhere on the grounds. Having to explain mutilated corpses to my erstwhile allies would be inconvenient.

I wearily dragged myself into my quarters for the night, eager to leave the insanity around me behind, if only for a few hours. The room Elana Thul had arranged was a particularly luxurious one, with what looked to be imported carpeting and artwork to go with the expensive furniture and solid gold fixtures. I supposed there were worse places to spend my last night on Alderaan as I drifted off to sleep.

It felt like it had only been a matter of moments before I felt a presence in the room with me. His presence, the spirit that had called himself Kallig and claimed to be my ancestor. It was a slippery, oily presence, and it slithered into the room like a snake. For a moment, I considered trying to ignore it, in the hopes that it would give up and go away, but it only drew closer as I did so. Apparently, I was unfortunate enough to have acquired a Sith spirit follower that was as persistent as it was obnoxious.

“Blood of my blood, I have come again.” Apparently, the spirit did not have much faith in my observational skills. “I am here to warn you about your master, Zash. Even now, she plots against you.”

“A Sith plotting against me? I shudder to even contemplate that possibility.” It was bad enough that I had to be haunted by an insane Sith spirit, still worse that it was devoid of usefulness. Why could he not at least offer appropriate advice or information?

“Take care, child, this is no trifling matter.” I was pleased to hear a hint of annoyance in the spirit’s voice. “I have been watching Zash and her new apprentices carefully when they have found their way into the Dark Temple as of late, and their activities concern me. That should concern you, blood of my blood.”

I arched an eyebrow, genuinely interested for once. “Other apprentices, you say? How intriguing. And here I thought I meant something to Zash.”

“You should not be so flippant about these matters!” Kallig was angry now; it was almost amusing. “The witch plots against you with her every breath, and you would waste your warning with jokes!” I hid a smile from the spirit. “I have been unable to lean of her precise plan, but I have heard her speak of unpleasant plans for your future. Beware, blood of my blood, for she is more powerful than you can imagine.”

“Are you saying you do not believe that I can defend myself from her? I find your lack of faith disturbing, Kallig.”
If it was possible for a Force spirit to be angry, I imagined that Kallig would be a perfect example of it. The apparition shimmered in the low light of my quarters, almost as if he was quivering with rage. I managed - barely – to restrain an immature giggle.

“Joke if you will, blood of my blood, but I would not leave the heir to my legacy defenseless against such a threat. In fact, it is another remanant of mine that will serve you well in the days to come.” The spirit eyed me with something that felt all too similar to the looks my parents had shot in my direction so many times. “Long ago, I wore a mask that protected me from even the most powerful of Dark Side rituals. It now lies in the hands of a Sith lord named Khreusis on Korriban. You must travel to his compound and seize the mask.”

I snorted rudely. “Of course. Your mask is going to provide me with protection against Zash’s ritual.” I smiled slightly and then yawned exaggeratedly. “Your storytelling needs improvement, spirit. Do run along and work on it.”

“I am warning you of imminent peril and you simply mock me. I grow tired of this stupidity.” The spirit sounded as outraged as an apparition could. “You may be the living embodiment of my legacy, but it is clear you have much to learn. I pray that you open your eyes before your blindness ends you.”

With that, the spirit shimmered and then disappeared, leaving me alone, and shivering somewhat from an unexplainable chill that filled the room. Perhaps it would not be entirely preposterous to investigate the spirit’s claims – if Zash was moving against me, it would be foolish to confront her without a valuable weapon by my side.

Of course, it could also be said that heeding the advice of a mysterious Sith ghost is the far greater folly.

My bed was more luxurious than any I had had since Ithaca, but it somehow provided less comfort than the rocky ground at the camps that night. I wondered if I would ever have a pleasant night’s sleep again.
Khem woke me several hours later with several rough shoves, clearly not understanding the importance of a proper night’s sleep during times of stress. And a lack of understanding of proper morning etiquette. After a quick glance in his direction, I decided that the Dashade probably was well aware of it, and was simply choosing to continue making my life as miserable as possible. I only wished he was less successful at it.

We encountered no obstacles as we made our way to our speeder, though the hustle and bustle of what looked to be reinforcements for the assault on House Organa was a sight to behold. Fortunately, the Thul soldiers were intelligent enough to know not to get in a Sith’s way. Or they have had other, unpleasant, encounters with a Sith before.

I grimaced slightly, but there was nothing to be done about it. I was not entirely unhappy - the crimes the Sith committed against their own allies only hastened their own demise. It was unfortunate that ostensibly innocent people living under the rule of Imperial allies suffered because their masters associated with the galaxy’s greatest monsters, but that was not my battle to fight. It was more than enough for me to fight for people like the ones I had grown up with.

Khem and I had traveled roughly half the distance to the Organa palace when my communicator vibrated with a secure call. Organa. I flashed my companion a look to ensure his silence, and then answered, trying my best to keep my voice and facial expression neutral as the holographic projector whirred to life. “Master Organa, it is good to hear from you. I had feared you might disappear without an answer for me.”

The Jedi snorted loudly. I ignored it, remembering that he no doubt viewed cooperating with me as no better than working with the butchers that had attacked Coruscant; there was no chance that several short conversations could ever undo a lifetime of justified bitterness. Not even if he knew my true name…and my true purpose.

“Yes, Sith, I considered your offer carefully. Much as I hate to admit it, you presented an honest argument and I cannot deny that you have done your utmost to avoid bloodshed. I spoke with Rehanna as well and she… convinced me that you are not attempting any sort of deception. While I am loathe to trust the word of a Sith, I must also remember my duty to uphold the principles of the Jedi Order. If you still require the artifact, I am prepared to turn it over to you.”

Something about his words did not sit right with me, but that feeling was hardly unusual under normal circumstances, and these circumstances were anything but normal. Still, there was something about his manner of speaking as well; he was almost too eager to say what I wanted to hear. Calm. I steadied myself before responding, trying to remind myself that it was only natural that a Jedi would be suspicious of a Sith, even a cooperative one.

“I am glad to hear you say that, Master Organa. Should we return to the same location to transfer the artifact into my custody?”

“No, I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” His tone was slightly harsh, but I attributed that to his latent suspicion about me. “I can provide you with the necessary codes to access the inner vaults at the Elysium and transfer the artifact you with the artifact there, though.”

I bit down on my lip, contemplating the possibilities. The Elysium would be a more secure point to hand the relic over to me, and a safer one if Organa suspected me of treachery, so I could not entirely blame him for preferring a change of venue. Despite that, I could not help but note how his plan required me to take on all of the inconvenience and risk. Patience. Better to put the Jedi at ease and ensure that this goes as smoothly as is possible.

“That would be satisfactory, Master Organa.” I attempted to put a genuine-looking smile on my face. I seemed to have to do that a lot. “Perhaps it would be wise to exchange the artifact as soon as possible, lest we be discovered. There are many on either side of this conflict who would be….less amenable to friendly interactions between us. I would not want anything to go amiss.”

“Neither would I,” he said with a nod. Something dangerous flashed in his eyes, but only for a moment – far too quick for it to properly register. “I will await your arrival at the Organa vault. When you arrive at the security checkpoint, provide them with my personal entrance code – Surik. That will allow you to pass through to the vault without any issues.” He paused again. “Also, the process might be smoother without your Dashade alongside you.”

I nodded in response, not trusting myself to speak with the lump in my throat for a moment. “I look forward to our meeting, Master Organa.” I wondered if he truly thought me so foolish.

A faint smile creased his face. “As do I.”

The channel closed with a loud click, and his image faded a heartbeat later. I did not even bother to look at Khem to gauge his reaction. “You do not like this Khem, but we have no other choice. This is the most efficient way to acquire the artifact.”

Khem growled out his response. “It is a trap, Little Sith. The Jedi fills your head with pleasant thoughts of cooperation but his words reveal his true intent. We must move against him before he can strike. You cannot allow him to betray you. The Jedi will learn the price of treachery.”

I would have thought Khem, of all beings, would have been less bothered by the idea of being betrayed – it was practically the go-to tactic for his treasured Sith, after all.

“I sense something wrong with him as well, Khem, but I am not quite prepared to assume treachery. Not from a Jedi.” My father would never have abused a peaceful meeting, at least. I repeated that thought to myself several times, but still felt the doubt gnawing at my stomach. Organa had been too eager and too hesitant at the same time – too quick to reassure me when necessary but too reluctant to step out of his comfort zone. Of course, a man reluctant to work with a Sith would have acted that way just as much as one planning a betrayal.

There was an awkward moment of silence before I realized that he had nothing to say.

“We will continue on to the Elysium as if we suspect nothing – it will be easier to deal with a trap than explain our own betrayal. I hope to avoid any issues with the security personnel – allow me to deal with them first should they raise any objections to our presence.” I chewed on the top of my lower lip for a moment. “Should the Jedi prove disagreeable…we shall determine our course of action as I see fit.”

Khem apparently disagreed. “I will remove the Jedi’s head from his body should he oppose us.” It seemed my companion had other plans. “You do not appreciate what it means to be Sith. You do not understand what it means to know the Jedi as enemies. I will teach you that lesson.”

We glared at each other through narrowed eyes and barely concealed disgust. I wondered how long Khem’s tenuous loyalty would last when it came for more difficult trials against the Sith, particularly given my specific motivations. His distrust of individual Sith like Zash was useful for now, but it would not likely transfer over to my greater ambitions. I decided to worry about that eventuality later, when it would be more appropriate.

“If the Jedi proves disagreeable, I will determine our response accordingly.” I repeated. “Our primary objective is to secure the artifact and leave Alderaan before the Thuls note our…lack of enthusiasm for their war effort. If that means setting your bloodlust aside again, then so be it. I will not sacrifice our mission so you can enjoy slicing off a few heads.”

It was not the first time we had had this conversation; clearly, it would not be the last. Something else to account for going forward. I sighed, feeling the weight of the galaxy upon my shoulders, made all the worse by having no one to share the burden with.

“I will follow…for now.”

Khem paused for a moment. I took the opportunity to disengage from the conversation and motioned for him to restart the speeder and continue our trip to the Elysium. He tensed, making me think that he might well challenge me at last, but then gave an almost imperceptible nod and turned toward the controls. He continued grumbling during our delightful trip through the picturesque Alderaanian countryside, and repeatedly shot me glances that were murderous at best.

It all left me feeling unsettled about the future. It seemed obvious that Khem did not fully understand the depths of and reasons for my loathing for the Sith that he idolized. I somehow doubted he would have cared even if he did, and I would soon have to reveal everything to him one way or another. And when he did realize that I did not wish to kill Sith as part of a plan for advancement within the order, but rather because I was meting out justice for their crimes against the galaxy? Only the Force knew what would happen then.

I sighed softly and tried to meditate for the rest of the journey.

The Elysium was not quite what I expected it to be. I would have assumed such a valuable site would have been a modern building surrounded by the most sophisticated defenses. Instead, the most important vault on Alderaan was made up of a series of ruined buildings with scattered patrols guarding the entrances. I supposed it might be a situation where their ancient traditions were actually useful for once – none of the noble houses would risk the consequences that would follow from any kind of incident here.

Several of the guards motioned us over and, after hearing me produce the correct password, proceeded to inspect the speeder with the intensity one would expect from security at a shopping mall on one of the Core worlds. Their captain glanced briefly at Khem, but only long enough for the Dashade’s glare to produce an involuntary shudder. I hid a smile and waved sarcastically in the guard’s direction as he motioned us toward a landing pad. Khem set the speeder down and sprung out of the vehicle, still glaring in the guard’s direction.

As we began our trek away from the landing area, I reached out with the Force and felt a strangely familiar feeling from further within the complex. Not Organa, though… something that brought back the memory of nightmares. I could not identify who or what it was that I was sensing, but there was something wrong with the Elysium, even beyond the treachery I expected from Organa. The feeling of dread hung over the entire area like a dense fog.

There is definitely something else amiss. Something worse than Nomar Organa could ever be.

Despite my best efforts, I could not decipher anything beyond the barest of whispers in the Force. Minutes passed before I realized that I was exerting myself pointlessly. There was nothing to be done about it, though – vague feelings and discomfort were not the sort of things that should drive decision making even in the best of circumstances, let alone when the fate of my mission was at stake.

Khem and I passed through the last of the outer security checkpoints, waved along by the guards. Unsurprisingly, they seemed uninterested in doing anything even remotely threatening towards Khem. The inner sanctum was more of the same, only the uninterested guards were more heavily armed and armored. I heard the faint sound of what sounded like an alarm over the intercom at one of the checkpoints, but it must not have been too serious given the guards’ reactions.

My comm buzzed, breaking my concentration. After making sure none of the guards were in hearing range, I activated the channel.

“My lady, are you there?” It was Urtel Moren, his usually smooth voice fraught with tension. “I am with Lady Thul. The assault does not go well.”

“Regrettable.” I let the word hang there for a moment. “Perhaps the attack would benefit from your direct, personal, intervention.”

“Uh…yes. That is, the news is indeed regrettable.” It sounded like he was choking on something. “Lady Thul had hoped you might come to aid us, as you agreed to, previously. House Thul can ill afford a defeat of this magnitude at the juncture the conflict is at. Your aid might well turn the tide of battle here. I would even go so far as to say that the future of the Empire’s presence might well hang in the balance, my lady.”

“How terrifying!” Try as I might, I could not always resist temptation. “Sadly, I am presently occupied with my own mission and am not in a position to assist before your battle is already over.”

“But-but…” It was somewhat amusing to hear the usually-polished Sith unable to form a coherent sentence. “Perhaps if you were to speak to Lady Thul?”

He did not give me a chance to respond properly. Instead Elana Thul’s somewhat panicked voice replaced Moren’s a moment later.

“My Lady, I overheard your conversation with Urtel. I pray that my words will convince you where his failed.” I heard her swallow hard. “House Thul has been a loyal ally to the Empire.”

“Indeed. House Thul has faithfully stood by the Empire for as long as the Empire has provided it with weapons and supplies. A remarkable coincidence, I think.”

“Perhaps, but we have more than done our duty as Imperial allies since that time.” Her tone became more plaintive. “My forces will be annihilated without reinforcement.”

“Truly?” I pretended to stifle a yawn. “How unfortunate.”

“We helped you with your mission, my lady. I don’t understand why you – why the Empire – is betraying us.”

I shrugged my shoulders, even though she would not know it. “Perhaps that is something to ruminate on for as long as you can. Goodbye, Lady Thul.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“Neither did my family.” I closed the channel.

Khem was practically grinning at me, and I could sense something bordering on paternal pride through the Force. Somehow, that made me feel far more uneasy than abandoning Elana Thul and Urtel Moren could ever have. I grimaced and turned my back to him.

“There is hope for you yet, Little Sith. These weaklings have their uses, but you must never confuse a tool for an ally.” He flashed his teeth at me. “Now it is time to demonstrate that Nomar Organa is the same. “

“No. The Jedi are different.” I wanted to wipe that smile off of his face, but I did not find my own argument entirely convincing. “You will follow my lead during the meeting. Do not attempt to provoke anything.”

He remained silent as we began moving again, slowly walking up the slightly inclined ramp toward the Organa vault. We walked in silence, though at least the scenery was somewhat nicer in this section of the Elysium. Apparently, the Organa family had decided that their vault’s area needed to be as ostentatious and over the top as the rest of their lands. I was amused at the thought of some Alderaanian nobles fussing over the décor of what amounted to a bank’s safe deposit box.

There was something wrong, though, and I felt that unpleasant mixture of dread and unease again. I should have been able to sense Nomar Organa from where we were, and all I could detect was vague disquiet in the Force. It was something decidedly unnatural, which concerned me at least as much as the lack of clarity did – anyone powerful enough to so definitively cloud my Force-sensitivity was dangerous, and it was not as if I had all that many friends on Alderaan right now. Except, perhaps, for Khem. It was a depressing realization.

Fortunately, Khem headed off any possibility of bonding by jabbing his arm furiously at something ahead of us and striding forward purposefully. Picking up the pace, I sprinted to catch up with him, but the sight ahead stopped me dead in my tracks. Nomar Organa was indeed waiting for us, but he was not alone. The looks that I received told me all that I really needed to know.

For once, Khem had been right and I had been wrong.

This was no meeting. It was an ambush.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Caernos's Avatar


Caernos
08.27.2014 , 08:42 AM | #60
Well it's great to have you back and it will be great to see your stories continue.

Welcome back
Cynfor Cinderheart and the Cinderheart Legacy: The Ebon Hawk
The FanFic Works of Caernos:
Red Invitation, Parents,
Beskar Bonds and Cinder Hearts