Please upgrade your browser for the best possible experience.

Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer
×

Executors of Logistics: The Misfits

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
Executors of Logistics: The Misfits

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.13.2014 , 01:04 AM | #21
Chapter Thirteen

"I'll… I'll put in your requests at once, my lord," the dutiful Imperial declared. The uniformed woman took a step away from the burned Sith, datapad cradled in her arms, eventually disappearing into the rear folds of the Executor base.

With a brazen smile upon his face, Asher turned to face his partners, who offered only their silent judgment.

"Looks like our new home's getting some upgrades," Asher offered, oozing with accomplishment.

"Hopefully Syrosk doesn't take them all away when he gets back," Graves calmly replied.

"It's all for the good of the organization, right?" Asher casually replied. "Besides, the officer didn't offer any objections."

"That's probably because she was approached by a charred Sith in blood-soaked wrappings," Fay dismissively replied. Asher's eyes went wide as he brought a finger to his mouth. Prodding the material beneath his nose, he noticed a they possessed a copious amount of dried blood wrought from his previously busted nose.

"Oh…" Asher muttered. "Does it look stupid, or menacing?"

"Does it really matter?" Fay offered with a sigh. The burned Sith looked around before leaning in close to his partners.

"I don't want to look bad in front of the Imperials," Asher whispered.

"You care about what they think?" Fay inquired.

"He cares about what everyone thinks," Graves explained.

"Shut up. No I don't," Asher grumbled.

"You care about what we think?" Fay wondered.

"We have to work together. You two are different," Asher proclaimed.

"So is that a yes, or a no?" Fay pressed. The burned Sith averted his gaze, crossing his arms.

"Well…" Asher began, before being cut off by a harsh chirp emanating from the room's central holoterminal. The motions about the cramped headquarters went into overdrive as the officers and coordinators swarmed around the terminal.

"We're getting a distress signal!" one of the attendants called out. Another of the uniformed Imperials rushed to the central terminal's controls, inputting a series of quick commands. All errant information was purged from the three-dimensional display above the device and it was slowly replaced with maps and ship diagnostics.

"It's our freighter, the one X1's stationed aboard," another voice called out.

"Open a secure channel," a female firmly directed. Pushing her way past her fellows, the datapad carrying Imperial from before approached the holoterminal, a determined glint in her eyes. She was composed, even in the face of trouble, marking her demeanor as more than simple Imperial conditioning.

Meanwhile, the three Sith stood near the chamber's entrance, watching the small collective of officers rigorously tend to their duties. Amidst the ordered chaos, amidst the constant motion and flow, they were stilled, wearing dumfounded expressions upon their faces.

"Syrosk is probably still in the building… should I go get him?" Fay asked of no one in particular.

"We can handle things ourselves, my lord," the woman replied, balancing candor with respect, eyes glued to the blooming stream of data being projected. The image of a stock Imperial freighter appeared above the terminal, a sturdy, stocky vessel designed for the transportation of cargo. Limited offensive or defensive capabilities. The current stream of data spoke of even greater limitations.

"Channel secured," a man called out from one of the wall-bound terminals. "Communications opened."

The maps and models above the central holoterminal parted, giving room to the image of the freighter's primary pilot. The electronic figure was seated, encased in an all-encompassing flightsuit, arms darting across the controls in front of him.

"This is LTF-5993," the pilot called out, frantic yet methodical in his delivery. "Our ship was intercepted between hyperlanes by a lone pirate vessel. We lost primary and auxiliary power. They hit us with some sort of ion cannon."

"Acknowledged. Can you repair the damage?" the woman inquired.

"We could barely get communications and sensors back online," the pilot detailed. "The engines could take hours."

"And Executor One, is he with you?" Control asked.

The pilot looked over his shoulder before returning to his console. "Yes, he's-"

"I told you, I can handle it," a soft voice called out over the communications channel from off-screen. Executor One. Male. Utterly calm. Almost flippant. "Tell them everything's under control."

"The pirates are closing in," the pilot relayed, ignoring the voice behind him.

"Do they intend to board you?" the woman inquired.

"I don't think so," the pilot muttered. "They aren't directly aligned with any of our ports. I think they're going cut into our hull and space the cargo. Salvage what they can from the outside."

"Well, I guess they're screwed," Asher declared. "It's not like a Sith escort is much use now."

"Who said that?" the off-screen voice called out. The burned Sith froze, unaware his voice would be picked up on the communications channel. As the eyes of nearly a dozen Imperials fell to him, the wrapped Sith released a light scoff.

"Executor Three," Asher haughtily replied, moving toward the holoterminal.

"Curious. You don't sound like Dev," Executor One casually mused, his voice containing not a sliver of worry.

"Don't know or care who that is," Asher dismissed.

"My lords, please," the datapad toting woman interrupted, trying take control of the conversation whilst affording the Sith some measure of respect. "This is not the time to lose focus."

"Like I said, I've got things handled over here," Executor One called out. "Just ask my handler or Syrosk. They'll vouch for me."

Just then, the officers huddled around the holoterminal focused on one of their brothers, one of the nondescript Humans amongst nondescript Humans.

"Uh…" the handler mumbled. "Syrosk says he's pretty good."

"'Pretty good' don't mean much when you're stuck in a depowered ship," Asher snidely offered.

"Was that 'Three' again?" Executor One dismissively asked. The off-screen voice then release a soft chuckle. "Don't worry about us. I'll call after I've handled the pirates."

Another figure appeared in the holoprojection for only a brief moment, reaching past the seated pilot. Afterwards the transmission ceased. The image faded, and the gathered Imperials were left with only maps and the freighter's model to look at.

"Sir, he closed the channel," the handler nervously spoke up.

The datapad wielding woman released an almost inaudible sigh as she gently rubbed her brow. "Everyone, return to your stations, but stay alert. We'll wait for X1's call."

One by one, the uniformed Imperials dispersed, until only the woman and the mysterious Sith's handler continued to monitor the central holoterminal. The three Sith were once more left to themselves.

"Do you make it a point to antagonize everyone you meet?" Fay muttered toward the burned and bloodied Sith.

"Whatever, it's not like he's coming back," Asher dismissed. "Remember what I said about most Sith fatalities occurring in space?"

"We seemed to do pretty well against our batch of pirates," Graves calmly declared.

"That's because we were in the same ship as them," Asher retorted. "A Sith can't do anything with a vacuum between him and his targets."

----------

The flightsuit encased pilot stared speechlessly at the hand that had intruded in front of him. The one that had just cut off communications. Beneath his black helmet, the Human's eyes grew increasingly wide as his mouth hung agape.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the pilot barked, dropping all pretense of respect. Duty and decorum were the first to go when one's life was wholly endangered.

The Sith slowly pulled back and pilot could only watch as the red sleeve left his view. Spinning around in his chair, the Imperial had hoped to see something upon his escort's face. Some measure of hate or fear or expressiveness befitting a halted craft in the sitting in the sights of a band of pirates. Instead, he only found a calm, gentle smile upon the Human's visage.

A man in his mid-thirties, the Executor possessed an oddly vibrant youth about him. His complexion was flawless, absent of any scarring or corruption expected of a man in his line of work. The golden hair atop his head was worn short and clean, parted with a casual formality. In all things he was smooth, but never soft.

"We're stuck out here," the Executor calmly stated. "There's no chance of reinforcements arriving before the pirate rip us apart."

The pilot froze. There was nothing more he could say. Nothing more he could do. With those words, the Sith had confirmed his fate. And yet, there was something soothing about them. The Executor carried an unwavering charisma that seemed almost capable of overcoming the dread steadily consuming the stilled Imperial.

"I can handle this, but I need your help. Do you understand?" the Executor asked, tranquil in his delivery.

"I… of course, my lord," the pilot whimpered, dipping his head.

"Alright. Which hatch are the pirates nearest?" the Executor inquired.

"My lord, unless they dock, there's nothing-"

"You just have to trust me," the Executor assuaged. The pilot paused. Only after gazing into the Sith's steady eyes for a few second did he spin his chair back toward the cockpit's console.

"Hatch number four. Rear of the ship. Port side," the pilot detailed.

"The hatches still work under emergency power, correct?" the Executor wondered.

"Yes."

"Good. Stay here. I'll be back in a few minutes," the Executor declared, stepping away from the pilot.

"What… what are you going to do?" the pilot asked.

The door leading out of the cockpit parted, granting the Sith access into the freighter's central corridor. There he stood, clad in black armor beset by a vibrant red coat, shooting a quick glance back to the sitting Imperial.

"I'm going to kill some pirates."

----------

Back in the dark halls of the Kaas Citadel, two figures slowly made their way through the oppressive corridors. Syrosk and Nami. The alien and the Jedi.

The elder Sith set the pace with his uneven gait, the girl following closely at his side. Whilst Syrosk kept his focus unerringly forward as he trudged along, Nami couldn't help but observe her unfamiliar surroundings. The surrounding walls and fixtures spoke of a rigidity baked into their aesthetic. It was an unwelcoming place for unwelcoming peoples. As evident by the cold stares cast their way by all they passed. The girl visibly shrunk under the burden of sharpened eyes and sideward glances, ducking her head and shielding her face.

"Should I have changed into something different?" Nami softly whispered to the Sith at her side. The Jedi was stilled garbed in her Padawan's robes, simplistic and of earthen tones. Drab, yet still a contrast to the Imperial designs that surrounded her.

"Don't worry," Syrosk curtly replied, more a command than appeasement. "They're not looking at you."

"Really? 'Cause it doesn't seem that way," Nami whispered, still shielding her face.

"You've no reason to stand out so long as you act as if you belong," Syrosk rasped.

"What, is that supposed to be my first lesson?" Nami quietly wondered.

"If it means you take it to heart, then yes," Syrosk begrudgingly replied. "If you don't wish to be perceived as weak, as an outsider, as a Jedi… don't give anybody a reason to do so. So stop acting like you have something to hide."

Nami dropped her hands to her sides and straightened her posture as well as she could. Putting on a strong face, the girl tried to shut out her surroundings, but couldn't help but notice every errant glance sent her way. However, as more did, she slowly realized her new master was correct. They were primarily focused on him, not her.

"They're staring at you. Why?" Nami wondered.

"Because no matter how much I act like I belong here, I can't disguise my being an alien," Syrosk rasped.

"Which they don't like?" Nami asked.

"They don't care for it, no," Syrosk bluntly replied.

"But you choose to endure their… distaste?" Nami continued.

"Correct," Syrosk plainly answered.

"I see," Nami mumbled. "I'm sure you've your reasons for doing so. I'll not inquire further."

The Sith Lord turned as he walked, casting an arch of his brow toward the young Jedi. "Perhaps you are less like your former fellows than I previously thought."

The pair moved beyond the threshold of the Citadel, stepping into the open air of Dromund Kaas. Landing platforms and walkways stretched out in front of them, ready to welcome the best and brightest of the Empire into its coldly warm embrace. Beyond, a deep and cavernous ravine separated the two travelers from the rest of the city. Above, the dark and crackling sky of the perpetually storming atmosphere filtered the light from the stars beyond. The shadowed haze kept the grounds below subjected to dim days and harsh nights.

In the distance, to the rear and the sides of the Citadel, skyscrapers lay nestled within the various valleys and ridges that populated the area. Amidst the planet's natural chaos and disorder, there was control. The denizens had dug a home for themselves upon the surface of the dark world. They had conquered it, or at least parts of it. It was not merely a place for Dark Lords to preside over and call their sanctum. There was life here. Citizenry. People who knew nothing of the Force living amongst the shadows, unburdened by the planet's darkness.

"Wow…" Nami whispered to herself, stopping to take in the sights.

"There'll be time to admire the view another day," Syrosk rasped. "We need to keep moving."

The Executor marched forward, his cold eyes set upon a taxi docked at the end of a nearby walkway. Snapping out of her momentary daze, the girl rushed to catch up with the Sith Lord.

"Hey, wait!" Nami called out.

----------

"Wait, you can't be serious!"

The sharp voice of the freighter's pilot spilled out of the room's speakers, filling the compact chamber the Executor found himself in. The Human stood alone, lit only by emergency lighting. Behind him, a simple lever. Ahead of him, hatch number four.

"We can still open and close this hatch right?" the Executor shouted toward the ceiling.

"Uh… yes," the pilot relayed through the ship's comm.

As the panicked words of the pilot graced his ears, the Human in the red coat was growing increasingly calm. Pulling a simplistic hilt from his waist, the Sith firmly grasped the lightsaber in his right hand, reaching his left toward the switch behind him. Planting his feet, the Executor closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath before evacuating the air from his lungs.

Just as the pilot was about to throw out another query, the Sith tugged on the lever behind him. As it flipped, the exterior hatch of the Imperial freighter quickly opened. In a matter of moments, the wall opposite the Executor had parted, exposing the chamber to the vacuum of space. The air swiftly left the once sealed chamber, threatening to drag the Sith along with it. But through sheer force of will, the Human managed to keep his feet planted. And it was that same will that would protect him as he drove himself forward.

Kicking off the wall behind him, the Human launched himself past the open hatch and into the cold void of space. Soaring weightlessly through the vacuum between the freighter and the nearby pirate vessel, the Sith ignited the hilt within his hand, extended its crimson blade. With a lightsaber and the Force, he had his weapon and his shield.

To the Sith's right, pirates encased in deep-space miner's suits had maneuvered beside the freighter's hull, modified plasma cutters in hand. As the thieves magnetically secured themselves to the Imperial ship's exterior, they were attached to their own vessel by way of cords and tubes that served as their lifelines. So focused on cutting their way into the cargo bay, the team of cutters didn't see the unprotected Human fly past them toward their vessel.

The pirate ship was little more than a large brick with aftermarket weapons attached to its belly. At one point in its life, it might have served as a freighter similar to the Imperials' own, hauling cargo across the vastness of space. But its current crew had repurposed it into an assault vessel. A capable craft, its most notable feature was the open bay on its left face that whilst incapable of holding even the smallest starfighter, could serve as a launching point for a small group of infiltrators. Against standard opposition, it was certainly capable of defending itself. But there was nothing standard about its opposition that day.

The Executor had no senses to call upon. He was deafened, blinded, unfeeling, all of his own volition. But whatever information he needed, he found though the Force. After almost twenty seconds of drifting through the vacuum, the Sith twirled about, putting his feet ahead of him just in time for them to impact against the viewport of the pirate vessel's cockpit. With a plunge of his blade, the Executor cracked the seal. Exacerbating the mechanical wound, the Sith clenched his left fist, and swung his arm wide, telekinetically ripping the viewports asunder, spacing the lone pilot alongside a stream of shattered glass and metal.

As the consoles and controls within sparked and fizzled, the ship slowly lost control, rotating along its central axis. Pressing down upon himself with the Force, the Executor ran along the pirate vessel's side, unburdened by the lack of gravity or atmosphere. Approaching the assault freighter's leftward bay, the Sith released his grip on his lightsaber, throwing it with a controlled arc. The crimson blade twirled with grace across the vacuum of space, severing the cords and tubes connecting the distant scavengers to their vessel. The lightsaber circled around, guided by the Force, back into its master's hand as the disconnected lifelines spurted and flailed.

Alongside the Imperial freighter, the pirates who had been cutting their way through the outer hull found themselves without air and were quickly losing pressure in their mining suits. Their magnetic grips began to fail and one by one they clutched and grabbed at their own throats. Those who managed to turn around, caught a brief glimpse of their vessel floating lifelessly as their vision turned black.

Running back along the pirate vessel's hull, the Executor took a mighty leap, soaring through the void back toward his own freighter's open hatch. Drifting through the vacuum, the Sith maintained his focus as his red coat gently undulated amidst the zero gravity. Second after second passed, his will the only thing preserving him. Floating through the open hatch, the Executor crashed into the floor as he was once more taken hold by the freighter's artificial gravity. From the ground, the Sith reached out and telekinetically flipped the lever back into its upright position.

The hatch closed behind him. The chamber began to seal. Pressure began to equalize. Air began to flow.

Slowly, the Executor lifted himself from the floor, drawing his first breath in minutes. Calmly patting himself off, the Sith appeared no worse for wear as he gently rubbed his eyes and nose.

"My lord? My lord, are you alright?" the pilot's voice filled the chamber.

The Sith let out a breathy chuckle. "I'm fine. The pirates have been dealt with."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.16.2014 , 01:18 AM | #22
Chapter Fourteen

Soaring above the dark metropolis, Syrosk and Nami sat in the back seats of a taxi, chauffeured by the speeder's droid pilot. The skylane upon which they traveled was low, lower than the usual urban travel the Jedi had known. The reason soon became obvious.

As the dark and crackling sky loomed above them, bolts of lightning would come down with reckless abandon, only to be intercepted by the spires that dotted the city's skyline. Conduits. Safeguards. Lightning Rods. More evidence of the Imperials' willingness and ability to conquer the chaotic environment they called their home. But danger awaited any who would dare to stray too far.

Nami peered over the open speeder's edge, gazing toward the gray streets below. Rigid. Methodical. Controlled. The numerous walkways were populated by citizens and security in equal measure. Guards patrolled the streets, outfitted like full soldiers rather than simple police. Large battle droids watched over key intersections, constantly scanning their surroundings for emergent threats.

Beyond the city's denizens, there was an evident pride etched into every surface. Banners hung from the sides of skyscrapers, brightly flying the flags of the Empire. Monuments and memorials rose like obelisks, giving form to histories passed. Every face on every corner spoke of a discipline and patriotism.

"I expected to see more Sith," Nami quietly mused.

"Most Sith confine themselves to the Citadel or operate abroad," Syrosk explained. "Some have personal manors and estates further into the jungle."

"The stories we heard about Dromund Kaas, we all thought it was a military world," Nami confessed.

"It is," Syrosk plainly stated.

"But… not everyone looks like a soldier," Nami muttered. "And I see markets… museums… eateries…"

"The Empire does not distinguish between soldier and civilian the way your Republic does," Syrosk rasped. "Military instruction is mandatory for every Imperial citizen. Every adult you see down there, from merchant to chef, knows how to properly clean and cycle a blaster."

"That's… impressive," Nami softly commented.

"The Empire values its discipline," Syrosk replied, no intonation in his voice.

"Really? That's not exactly the impression I get from the Sith," Nami declared.

"The Sith… are a different beast altogether," Syrosk asserted.

"You make a distinction? Between Imperial and Sith?" Nami wondered.

"You'd be a fool not to," Syrosk rasped. "Besides, it's not as if Jedi are held to the same standards as those outside their Order."

"But we had more rules, not less," Nami explained.

"You say that like it's something to be proud of," Syrosk countered.

"Oh right, I forgot. Sith hate rules," Nami replied with an almost playful roll of her eyes.

"On the contrary. The Sith love rules. If they didn't have them, how would they prove their superiority by constantly disregarding them," Syrosk detailed, completely deadpan.

The young girl in the adjacent seat release a soft chuckle. "Funny."

"I was being serious," Syrosk rasped.

"Yeah, I gathered that," Nami replied, almost teasingly. "Still, rather curious."

"Not really. It becomes quite simple if you think about it," Syrosk commented.

"No, the fact that you used 'they' instead of 'we'," Nami stated.

"I did? A minor slip," Syrosk deflected.

"Was it?" Nami pressed. "I mean, many of your peers think you're not one of them. Maybe a little part of you does as well."

"Speaking from experience are you?" Syrosk growled. "And the people who have problems with me aren't my peers. Sith are individuals. Each unique. Each with their own thoughts. Their own desires. Their own methods. It's not about belonging. It's not about fitting in. It's about the ability to get what you desire."

"And what if 'what you desire' is belonging and fitting in?" Nami wondered.

The alien Lord released a low chortle, momentarily breaking his stoic facade. Just as he was about to shoot back a witty, sardonic response, Syrosk realized he had none. Stroking his chin, the Executor dug deep for some barb, some quip to denounce the young girl's childish desire. But the well that had served him for more than sixty years was dry.

"You possess a wellspring of untapped power… a source that if drawn upon could grant you the ability to shape worlds and nations… and all you desire is friendship?" Syrosk muttered, suitably befuddled.

"Well, it's not all I desire," Nami mumbled, slumping somewhat in her seat. "I mean, I want to be able to defend myself. I want to be strong and independent. But I don't want to be alone. Otherwise, what's the point?"

"I was under the impression you were never alone," Syrosk rasped, tapping a finger against his brow.

The girl quickly turned her head in a huff. "I also want to be in control of my own body."

"Oddly enough, not an atypical desire for some Sith," Syrosk mused.

"I know, but the fact that I don't want to cut myself off and hate everything makes me weird in your eyes, doesn't it?" Nami pouted, firmly crossing her arms.

There was a beat as Syrosk let the conversation lull.

"Do not presume to know my thoughts," Syrosk rasped.

"Look, I know what you people hold core to your brand," Nami declared, uncrossing her arms to make finger quotes. "I know I'm not really Sith material. I know I'm expected to befriend and betray and kill, in that order. I know the chances of me walking away from any of this is slim to none, but it's my only shot, alright? I've been kicked out of home after home after home… but then I found someone I thought genuinely cared about me. Someone who'd take me in despite the fact that I don't belong here just as much as any of the other places I've tried. I know the things the Sith and the Empire have done. Let's face it, on my list of people I want to be associated with, you're pretty freakin' low. I'm no Sith. Then again, I'm no Jedi. In fact, I'm nothing. I'm just a stupid girl who can't figure out that nobody wants her."

Syrosk turned to see tears falling down the young girl's cheeks.

"But who cares? Right?" Nami whispered. "Who cares about belonging and fitting in. Who cares if you're alone? Who needs friends? Who needs family? Attachments lead to the dark side. Attachments make you weak. For all their differences, the Jedi and Sith are exactly the same where it freakin' matters. They didn't want me. I know for a fact that you don't want me. You're just going along with this because you don't want to upset Fay. I'm just a burden. Like always. But it all makes sense, right? I mean, what kind of idiot would rush headfirst into mortal danger, just because she thinks she might make a friend. Months, training under the kind of people who only want to see you killed, to gain one friend. Yeah, that's totally sane, says the girl sharing her head with some other person she can barely control."

The girl leaned forward, burying her face in her hands, releasing muffled whimpers shortly thereafter.

"These are the things I care about," Nami mumbled, face still buried. "But Jedi aren't supposed to care. Sith aren't supposed to care. We're supposed to think, to consider… but never care."

Syrosk watched as the girl remained hunched over, sniffling and whimpering into the palms of her hands. He stared, with his usual cold, deadened stare. He breathed, with his usual calm, raspy breaths. He thought, with his usual deep, dwelling thoughts.

"Do you know what I was… prior to becoming an Executor?" Syrosk inquired.

Nami pulled away from her hands, wiping her face with her sleeve. "I don't know… a Sith Lord?"

Syrosk looked upon the girl, staring into her watery eyes. "I would like to share a story with you."

----------

"I mean, it's going to take a while for him to get back," Asher muttered to his comrades. "There really isn't any point in staying here."

"So, what? Go home for the evening?" Graves suggested.

"What you do is up to you," Asher replied with a flippant shrug. "Go home. Go drinking and get another bottle smashed over your head. The choice is yours really."

As the burned man took a step toward the Executor base's entrance, an electronic chirp rang out from the central holoterminal.

"We've got an incoming transmission!" a male attendant called out. "It's from LTF-5993!"

There was a rumbling of murmurs and footsteps as the other officers scurried toward the holoterminal. The three Sith watched with piqued interest.

"That's the same vessel from before," Fay noted.

"Huh. Maybe the pirates just left them for dead rather than blowing them to pieces," Asher commented, taking a step away from the chamber entrance.

The images being emitted above the holoterminal shifted and parted, making way for the image of the Imperial freighter's pilot. The flightsuited Human was in the same seated position as before, only this time, his movements seemed far less panicked.

"This is LTF-5993," the pilot relayed, calm but audibly exhausted. "Our ship is still immobile, but the aggressors have been dispatched."

There was a quick passing of excited gasps and cheers from the gathered Imperials. Graves and Fay appeared suitably impressed, even if their body language remained particularly rigid. Asher, however, could only furrow his wrapped brow at the declaration.

"No freakin' way," Asher muttered. "I guess the pirates tried to come aboard after all."

From off-screen behind the pilot, an enthusiastic voice sounded off over the transmission. "Hey, is Three there?"

The burned Sith tensed as he found dozens of eyes fall upon him for the second time.

"Yeah, I'm still here," Asher shouted.

"I believe you said some along the lines of me not being much use? Was that it?"

The projected image expanded as another figure stepped into frame beside the pilot. Human male, mid-thirties, thin-but-protective armor beset by a heavy coat, the red vibrancy of which was lost over the blue image.

Asher let out a quick scoff. "Well, we assumed the pirates weren't stupid enough to try and come aboard, but obviously-"

"They didn't," the Sith on the holoterminal politely informed. He spoke calmly and without an ounce of spite.

"What?" Asher balked.

"Oh, they were cutting into our hull from the outside," the Sith detailed. "So I had to go out there and meet them."

"Impressive," Fay calmly commented.

"Now that's an unfamiliar voice," the Human declared. "Who might you be?"

The tall woman looked to her fellows. "What did we decide I was? Executor Four?"

"Well, you certainly don't sound like Jeren," the Human offered with a playful chuckle.

"The name's Fay. The catty one is Asher," the tall woman revealed. The burned Sith's eyes sharpened as he cast a harsh glare up toward his comrade.

"And I'm Graves," the scarred man spoke up, awkwardly out of sync with the conversation.

"And he's Graves," Fay repeated.

"I take you're all the newest Sith to join our organization?" the Human on the comm mused, leaning in closer to the ship's console.

"You got it," Fay plainly replied.

The polite Sith release another chuckle. "Ah, well, the name's Vai Thorel. I'm sure we'll get the chance to meet in person soon. But for now, we still have some systems we need to get back-"

"Whoa, hey, is it me, or are we glossing over the fact that you somehow dispatched a group of pirates outside your ship?" Asher barked.

"Well, lightsabers work in a vacuum," Thorel calmly detailed.

"Yeah, but people don't," Asher countered.

"It's not that outrageous," Fay commented. "Exposure is only dangerous in certain areas after a certain period of time. Breathing isn't a concern for a sufficiently trained Sith. One can overcome zero-gravity. The biggest hazard would be pressure."

"Nothing a full-body Force-barrier couldn't handle," Thorel playfully detailed. "Though there might have been some light boiling around my eyes… or maybe it was freezing. I don't know, it all happened rather quickly."

"Is that being humble or bragging? I can't tell," Asher muttered.

"It's impressive either way," Fay calmly declared.

"I'll take your word for it," Graves added. "You don't seem the type easily impressed."

"Experiment with the Force like I have, and you'll see the skill required in certain applications," Fay stated.

"Um.. excuse me, my lords," a woman interrupted. The datapad wielding officer had taken her position directly in front of the holoterminal, the other officers crowding around her. "But if we could get an official status report, I would appreciate it."

"Sorry," Thorel apologized, gently bowing his head. "We're still recovering from the initial hit we took. We're getting the systems back online one by one, but it'll take a while before we're ready to move out."

"Are you in danger of any more attacks?" the female officer inquired.

"No. Well, not here at least," Thorel declared. "You never know where pirates might pop up down the road, but I should be able to handle them too."

"Showoff," Asher grumbled.

"Thank you, X1," the woman offered with a deep bow. "Did your cargo sustain any damage?"

"Everything looks intact," Thorel informed.

"What were you hauling?" Graves asked.

"Don't know. Crates?" Thorel admitted. "It's just my job to protect it."

"You jumped out of an airlock, and you don't even know what for?" Asher balked.

"Oh, I know exactly what for," Thorel countered. "It's my job."

"Yes, yes, I'm sure all the Imperials are swooning for you right now," Asher dismissed.

"You were the one fretting over whether you looked stupid or menacing to them," Fay muttered under her breath.

"I wasn't fretting," Asher growled, also under his breath.

"Well, look, these engines aren't going to fix themselves, so we'd better get to it," Thorel declared.

"If you'd like, we could dispatch a repair vessel to your location," the Imperial woman suggested.

"We've got it handled," Thorel reasoned. "You can go back to worrying about X2 and the newbies."

"Who are you calling a-" Asher managed to get out, before the image faded and the communications ceased. Cut off from his intended target, the burned Sith could only stew in his frustration, releasing the occasional wordless grunt.

"Please don't tell me you're going to be picking fights with the other employees," Fay muttered, arms as crossed as they could be.

"He started it," Asher grumbled.

"Tell me. Tell me how he started it," Fay pressed.

Asher's eyes sharpened as the burned Sith once more cast his harsh gaze up toward his comrade.

"I would advise caution when dealing with the other Executor, Asher," Graves calmly offered.

"And why is that?" Asher shot back.

"Think about it," Graves suggested. "We're three Sith. We were grouped together to achieve maximum effectiveness."

"'So?"

"So… what kind of powerhouse do you suppose you have to be to be sent out alone?" Graves wondered.

"We're different. We're special," Asher reasoned.

"Still. He was the first. The first person Syrosk picked. The first person to be considered and approved by Darth Vowrawn. That's got to account for something," Graves mused.

"Also, he's an ally," Fay informed, as if stating the obvious. "I don't know, maybe that should be reason enough not to antagonize someone."

The burned man offered a quick shrug of his shoulder, to which the tall woman released a low sigh.

"How do you think they know each other?" Graves wondered.

"What do you mean?" Fay replied.

"Well, if we assume we were Vowrawn's picks for the Executors, and Vai was one of Syrosk's… what do you suppose their relationship was before all this was set up. An alien Sith Lord and a… well, I guess we don't know his rank, but he seems like a rather powerful Sith. And oddly polite."

"He wasn't polite to me," Asher mumbled.

"Who could be?" Fay dismissed.

Asher offered a quick shrug as he crossed his arms. "Whatever, I'm sure it's a boring story anyways…"
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.30.2014 , 12:37 PM | #23
Chapter Fifteen

There was an awkward silence as Syrosk and Nami soared through the Kaas City skyline. As the young girl calmed herself, she expected the elder Sith to speak up, but found him oddly quiet, stewing in his own thoughts. Scratching his chin, it would be a few long moments before he broke the silence.

"When I was a child, I lived on the streets of Kaas City. Alone," Syrosk detailed. "I knew nothing of who I was or how I got here, having no memories of my life prior. I lived in back alleys, hiding from the public. But one day, a Sith Lord found me."

"And then what happened?" Nami wondered, suitably interested.

"He made me his apprentice, right then and there," said Syrosk.

"Why?" Nami bluntly asked. The alien turned his head, shooting the girl a sharp arch of his brow. The young Human recoiled from the glance, hanging her head low.

Syrosk released a quick chortle. "A valid question. One I asked myself constantly. I was an amnesiac alien in the heart of the Empire's capital. Any other Imperial, any other Sith, they would have had me killed. But Omnus, he saw something more than just a blight. He recognized my talents, my skills, my potential. And so he trained me, to be a Seer, like him."

"A Seer? I didn't know the Sith had those," Nami admitted.

"It's not a formal designation," Syrosk stated. "But he helped me hone my natural affinity for telepathy and precognition. He was a recruiter for the Academies, finding Force-sensitives that slipped through the cracks because they didn't even realize they were Force-sensitives. He was training me to not only follow in his footsteps, but surpass him."

"And did you?"

"Yes," Syrosk declared. "I became a Seer, and I used my talents to fill the Academies just as he had. And though I may have stopped being a recruiter long ago, I still work to improve the Sith and the Empire to this day."

"But… why serve people who look down on you just because of your species?"

"Because… here, I get to decide the kind of person I am," Syrosk rasped. "You need to realize that no matter where you go in this galaxy, there will always be someone willing to hate you."

"Yeah… I know," Nami softly admitted.

"But here, you've an opportunity to rise above your station if you put in the effort. No one controls you but you. Others may try to manipulate you, influence you, block your path, but you are ultimately responsible for your own fate."

"Is that worth the disrespect? The pain? The hardship?" Nami muttered.

"That which goes unchallenged grows weak," Syrosk plainly stated.

The girl lifted her gaze, staring longingly across the Kaas City skyline. "I… I don't want to be weak."

"Then you might make it as a Sith after all," Syrosk declared. The girl looked to the elder Sith, finding an odd glint in his eyes. The face surrounding them was still the rough, scowling visage she was used to, but there was something more. Beneath the grit, beneath the hate, beneath the darkness, there was a genuineness. A care, not wholly selfish.

The taxi began to slow and descend as it neared its drop off point. The speeder settled down near more of its kind, and the Jedi and Sith stepped onto the streets of Kaas City. Steeling herself, Nami drew in careful breaths, wiping the signs of previous troubles from her face.

Wasting not a moment, Syrosk began to move out, taking his first step toward the grand structure before them: a starport. The young girl gazed up at the simple, yet impressive building. Eclipsed by the spires circling it, the wide structure blended in with its surroundings, its muted materials doing nothing to stand out from its neighbors. Patrols of soldiers patrolled the starport much as they did every other street in the capital, and two large battle droids flanked the entrance ahead.

"Keep up," Syrosk rasped as he journeyed toward the starport.

"Do you… have a ship?" Nami wondered, easily matching the alien's pace.

"More than I know what to do with," Syrosk muttered.

A short ramp greeted the two travelers prior to the personnel entrance, as did two mechanical guards. Standing on a trio of thick struts rather than a pair of legs, the machines were little more than mobile turrets passing their discerning electronic gaze over those who passed before them. With large cannons in place of hands, the battle droids were more than capable of vaporizing unauthorized personnel or contraband.

As the Jedi and Sith neared the starport's entrance, the metallic sentinels pivoted upon their waists, slowly rotating in tandem with the pair's movements. With each step, Nami could feel the harsh red glow of the droids' eyes beating down on her. Dipping her head, she moved as close to the Sith as possible, walking in his shadow.

Syrosk, meanwhile, paid them no mind, continuing his trek without a second thought. Passing through the building's threshold, the young girl thought herself free from the public eye, but soon found herself mistaken. Moving through a series of winding corridors, the pair found themselves in a monitoring station, a grand room of flight officers and coordinators overseeing the comings and goings of every freighter and shuttle that passed through.

As the pair came into view, the Imperials occupying the chamber momentarily shifted their gazes away from their instruments. Syrosk raised a quick and calm hand, and the staff immediately returned to their duties. Approaching a nearby desk, the elder Sith stood before a seated Human, the only one who hadn't noticed his arrival.

"I need to know of any shuttles leaving for Ziost," Syrosk declared. Tearing his gaze away from the small monitors at his station, the inattentive young Human looked up, seeing only the horned head peaking above the counter. Studying the alien visage before him, the young Imperial offered the stern arch of his brow.

"Are you sure you're allowed to be here?" the man snidely inquired. The Sith reciprocated the Human's arched brow, offering one far more cutting. The sound of boots scampering against the cold tile rang out as another officer scurried behind the desk. Older, the other Human shoved his seated fellow aside, taking his place before the Sith.

"My sincerest apologies, my lord," the Imperial stammered. "He's new, a recent transfer, he didn't know-"

"It is of no trouble," Syrosk rasped.

"Thank you, my lord," the elder Human said with a bow of his head, before shooting a sharp glare toward his subordinate. The younger one slinked away, his head hung in shame. As the elder Imperial returned to his forward gaze, he spotted the top of the young girl's head peaking above the counter. Leaning forward, the uniformed official saw the gentle figure standing at the Sith's side. "We weren't expecting you, Executor. Should we have prepared a third hangar? We didn't receive word-"

"No, I simply require transportation to Ziost for me and my student," Syrosk explained.

"I… of course, my lord," the Imperial dutifully said. Pouring his eyes over the small monitors in front of him, the Human scanned the various upcoming departures. "I see a shuttle leaving in an hour. Everything's prepped and ready, so I should be able to expedite the departure for you."

"That will be fine," Syrosk declared. "Thank you, officer."

"It's my pleasure, my lord," the Imperial confidently stated. "The shuttle is in hangar A-7. I'll inform the pilot of your arrival."

"Come Nami," Syrosk rasped as he stepped away from the desk. The Jedi and Sith vacated the monitoring station, departing down one of the many corridors connected to many more hangars that populated the starport.

"Why are we taking a shuttle and not one of your own ships?" Nami wondered.

"We cannot afford to mismanaged perceptions and expectations at this juncture," Syrosk declared. "I don't expect you to fully understand, but this will legitimize your arrival on Ziost more than being personally ferried by a Sith Lord aboard a Sith Lord's starship."

"I… see," Nami stated, a hint on untruth to her words. "You know, that isn't how I expected things to go back there."

"How so?"

"Well, from what I know of Sith, don't your kind usually Force choke people who disrespect you?"

"If I choked every person who disrespected me…" Syrosk began before trialing off. As he continued to walk down the starport corridor, he fell silent for a moment. "I do not believe it necessary to act on every slight. Nor do I believe it in our best interest to needlessly injure and berate those not blessed with Force-sensitivity."

"But isn't the fact that Sith are superior in every single way baked into every facet of your society?" Nami wondered.

"Superiority does not necessitate constant displays and reminders," Syrosk declared. "Only those afraid of losing their grip on their subordinates resort to cultivating fear. Respect and recognition are just as powerful motivators. The best Sith give those around them something to believe in. A strive for success rather than a fear for failure."

"Are there many like that?" Nami asked.

"Yes, even amongst the more militant sects," Syrosk revealed. "Imperials operate on discipline, a reliable and admirable trait if there ever was one. But there are limits. Push someone past their breaking point, and they'll push back. More than a handful of Sith have been put down by a blaster bolt to the back of the head after ordering the sacrifice of their troops. To inspire loyalty, one must first inspire confidence. To inspire confidence, one must prove their effectiveness. To prove their effectiveness, one must balance selfish desires with the good of the Empire. The Sith are not beholden to the Empire like your Jedi are to the Republic. But neither can we afford to leave our citizens defenseless or downtrodden. There is give and there is take. Sometimes… Sith tend to lean more towards take. Our job will be to deter such actions."

Passing through the curved corridor, the pair saw a label near a hangar entrance. A-7.

"The shuttle should be in here," Syrosk stated, continuing his trek without pause.

Passing through the threshold of the surface hangar entrance, the pair found themselves in a well-organized, well-tended chamber holding a single vessel. The gray brick of a ship sat loftily on its landing struts, its rear engines prepped and ready, emitting their red luminescence. Folding out from its side was an entrance ramp, beside which stood a pair of black flightsuit-clad pilots. The vessel itself stood only a few meters tall and wide, far smaller than the flying domicile that was the Fury-class interceptor. In its hind end, however, the passenger and cargo bays would prove more than sufficient for its expected holdings.

Nearing the shuttle, the Sith and Jedi watched the two pilots snap to attention.

"My lord," one of the pilots called out, her voice electronically tinged as it passed through the all-encompassing helmet's speakers. "How might we be of service?"

"Just make your usual route to Ziost," Syrosk advised. "I intend to enroll my student in the Academy."

"We'd be honored to fly you there, my lord," the pilot followed up. "The ship is ready to go when you are."

"Then let us not waste another moment," Syrosk rasped, a touch of warmth in his otherwise cold voice.

The pilots supplied a pair of confident bows of their heads before stepping onto the shuttle, disappearing into the cramped innards. The Jedi and Sith followed soon afterward, taking their place in the passenger bay. Empty, the travelers had their pick of seats from either of the two rows that hugged the inner hull. Syrosk sat himself down in one of the many unoccupied chairs, his student taking her place in the one adjacent to him. They patiently waited as they heard sounds of the shuttle coming to life.

As the engines roared, the ship offered a quick shake as it lifted itself from its struts and made its way out of the hangar. Passing through the chamber's magnetic barrier, the shuttle transitioned into the main airway that the other hangars circled around. Moving in sync with directions from the starport's monitoring station, the vessel lifted itself higher into the air, unburdened by contestation from other landing or departing starships.

Soon, the shuttle was passing through the planet's dark and crackling atmosphere, well on its way into the vacuum of space.

"So… what's Ziost like?" Nami wondered.

"Cold," Syrosk bluntly stated. "I'd say it's similar to Korriban, but I doubt you're familiar with Korriban so… I'll just stick with cold."

"Oh. Are you sure I shouldn't have changed clothes?" Nami asked.

"You'll receive a new set of robes when you're admitted to the Academy," Syrosk explained.

"But what about before I'm admitted?"

"Just consider enduring the cold your first trial," Syrosk declared.

The pair fell silent. Journeying beyond Dromund Kaas' gravity well, the shuttle pilots plotted their course and made the jump to hyperspace. Traveling faster than the speed of the light, the trip through Imperial space would still take some time. Time spent in relative silence.

Nami still possessed so many more questions. About the Sith. About the Empire. About her future. But she hesitated to disrupt the quiet. As much as she had come to grow comfortable around the harsh alien, she did not want to test his hospitality. He was still the growling Sith that had accepted her only after numerous protests.

And so the pair waited patiently for the vessel to arrive at its destination. Syrosk enjoyed the silence, drawing relaxed breaths within the empty, yet still somehow cramped, passenger bay.

As the Sith sat beside his student, he cautiously reached out with his mind, stealthily trying to glean whatever information he could from the peculiar girl. But still he found her mind an unassailable fortress, only the most surface-level emotions able to be read. Luckily, the girl had calmed since her earlier exasperations. Syrosk recognized the potential in her. The potential for passion. The potential for strength. A potential that frightened as much as enticed. He had seen countless acolytes and apprentices walk the halls of the Korriban Academy. He had seen countless younglings prior to their admission during his time as a recruiter. But this girl was wholly unique. And not simply because she had been a Jedi. The Sith considered himself a master of the mind. To encounter something he did not fully understand disturbed him deeply.

Looking to his student, the alien saw her slightly slumped in her seat, seemingly napping. Despite having spent much of her recent visit to Dromund Kaas unconscious, the girl was still physically and mentally exhausted. It was odd, sharing the space with someone so peaceful. He only hoped that when she awoke, it was Nami that would be sitting beside him.

His hopes were realized as the shuttle dropped out of hyperspace and the girl was shaken awake. The same reserved, quiet girl he had boarded with stirred in her seat as the vessel made its way toward Ziost's surface. As the shuttle touched down, it did so amongst similar circumstances as its point of origin, guiding itself into a hangar of a Logistics operated starport.

"Come on," Syrosk bluntly directed as the shuttle's hatch opened. Nami quickly rose from her seat, following the Sith out onto the hangar floor. The pair were surrounded by familiar surroundings, the interior of the starport resembling its Kaas counterpart in just about every facet.

The pair made their way toward the hangar exit, Syrosk once again setting the pace.

"So, where are we going?" Nami asked.

"We're going to visit some of my former apprentices," Syrosk informed. "They're instructors at the Academy here. They're going to help you prepare for your trials ahead. Or rather, we're going to ask for their help. There's really no guarantee they'll agree to lend a hand."

"I see…" Nami muttered, a heavy trepidation in her voice. "What are they like?"

As the Sith continued his march, he did so in silence. The young girl awaited an answer, but none came. She thought he was being unforthcoming, but in truth, Syrosk didn't know quite how to describe them, even after serving as their master for years.

----------

Standing in front of a quaint domicile built into the base of a high ridge, the pair patiently waited. A chilling wind blew soft flakes of snow, forcing the young girl to rub her hands in an attempt to stay warm. The Sith, meanwhile, remained motionless, braving the cold without any apparent effort. The simple metal abode inlayed in the frosted stone remained stilled, no signs of life emanating from within, until the singular door swung open.

Stepping into view were two figures fighting for dominance in the doorframe, unable to properly accommodate both of their masses. One, a reptilian humanoid rivaling Fay in height. The second, a noseless, leathery humanoid of average height and build. A Trandoshan and a Nikto.

Syrosk passed his calm gaze between his former apprentices. "Nesk. Vurt."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.30.2014 , 09:54 PM | #24
Chapter Sixteen

There was a sharp clattering in the adjacent room as Syrosk and Nami sat on a constricting couch. The room they found themselves in was dark, utterly unadorned, and cold even by Imperial standards. Across from them, the Nikto had taken his seat within a simplistic armchair, casting his calm, deadened gaze upon his guests. The younger of the two leathery, orange Sith in the room wore a face absent of emotion or expression. A fact that did nothing to lessen the growing unease in the young Jedi.

Vurt was no older than the trio of Sith that had taken her in, but his species' rough and wrinkled features forced a haggard appearance and etched a permanent scowl upon his noseless face. A fact the Nikto did nothing to rectify. Small, stubby horns sprouted from his brow and chin, but it was his eyes that would continue to hold the girl's attention. His cold, unwavering, beady eyes.

Eventually, Vurt's gaze stopped passing between the two guests, focusing solely on the young Jedi. Her hands neatly folded upon her lap, Nami struggled to keep herself still. She had escaped the outside cold, but something else continued to force her arms to tremble as shivers ran up her spine.

Breaking the tension, the Trandoshan stepped into the room, a metallic tray in his hands. Upon the platter balanced a pair of cups that clinked with every motion the intimidating Sith took, threatening to spill their contents with each step. As he set the platter down upon the table in front of his guests, the murky liquid within jostled, a few drops managing to push past the cups' rims.

Straightening his posture, the Trandoshan dominated the space of the room. But despite his size, Nesk managed to cut a sharp figure, his powerful musculature hidden beneath thick, sandy-brown scales. His hands and feet went unburdened by coverings as the rest of his body went wrapped by simplistic black robes. As Nami studied the imposing figure, she couldn't help but notice that one of his hands possessed a lighter shade of scales that the rest of his body.

"Here… drink," Nesk bluntly spoke. Whether the scaled Sith was offering a description or issuing a command, the young Jedi did not know. He spoke with a firm enough grasp of Basic, but every sound that slipped out of his mouth seemed dominated by a snarling dialect.

Without a word, Syrosk reached out, taking one of the cups in his rough hands, silently urging the girl beside him to do the same. Nami grasped the small container with both hands, welcoming the touch of warmth. Bringing the black beverage toward her face, her nostrils were assaulted by a sharp, pungent odor. As Syrosk moved his cup to his leathery lips, taking a sip that could only be described as dainty, the young Jedi opted maintain her grip at a safe distance, forcing a smile as the two other Sith continued to offer their beady stares. As the Nikto continued to sit, the Nesk opted to stand at his side.

"Syrosk," the Trandoshan muttered.

"Nesk," the Sith Lord replied.

"How is the leg?" Nesk asked.

"Serviceable," Syrosk declared. "How's the hand?"

Nesk raised his right hand, one possessing a lighter shade of scales compared to the rest of his body. "Regenerated."

"That's good to hear," Syrosk offered, taking another sip of his drink.

"Why has it come here?" Nesk asked.

Syrosk pulled the cup away from his lips, everything about him steady, if not sluggish. The silence hung heavy for the moment as the elder Sith waited to respond. "I need your help. The both of you."

The Trandoshan and Nikto looked to one another, before reaffirming their gaze upon their former master.

"With what?" Nesk pressed.

"With the girl," Syrosk replied. The two Sith turned, casting their gaze on the girl who was doing everything she could to keep from squirming. "She's to become a Sith. My new apprentice. She's entering the Ziost Academy directly into the hands of an Overseer. But I'd still like you to offer some prior instruction."

Nesk refused to tear his gaze away from the girl. "Why? Is it weak?"

"No. But she is a… special case," Syrosk calmly stated.

"How so?" Nesk asked.

"She is a former Jedi," Syrosk revealed. Another chill shot up the girl's spine as she felt the Sith reaffirming their gazes. As unexpressive as the rough pair were, it became plainly obvious that they were capable of arching their brows. "As expedited as her training will be, I intend for it to fulfill every standard of the Order. When she becomes Sith, there cannot be room to dispute her."

"But it still seeks an advantage?" Nesk asked, turning back toward his former master.

"I merely seek to offset the disadvantage of being a Jedi amongst Sith," Syrosk replied. "If she has truly turned her back on her former Order, then I'd not see her efforts here disrupted. She needs to spend as little time in the Academy as possible, whilst still being able to say she graduated the Academy."

The Trandoshan began scratching his chin, the sounds of claws against rough scales filling the room. "How long until it is given to Overseer?"

"No more than a week," Syrosk answered.

"Cannot do much with one week," Nesk admitted.

"She's already more skilled than your typical acolyte," Syrosk said. "I just need you two to give her some conditioning. Making sure her skills can be utilized in an Academy setting."

"Is it to compete with other acolytes?" asked Nesk. "Is possible for Overseer to judge a single acolyte for a Sith Lord."

"She'd break under the scrutiny," Syrosk countered. "Any Overseer given a Jedi to test would do everything in their power to keep them from becoming an apprentice, especially to a Sith Lord of my caliber."

The Trandoshan released an unsure groan. "Why not just give it to Lorrik?"

"As many liberties as we're taking with the system, we still abide by its rules. I need this to appear as legitimate as realistically possible," Syrosk admitted. "You two are instructors. You can train her here without drawing notice. Were she to associate with someone like Lorrik, we'd both the Sphere of Sith Philosophy breathing down our necks."

"Is it worth the trouble?" Nesk asked, shooting a quick, but sharp, glare toward the young Jedi.

Syrosk turned toward the girl, who looked to him with wide-eyes. "That remains to be seen." Nami's head dipped. The warmth that once graced her hands was slowly fading, the cup's contents adapting to room temperature. "But, nonetheless, she deserves this chance, I suppose."

A gentle smile graced the girl's lips. Meanwhile, the two Sith across from her turned to one another, sharing a series of silent looks. Eventually, a soft groan emanated from the Trandoshan's snarly mouth. "Fine. If it wants a new apprentice, it will have a new apprentice. We owe it that much."

Syrosk offered a polite dip of his horned head. "I appreciate it. And I won't forget this."

"We know it won't," Nesk muttered, stepping away from the gathering. As the Trandoshan disappeared deeper into the dwelling, the remaining three figures were left with the heavy silence.

"Is… is that it?" Nami whispered, leaning in close to the elder Sith. "Just like that?"

"As needlessly complicated Sith affairs can be at times, they can often be rather simple," Syrosk replied. "A fact that is neither good nor bad."

As Nami dwelt on the Sith Lord's words, she couldn't help but still feel the sting of the Nikto's cold, enduring glare. "Does that one ever speak?"

"Not often, no," Syrosk plainly stated, voice absent of judgment. "But he'll prove an effective tutor, as will Nesk."

"Is there much they can do with a week?" asked Nami.

"You'd be surprised," Syrosk admitted. "They may be tougher on you than the Overseer."

"I thought the entire point of this was because an Overseer might be too hard on me," Nami softly said.

"The entire point of this was fairness," Syrosk admitted. "I'd see you rightfully judged. That does not mean I'd see you untested. If you want to be a Sith, you still must prove yourself. I just know that these two will treat you fairly. Harshly, but fairly."

Another distant sound of jostling metals echoed through the dwelling, but this time, it did not come from the kitchen. Emerging from a shadowed corridor, Nesk stepped into view of his guests. Upon his back, two full length blades lay strapped upon his back, utterly black and utterly sharp. Accompanying the dueling swords, a long rucksack was held over the Trandoshan's shoulder, a unknown collection of solid materials resting within.

"Its training begins now. Let's go," Nesk quickly spoke up, thrusting his head toward the door.

"What? Like, right now?" Nami muttered.

"It has only a week. Maybe less. No time to waste," Nesk bluntly explained. "If it wants to be Sith, it must learn Sith ways. Come."

The young Jedi turned to the elder Sith, who offered only a dismissive shrug. "I'd listen to him if I were you."

Nami set her cup on the tray in front of her, still filled to the brim, its contents untouched. The girl carefully stepped away from the seated Sith, moving toward the Trandoshan. Standing at his side, she couldn't help but stand in the imposing figure's shadow. Having already basked in the presence of Fay, Nami was used to height discrepancies, but Nesk possessed a far-different aura about him. Whereas the woman she had met exuded a calm, collected countenance, the Trandoshan's apparent calm seemed only a facade. A fiery passion rest beneath his eyes, beneath his scales, one that wanted nothing more than to be released.

Nesk approached the home's entrance, inviting a brisk chill as he opened the door. The girl turned back to the elder Sith, but he offered nothing. His expression blank, his eyes cold, Syrosk seemed to purposely offer as little as he could that might make the girl want to stay. Without protest, Nami followed her new instructor out into the cold of the Ziost exterior, unsure of her destination or fate.

As the door resealed, the two silent Sith remained sitting in the quaint dwelling's central room. Syrosk and Vurt offered each other their own unique brand of cold, emotionless glares. Breaking the silence and stillness, the Nikto leaned forward, thick fingers interlocked as he rest his elbows on his thighs.

"I assume there's something more to this," Vurt stated, almost whispering. His voice was utterly deep, utterly smooth.

"There always is, isn't there?" Syrosk slowly replied, setting his cup on the tray in front of him.

"I never expected you to take another apprentice," Vurt declared.

"Neither did I," Syrosk admitted. "But I didn't have much choice in the matter."

"But you still want her to succeed," Vurt offered. "If you wanted to be rid of her, you wouldn't have brought her to us."

Syrosk's head dipped as his eyes drifted toward the floor. "She is skilled and wants to become Sith. I'd not see her talent wasted because of whatever prejudices are present in the Academy and its staff."

"You've trained aliens, slaves, and now, fallen Jedi," Vurt listed. "Did you ever think to do things normally for once?"

"That's what I thought I'd be doing with Logistics," Syrosk muttered, before a pause. "It would seem even there I cannot escape the peculiar. Even discounting the girl, the other Sith I'm overseeing are anything but normal."

"You know, you never told us her name," Vurt stated.

"I guess I didn't," Syrosk replied, leaving it at that.

The Nikto sharpened his gaze as he stared at his former master. "What aren't you telling us about her?"

"A great, many things," Syrosk whispered. Without another word, the elder Sith rose from his seat and stepped toward the home's entrance. The Nikto remained seated, barely turning his neck toward the exiting Sith. As Syrosk stood at the door, he paused, hand hovering over the nearby controls. "I'll stay in contact."

"We'll call if she dies," Vurt bluntly said, not even facing the exiting Sith Lord.

With that, the exchange was over. Syrosk stepped into the cold exterior of Ziost. In the distance, the Sith Lord could see the Nami and Nesk growing smaller and smaller on the horizon. Walking a path of cracked stone, the motley pair journeyed out into the wilderness, toward the lands untouched by civilization. Wherever their destination, it did not involve the local Academy.

Leaving the domicile of his former apprentices, Syrosk set out back toward the nearby starport. The wintery settlement that surrounded him possessed a gray malaise, lacking the harsh simplicity of Korriban, lacking the rigid oppression of Dromund Kaas. It was a place of blocks stacked upon blocks, everything seemingly connected by a thin sheet of ice. The streets and paths were bare, Imperials and Sith alike seeking the bastion of internal dwellings. Structures rose tall and stretched wide, but none drew particular notice. The place was plain, as plain as an Imperial world could be. Military and logistics offices dotted the landscape. The Sith's sacred institution of learning sat high upon one of the numerous icy peaks. Aerial defense batteries lined the countless ridges, perpetually setting their barrels toward the sky as icicles hung from their tips.

As a whole, the place lacked the grandeur of its brothers. It was one of three worlds the Sith Empire could call home, but it was content to be a place of purpose rather than presentation.

As the cold wind continued to kick the tail of the Sith Lord's black coat, he pressed forward, intent on returning to Dromund Kaas.

----------

Time passed. Hour after hour came and went in silence. Syrosk traversed the lines of transportation, briefly interacting with the Logistics workers whom operated along his path. Boarding a shuttle, he sat alone in a constrictive passenger bay as the vessel traversed the atmosphere, the stars, and hyperspace. On route to his base, Syrosk had only his thoughts with him. Thoughts that turned to the girl he had left on Ziost. Thoughts that turned toward the future. There were countless possibilities. Countless outcomes. Many of which he knew he had no hand in influencing. Soon, the system would take hold. The infallible system. The system he submitted to following the war's end.

Oddly uplifting, was the thought. And yet, it was simultaneously burdensome. He had let go. The matter was out of his hands. Whatever happened, happened. Matters were left to fate. And yet, they weren't. They were left to each individual. They were left to him, to Nami, to Nesk and Vurt, to the Overseers, to Vowrawn. If he relinquished control, someone else would assume it. And that same truth existed in every other facet of his life. Of every Sith's life.

Eventually, the shuttle ferrying Syrosk touched down amidst the familiar capital. Beneath the darkened and crackling skies. Amidst spires and monuments to the glory of the Empire. How long it had been since his original departure, he did not know. How long it had been since he last slept, he did not know. Dromund Kaas has finished at least one rotation in his absence. During which, the gears of bureaucracy turned without him. Logistics continued to operate. The Empire continued to exist. Little was forced to change or adapt to the missing Executor.

Emerging from the gray shuttle, Syrosk offered an appreciative nod to the bowing pilots before making his way through the hangar. Like clockwork the starport operated, the Sith Lord the lone piece of dust drifting between the cogs of the machine. Ascending the lift out of the hangar, Syrosk drew a heavy breath, wondering what awaited back at the Citadel. Part of him wished for everything to be operating at its peak. And yet, another wanted something to be amiss, some measure to validate his continued presence there.

Stepping off the lift, the Sith Lord trudged along the curved walkway that made up the starport's main surface corridor. Passing branch after branch, lift after lift, Syrosk paid no mind to the various movements and operations of technicians and administrators. That is, until he noticed a peculiar amount of activity surrounding one of the cargo elevators. The one he knew led to the hangar belonging to Asher, Fay, and Graves.

A repulsor-assisted loader carried crate upon crate onto the lift. The boxy containers differed in size, but all bared the designation of Logistics supplies.

Taking another step toward the lift, an overseeing Imperial wielding a datapad took notice of Syrosk's approach.

"My lord," the Imperial shot off, straightening his posture. "This is the last of the supplies you've requested."

Syrosk paused, passing his gaze between the Logistics officer and the bundle of crates. After letting the silence hang for a few moments, the Executor finally spoke. "I see. Thank you."

The Imperial offered an appreciative nod before hastily stepping onto the industrial lift. Before he could descend, the Sith Lord followed, taking his position beside the assemblage of stacked crates atop the loader. The officer bit his lip as he buried his face in the datapad, keeping silent as he urged the lift downward.

As the lift came to a stop, the Executor was granted sight into a bustling hangar. In its center, a Fury-class interceptor sat, being tended by an abnormally large group. Imperials garbed in work clothes carted crates up and down the vessel's lowered entrance ramp, full boxes going in, empty ones coming out. Meanwhile, three figures stood out from the rest, standing watch over the entire proceedings. Syrosk stepped off the lift, an unusual haste to his otherwise sluggish advance.

Near the parked interceptor, three Sith watched as the starport workers carted supplies onto their ship.

"Alright," Asher called out, to no one in particular. "We don't exactly know what sort of timetable we're working with, but let's get this done, people. Remember, these requests come all the way from a Dark Councilor."

"They do, do they?" a chilled rasp emanated from behind the wrapped Sith. Asher jumped, spinning on his heels to find the cold stare of his boss planted directly on him.

"Syrosk! You're back. How's things?" Asher asked in his most diplomatic tone.

"I do hope you're not going to make me ask for an explanation," Syrosk plainly offered.

"Well, we figured the ship needed some renovations, especially with a fourth joining our team," Asher explaining, trying to maintain his calm. "I mean, have you see what passes for sanitary fixtures on a stock Imperial vessel? We just made a few requests to better serve the Executors."

"He uses the word 'we' very loosely," Fay bluntly stated. "This was practically all his idea."

"Wow, just throw me under the shuttle, why don't you?" Asher chided.

"If I wanted, I could literally do so," Fay replied, maintaining her stoic demeanor.

Behind the Sith Lord, the loader carrying the last batch of supplies came to a stop alongside its attendant, who kept his gaze lowered in the presence of the four powerful figures.

"Excuse me, my lords, but where do you want us to put the exercise equipment?" the Imperial sheepishly spoke up, almost afraid to bother the four Sith.

"The left wing is fine for now," Fay politely offered. Without another word, the Imperial ducked away, bringing the loader with him. As the man slipped away, the other three Sith looked to the tall woman. "Alright, it was only mostly his idea."

A low grumble slipped past Syrosk's lips as he rubbed his brow.

"How did things go on Ziost?" Graves spoke up, changing the subject.

"As well as expected," Syrosk admitted. "Nami's in the hands of my former apprentices. They'll prepare her for her trials in the Academy."

"What do we do until she graduates?" Fay asked.

"The same thing we were going to do prior to you bringing home a wayward Jedi. Work," Syrosk rasped. "Now come on, we've wasted enough time."

The Executor quickly turned on his heels and began making his way back toward the lift, his underlings following soon after.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.08.2014 , 08:25 PM | #25
Chapter Seventeen

The world was a gray haze.

The air was thick with an icy fog, suffocating the light provided by Ziost's sun. The wind carried flakes of snow that stung the flesh, until it would inevitably become numb. In the throes of a harsh winter, the planet punished any who strayed beyond the protection of its settlements. But there were those who would voluntarily brave the unforgiving wastes. For there was strength to be found there. To be earned there.

Two figures marched across the frozen wasteland, feet sinking beneath the top layer of snow, robes fluttering under the constant barrage of wind. Ziost was home to every manner of Imperial influence. Government offices were stacked upon each other, surrounded by their urban kin. Military bases dotted the landscape, testing the mettle of soldiers amidst the unforgiving climate. Tombs stretched high and low, carved from the frozen stone countless generations ago. The Academy stood atop its peak, casting its shadow over the surrounding grounds.

But the two figures had need for none of that. In whatever direction the Empire's roots on the planet spread, they move toward the opposite. They had no interest in what the Empire could provide. They sought gains from the emptiness.

Nesk led the way through the haze, stomping across the gray flatlands with nothing to guide his path. He followed no maps. No beacons. Only the knowledge that rest firmly in his own mind. Trailing the Trandoshan, Nami struggled to keep up with her indomitable instructor. She had nothing but the robes upon her back, and the lightsaber clipped to her belt. She trudged, panning her gaze as he struggled to maintain the feeling in her extremities. In all directions, all she could see was fog. Turning back, she could only see a brief series of footprints before they were consumed by the gray haze. No mountains sprouted from the horizon. No hints of the settlement they had left behind. Returning her gaze forward, the girl saw only the faint silhouette of the large Sith ahead. With a shivered curse, the Jedi pushed herself forward, eager to catch up.

There hadn't been a word exchanged between the pair since their departure from Nesk's home. Since leaving Syrosk's side. Nami had thought to ask a question. Where were they going? How much further would they have to walk? What were they going to do once they got there? But she decided it was folly. No answer could possibly sate her curiosity. If anything, it would only prove disheartening.

As the girl mindlessly pressed forward, she constricted her frame, hands constantly rubbing her arms in an attempt to stay warm. She bundled into herself, forcing her sleeves past her fingers, keeping her head concealed beneath her hood before the wind would inevitably blow the brown cloth backward. Her only concern was staying warm. A concern that dominated her so much that she didn't even notice her instructor stop.

With an inaudible thud, the girl walked into the back of Nesk, colliding the wrapped bundle of supplied he wore upon his back. Nami stumbled backwards, whilst the Trandoshan refused to budge in the slightest. The girl shook her head, trying to regain her composure.

"Are we… are we here?" Nami asked, lips quivering and numb.

"Yes," Nesk plainly stated. As the Trandoshan kept his eye glued to the forward horizon, the Jedi moved around his side. Just as she was about to take another step, she found a firm, clawed hand clutching at her shoulder. The girl paused as her eyes grew incredibly wide, only now seeing what lay ahead.

Beneath the fog, the flatlands that seemed to stretch into infinity had come to an abrupt stop. Only a few steps in front of the pair, there was a shear drop into a sharp, unforgiving abyss. The fissure stretched to the left and right, its extremities fading beneath the gray haze

As the Trandoshan released his grip on the girl's shoulder, Nami took a couple of careful steps back. Nesk, meanwhile, quickly slipped the long rucksack over his shoulder, letting it fall to his feet. The heavy bag sunk into the snow, rattling with a series of metallic clanks.

"Now, we train," Nesk declared.

"How?" Nami softly asked.

"We fight," Nesk plainly answered. "Does it have a lightsaber?"

"Yes."

"Give it."

The girl reached beneath her robes, returning with a simple gray hilt in her hand. The Trandoshan held out his palm, his motions rigid and unshaken by the surrounding cold. Nami complied, placing the metallic cylinder in her instructor's large hand. Nesk clenched his grip, turning the weapon over to examine its every facet and curve.

Without warning, the Trandoshan pulled his arm back before tossing the lightsaber with a powerful throw. In a matter of moments, the weapon disappeared into the rocky fissure, falling into the darkness below. All Nami could do was stare, mouth agape.

"Is Jedi thing. It doesn't need Jedi things," Nesk declared.

"Did you have to… throw it over a cliff?" Nami muttered.

"No ties to old life. Only new one. Besides, cannot enter Academy with lightsaber. Too dangerous," Nesk explained. "Cannot appear too strong. Be strong on inside. Not outside."

"So how are we… supposed to train?" Nami asked.

The Trandoshan lowered himself to the ground, knee digging into the snow. Opening the rucksack, the instructor revealed two metallic rods the length of an extended lightsaber. Unlike the training sabers the Jedi was familiar with, they were simplistic, unshaped and without energy arrays.

Wrapping his clawed digits around one of the rods, Nesk picked up the simple tool and tossed it toward the girl's feet. Nami jumped as the piece of metal slammed into the ground, leaving a perfect imprint in the snow as it collided with the stone beneath with a loud thud. Reaching down, the Jedi wrapped her cold fingers around of the rod's end, only to find herself incapable of lifting it with a single hand. Reinforcing her grip with her other hand, the girl released a soft groan as she picked one of the ends into the air, the other still sufficiently dug into the snow.

"What the heck is this thing made of? Durasteel?" Nami muttered as she managed to lift one end of the rod past her waist.

"No. Durasteel not heavy enough," Nesk plainly answered. The girl looked up to see the Trandoshan palming the second of the rods he had packed. In one, swift motion, he single-handedly lifted the rod into the air, before resting its length against his shoulder.

"Is this what Sith use as training sabers?" Nami asked, slowly raising the tip of her rounded bar off the ground.

"Not Sith. Just me," Nesk replied. "Training sabers do not put fear of the blade into you."

"I already know what happens… when you touch a lightsaber," Nami declared, almost offended. "Is this really necessary?"

"That was Jedi learning. Only Sith learning from now on," Nesk replied.

The girl released a grunt as she raised her rod upright, struggling to keep it balanced within her grip. "Getting hit with this… could still kill someone. Why not just use a lightsaber… if the end result is the same?"

"Is easy to swing lightsaber. Should take effort. It is still soft thing. If it can swing that, it will be ready to continue," Nesk explained.

"Okay, but-"

Before Nami could finish her thought, the Trandoshan was upon her. With a primal snarl, Nesk raised his weapon high into the air, before bringing it down with a cascading swing. The Jedi barely stepped out of the way as the heavy rod imbedded its tip into where her feet previously stood. Nami stumbled in the snow, struggling to maintain her balance alongside the heavy object in her hands. As she secured her footing, her eyes went wide as she stared at her instructor. The tip of his weapon still embedded in the ground, the subtle sounds of still-crackling stone managed to overpower those of the passing winds. All the while, the Trandoshan stood completely still, beady eyes burning a hole through the girl's psyche. Still only a single hand wrapped around the rod, Nesk pulled his weapon from the ground, holding it as he would a saber as he took another step toward the student.

----------

Back in Kaas City, Syrosk led his three underlings through the constricting halls of the Citadel back toward his home and office.

"So, we already got another mission lined up?" Asher spoke up, trailing the uneven gait of his boss.

"Not a mission," Syrosk bluntly replied. The other three Sith offered a series of arched brows. "I need to test you before you're sent back into the field."

"Is this because of Nami?" Fay asked.

"No. This was always intended to be a part of your induction into the organization," Syrosk admitted.

"Mental conditioning, right?" Graves offered, recalling their initial talks with the Executor.

"Correct," Syrosk replied. "You proved yourselves capable of action when you successfully completed your first mission. Now you need to prove that your thoughts can stand up to forceful intrusions."

The group came to a stop in front of the door leading to Syrosk's dwelling.

"We don't have to lay on your weird inquisitor's slab, do we?" Asher plainly offered.

"No," Syrosk plainly answered. The door rescinded into its recess, granting access to the dwelling. Just as the three younger Sith were about to step inside, the alien offered a halting hand. "I'll be dealing with you individually. The rest can wait outside. Now, who wants to go first?"

The three subordinates looked to one another, bouncing their gazes time and time again as silence overtook them. Only after a few long moments was the quiet broken by the burned Sith releasing a droning sigh.

"Fine," Asher spoke up. "I'll go first."

"Wonderful," Syrosk rasped, completely deadpan. With that, the Sith Lord escorted Asher into his home and office, leaving Graves and Fay alone in the empty hallway. The tall woman and scarred man looked to one another, unsure of what to do, until they simultaneously decided to lean against the nearby walls. All they could do now was wait.

Inside, Syrosk waved his hand toward the chair that once held an unconscious Nami. "Take a seat."

Asher complied, setting himself down in the chair, arms resting to his side. As he did, Syrosk circled around to the seat's rear, disappearing from the burned Sith's view.

"Now, close your eyes," Syrosk instructed.

Once more, the Sith complied, without a fuss.

"Now, open your eyes."

Asher did so, only to find himself no longer within the Executor's domicile. No longer within the Citadel. Instead, he stood in the middle of an infinite white void. The burned Sith spun on his heels, only to see Syrosk standing behind him, the only other object occupying the vast emptiness that surrounded them. Together, they stood on some immaculate, perfect surface. Unfathomably smooth. Unfathomably clean. A thing of dreams rather than reality.

"Neat trick," Asher dismissively offered alongside a shrug of his shoulders.

The Sith Lord stood across from him, only the smallest of gaps separating them. As alien looked up and down his subordinate, he offered a single arch of his brow.

"Curious," Syrosk rasped.

"What?" Asher shot back.

"I thought you might have looked different," Syrosk admitted.

Asher looked down to see his torso went uncovered, but not unwrapped. The various robes and coats, the various pockets and bandoliers, they were all missing. The only thing the Human wore was a simple pair of black trousers, the only thing covering his upper half being the all-encompassing bandages that hid his burnt flesh. Asher raised his hands, turning them over as he examined his form.

"This is the mental representation you've created for yourself," Syrosk explained. "I didn't know whether it'd be burned or not."

"Let me guess, that means something, doesn't it?" Asher asked, already knowing the answer.

"It means this is who you are. Who you want to be. This is your most satisfactory form," Syrosk detailed.

"So, we're in my mind, huh?" Asher calmly said, looking around the blank void. "I thought it'd look different."

"This is but a piece of your mind. A piece I have partitioned. A piece I control," Syrosk rasped.

"Yeah, yeah, telepath. I get it," Asher dismissed. As he once more held his hands before his face, the Human's eyes went wide as he watched a budding flame blossom from his palms. The fire grew and spread, eventually traveling up his arms and dancing upon his shoulders. "Pretty cool."

"This is not a time for playing," Syrosk declared.

The other Sith offered a slight pout as he mentally extinguished the flames crawling up his body. "Alright, what are we doing, then? Am I supposed to be trying to force you out right now?"

"If you were able, it would mean putting a stop to this," Syrosk revealed. "You could get up, walk out, have the rest of the day to yourself."

"Fine," Asher muttered. Without another word, the burned Sith closed his eyes and concentrated. He was a part of himself within a part of himself. He didn't know exactly how to proceed, but his trials had conditioned more than his body. The Sith looked inward, and outward, and inward again, trying to pinpoint what exactly was occurring within his mind. There was an intrusion. A foreign body. A foreign mind. There had to be a way to excise it. Devoting his energy to pushing Syrosk out of his mind, Asher gritted his teeth before exhaling the breath he had inadvertently been holding, despite the fact that he no longer needed air to function on the peculiar mindscape.

Opening his eyes, Asher could only stare as he saw himself no longer within the white void. Only, he wasn't in the Citadel either.

A cold, metallic platform stretched beneath the Sith's feet, its edges hanging over a rocky cliff. Beyond, the orange crags and skies of Korriban. As a shuttle lifted off in the distance, Asher quickly realized Syrosk no longer stood in front of him. But neither was he alone. Ahead, a figure stood out in the Sith's mind amongst the group of acolytes that surrounded him.

A teenager. Human male. Slightly diminutive height. Dark, unkempt hair. Soft, fair skin. A hooked smile upon his face. A set of gray robes wrapping his body. Murel Azer.

"I wasn't sure if you're form would more resemble that," said the voice of Syrosk. Immediately turning his head, Asher saw his superior standing at his side, casting his cold gaze forward. "So these are your most cherished memories. Ones not of family or childhood, but of the Academy."

"I don't know if I'd call them cherished," Asher muttered.

Before his eyes, the scene shifted, wiping away only to be replaced by another. Gone was the landing platform, in its place one of the dueling circles that populated the Academy grounds. Teenagers clashed training sabers under the stern gaze of an instructor. Two figures were locked in combat, the larger utilizing wide, brutish swings, the smaller deftly ducking out of the way.

"Why wouldn't they be?" Syrosk inquired. "The Academy gave you everything you could have possibly wanted. Before Korriban, you had nothing. You received nothing in the way of admiration or love from your parents, even when it was discovered you were Force-sensitive. It was expected of you. Being a Sith was literally the least you could do in their eyes. But what you never received from them, you finally found from your fellow acolytes."

Asher released a scoff and a roll of his eyes as the scene faded once again, now taking the form of the Academy's interior halls. "Oh yeah, I receives tons of admiration from the other students."

"Not admiration. Attention," Syrosk clarified. In front of the pair, a lone Sith sat at his desk, a series of tools spread out in front of him. Under the light of a small lamp, the acolyte labored away, tinkering with his training saber, its casing opened and its innards on display. Circuits were rewired. Energy arrays were bolstered. Components were pushed to their limits.

The environment wiped away again, returning to the dueling circles outside the Academy. Two acolytes found themselves at each other's blade under the glare of an instructor once more. The larger combatant was unable to land a hit on the smaller foe, but neither could the shorter fighter land a direct strike. But he didn't need one. One light slash with the enhance training saber, and its target began howling in pain. A black gash presented itself in the larger acolyte's robes, and underneath lay charred and blackened flesh.

"You knew there was little room for friendship amongst your fellow Sith," Syrosk continued. "But you weren't content with simple progression. Simple superiority. You wanted to prove yourself. You wanted to be noticed. You did everything in your power to not be forgotten."

"So what?" Asher grumbled. "Obscurity doesn't get you out of the Academy. You have to get people to notice you if you want to become an apprentice."

"It wasn't those above you that you were interested in impressing though, was it?" Syrosk rasped. "This was about more than proving how skilled you were. You wanted everyone to know how smart you were. How creative you were. How unique you were. How special you were. Things a child expects to hear from their parents."

"Is the psychology lesson over yet?" Asher dismissed, crossing his arms.

Syrosk released a low chortle. "But you finally found something, didn't you? Or rather, someone?"

The scene shifted, but the environment endured. Only its occupants changed. As years passed, the rock and stone of the Academy grounds remained a rigid and unforgiving constant. Its denizens, however, displayed palpable change. The Human acolyte from before had exchanged his gray robes for a darker set. Exchanged his classmates for a new batch. Exchanged his instructor for an Overseer.

Standing out from the rest, a sturdy figure. Human male. Tanned skin. Hair kept short. Face populated by an array of scratches and scars.

"You found a rival," Syrosk continued. "Someone to finally give you the attention you so desired. Someone to hate. Someone to hate you back. Someone to give more than the cold ambivalence offered by your fellow students, by your instructors, by your parents. The man you knew only as Graves."

In front of the Sith, the acolytes began to fade, one by one, until only two remained, staring one another down under the brutal Korriban sun.

"You were competing for the apprenticeship of Lord Traer. But the Sith Lord was the last thing on your mind," Syrosk rasped. "You had found someone able to keep up with you. Someone able to match you. Someone able to combat your intuitiveness with raw determination. As each of the other acolytes were eliminated, you prayed he would be the last to go. You had seen how calm he was. But as you prodded him, he gave you precisely the response you desired. He was a mirror, dishing out as much as you could put in. When the day came for Traer to choose his apprentice, there was an emptiness inside you. You knew what awaited as an apprentice. You could not test a Lord as you would a fellow acolyte. You knew how worthless you were to a superior. Traer could never give you what the Academy offered, but neither could you stay. So, you fought, ready to kill the one person with whom you shared a bond with."

Before the observing Sith, the younger versions of Asher and Graves stood opposite each other, under the watchful eyes of a cloaked Sith Lord. The dark figure stood shadowed even under the enduring light of the Korriban sun, visage concealed beneath a black hood. All that shone through was a crooked smile.

Asher and Graves drew their blades, actual lightsabers gifted to them for their final duel. The blades shined with a harsh crimson, their tips directed toward their opponent. With the drop of the Sith Lord's hand, the two charged one another, meeting with a resounding clash. Graves was the slower of the two, lashing out with sluggish, but powerful blows. Asher kept his head low, ducking and weaving around the swinging blade, darting around the dueling circle. The lighter Sith offered only cursory jabs of his blade, piercing the outer edges of his opponent's frame.

The blade's tip would pass through the other acolyte's robes, singeing the flesh beneath. But the scarred combatant continued undeterred. The two continued, dancing around one another with varying degrees of martial grace. As duel progressed under the invested eyes of Lord Traer, he studied his potential apprentices, reveling in the display.

Despite Asher's countless jabs, he was unable to fully pierce his opponent's guard. The unarmored Graves possessed dots lining his robes, holes where his foe's saber had shallowly imbedded its tip. But the warrior was unaffected by pain. Asher thought the tiny injuries would eventually bring his opponent down, but there he stood, unwavering. Reaching toward his waist, the smaller Sith revealed a flask clipped to his belt, hidden under a flap of his robes.

In one swift motion, the Sith removed the lid with the flick of his thumb. Thrusting his free hand forward, a globule of liquid vacated the flask, flung telekinetically toward Graves. The warrior raised his guard just as his opponent offered a snap of his fingers. The liquid dispersed and ignited, surrounding Graves in an explosive fireball.

The fiery plume encased the warrior's upper body, but was kept at bay by the acolyte's defenses. An invisible sphere surrounded Graves, one that kept the flames at bay. The Force barrier had blocked the attack, but as the flames dissipated, the warrior found his opponent rushing toward him. His free hand extended, Graves could do nothing to prevent Asher from lopping off his left arm just below the shoulder.

As the limb fell to the hard ground, Graves stumbled backward. His other hand still wrapped around his weapon, the warrior saw no need to clutch at the cauterized wound. Instead, he remained standing, burning a hole through his opponent with his eyes. He was not beaten. Not yet.

But Asher would not allow his foe to remain standing. He reached toward the flask at his waist, emptying the remaining contents into the air. As the fuel moved between the two Sith, Asher's eyes went wide as he saw the one-armed man on the offense. He had no time to react as Graves closed the gap, swinging his crimson blade between them. The plasma ignited the fuel, engulfing the pair in fireball. The barrier that surrounded Graves protected him. Asher was not so lucky.

The burned Sith stumbled back, his torso aflame. The surrounding air fueled the fire. The black robes provided the means to spread. Falling upon his back, he possessed not his opponent's tolerance for pain. Attempting to release a harsh yelp, the acolyte found himself choking on the fire and smoke that engulfed his upper body. Rolling upon the hard stone beneath him, Asher attempted to snuff of the fire as his opponent simply stood over him, watching.

Graves was frozen. Despite his nerves offering him no feedback, his body did have its limits. He was exhausted, even if unburdened by pain. As his grip loosened, the weapon fell from his hand, deactivating at it struck the ground. The warrior fell back, colliding with hard stone with a loud thud.

Asher continued to writhe on the ground. The flames were gone, but the lingering effects were not. Blackened cloth stuck to blackened flesh. Only now could the Sith breath. He should have collapsed. Should have expired. But something kept him going. Gone was the fair skin. Gone was the hair atop his head. All that remained was the scorched form of an enduring acolyte. Clawing at the stone beneath him, Asher clenched his fists as he attempted to rise. His arms supporting his weight, they bounced between numbness and excruciating pain. But still he rose. As screams slipped through gritted teeth, the Sith pushed himself up.

The sounds echoed throughout Asher's mind. The howls, the screams, the yells, all his, overlapping and intensifying with each passing moment, drowning out all else. Watching his scorched form lift himself up, Asher clenched his hands and teeth, shutting his eyes with all might.

Finally, they opened.

Gone was the void. Gone was Korriban. All that stood before Asher was the quaint office of Syrosk, and the Sith Lord himself positioned in front of him. The subordinate's hand were clenched around the chair's armrests as his eyes darted across the room, his breathing quick and heavy.

Meanwhile, Syrosk appeared almost nonchalant.

"You can tell the next one to come in now."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.20.2014 , 12:41 AM | #26
Chapter Eighteen

Just as they had attained some measure of comfort, Graves and Fay saw their teammate exit Syrosk's office, his head held at a slight dip. Pausing, Asher offered a few rapid blinks as a shiver ran up his spine. Finally, his shoulders drooped as a low sigh slipped past his lips.

"Something wrong?" Graves asked.

Asher perked up, immediately straightening out his stance before releasing his blathering reply. "What? Wrong? No. Nothing's wrong. Why? What makes you say that?"

"Well, the fact that you were only in there a few seconds," Graves said.

"A few seconds?" Asher mumbled as he tilted his head, eyes narrowing.

"You okay?" Fay asked, more inquisitive than concerned. "You seem a little out of it."

"No… I'm just… tired?" Asher muttered, unsure of his own answer. "Anyway. Whichever one of you wants to go next can go ahead."

Graves and Fay looked to one another, neither jumping at the opportunity.

"If I go, can you keep an eye on him?" Graves asked.

"Sure," Fay replied.

The scarred Sith removed himself from the wall, his spot soon taken by the burned teammate. Graves disappeared into the dwelling, shutting the door behind him, leaving Asher and Fay alone in the hallway. As the tall Sith leaned against the wall, her arms crossed, she shot a quick glance over to the burned man, the both of them consumed with silence. Asher's eyes were closed in a harsh squint as he rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"What happened in there?" Fay asked.

"He put me in my own mind," Asher replied, somewhat regaining his composure. Relaxing his stance, the burned Sith drew in a heavy breath before releasing it, finishing things off with a quick shake of his head. "He could access my memories. Show them to me. Make me feel them. The day Graves and I fought…"

"Made you relive the pain?" Fay suggested.

"Made me live the memory," Asher clarified. "I experienced what I thought I experienced that day. What my mind assigned to our fight."

"So was it better or worse than how things actually went?" Fay wondered.

"How could I possibly know? It's how I remembered things. If I remembered with more clarity, that would have been the memory instead," Asher declared.

"Hmm," Fay emoted a soft, almost dismissive, fascination.

Inside Syrosk's dwelling, Graves sat in the center chair as his employer circled around him.

"Now, close your eyes," Syrosk instructed. The scarred Human did so, drawing and releasing a calm breath. "Now, open them."

Graves had been transported to the same blank mindscape as the man before him. Pure, pristine whiteness stretched toward infinity in all directions. The two Sith stood atop a hard surface, but its border with the sky on the horizon was indistinguishable. Looking around, Graves eventually saw Syrosk staring at him, offering the firm arch of his brow.

"Now that… was unexpected," Syrosk rasped.

Graves looked down to examine his form. There were no robes nor armor encasing his body. In fact, he almost didn't possess a body to begin with. Staring at his hands, Graves saw only an ethereal outline of where flesh ought to have been, transparent and surrounded by a shimmering and undulating aura. Almost colorless, the Sith blended in with the surrounding emptiness. The humanoid shape had no features. No face. Only a wispy aura that surrounded and rose from his frame like steam.

"What is this?" Graves' voice emanated from the ethereal being.

"You. Rather, a representation of you," Syrosk explained. "We currently reside within your mind."

The ethereal figure looked around. "Is this… normal?"

"For the place I have created? Yes," Syrosk admitted. "For your given form? Not quite. Usually a Sith's physical form is so embedded in their mind that they've only one possible representation. I guess your unique physiology has had an effect on your psyche."

"Is that… good? Bad?"

"That remains to be seen," Syrosk rasped. "It doesn't seem have negatively affected your mental capabilities. You're doing an excellent job keeping me from accessing your memories."

"I am?" Graves muttered, tilting the head of his ethereal form.

There was a pause as Syrosk arched his brow. "You mean you're not actively resisting me right now?"

"Should I be?" Graves asked, genuinely curious.

The Sith Lord scratched his chin, passing his gaze up and down his subordinate's vaguely humanoid form. "Did your previous master train you in the mental arts?"

"Drath? No, he pretty much kept up my training as a swordsman," Graves stated.

"Do you meditate?"

"Not really…"

"And yet, you seem to have an almost unconscious mental fortitude. Why might that be?" Syrosk rasped.

"I'm as curious as you are," Graves plainly replied.

The ethereal Sith watched as the whiteness surrounding him warped and darkened. The infinite collapsed on itself, constricting and folding. Soon, the blank void had been replaced with the interior of Syrosk's office. The Human looked to his hands, clenching and unclenching his fists. They were without feeling, but they had substance. One of flesh. One of metal.

Lifting his gaze, Graves saw Syrosk circle around him. But his motions did not stop there. The Sith Lord continued to pace about, intently scratching his rough chin.

"Was that it?" Graves asked.

The alien offered no reply as he strafed back and forth, head dipped, eyes focused on the ground before his feet. After a few moments of silent contemplation, the Sith Lord's movements finally ceased.

"There's little I can do," Syrosk said with a low rasp. "I don't know how I can improve upon what you already possess. Especially if it stems from unconscious effort. Regardless, you're not a liability, so we're done here. You can send in Fay."

Graves cast his steady gaze toward his superior. The alien seemed almost flustered, but the subordinate had no thoughts to add. Lifting himself from his seat, the scarred man made his way out of the office. Stepping into the hallway, the Sith found the eyes of his fellows fall to him.

"Wow, that was quick," Asher mumbled.

"The man's efficient, I'll give him that," said Fay, arms still crossed, back still pressed against the wall. "I assume it's my turn?"

Graves offered a quick nod. With that, Fay pushed herself off the wall and moved toward the office without a second thought. The scarred man stepped aside to let her pass, before taking her place on the wall next to Asher.

The burned main turned toward his fellow, looking up and down the man's calm, steady frame. "How'd things go for you?"

"Alright, I guess," Graves replied.

"What do you mean, 'I guess'?" Asher balked. "What memories did he show you?"

"None."

"None?"

"None," Graves repeated. "Said he was having trouble accessing them. Something about me unconsciously keeping him out. I don't know, this mental stuff's all new to me. Why? What did he show you?"

Asher waved his wrapped hand in front of his wrapped face. "Take a wild guess."

"Hmm," Graves mumbled. "What was that like?"

"Well, I'd describe it for you, but somehow I doubt you'd understand what being set on fire feels like," Asher grumbled.

The hall went silent as the pair stood with their backs against the wall, eyes staring at the door across from them. They had each adopted a constricted stance, arms crossed, head dipped.

"If we're being honest, I don't even remember anything about our duel after you cut off my arm," Graves mumbled. Asher quickly turned his head, eyes wide as he stared as his fellow Sith. "Everything went dark, and I woke up back at the Academy being patched up. I only heard what happened to you later."

Asher opened his mouth, ready to speak. But as he stared at the scarred Sith beside him, he paused, releasing only an exasperated sigh.

Inside the office, Fay had taken her seat, already being tended by Syrosk. The routine was the same as the previous two. Syrosk would tell her to close her eyes. She would comply. Syrosk would tell her to open her eyes. She would comply, finding herself standing amongst the white void of the shared mindscape.

Surrounded by nothing in every direction, for every conceivable distance, the Kineticist stood resolute as always, arms neatly folded across her chest. She was utterly unfazed, and made as much clear as she cast her stoic gaze upon the circling Sith Lord. The circling turned to repeated strafing as Syrosk looked up and down his subordinate's form.

She possessed the same figure. The same clothes. The same demeanor. Not a single aspect had changed in the transition.

"Impressive," Syrosk spoke up. "You've a firmer grasp on your mind than the other two."

Fay offered a brief shrug. "I had good training."

"I know. I've read your file," Syrosk rasped. "You belonged to Military Strategy. You were expected to be more than a fighter. Expected to be able to keep the Empire's secrets. But your master covered only the basics."

"Is this the part where you make me relive my worst memories? Push me until I push back?" Fay tersely asked. "You'll find I'm not as easy to pick through as Asher."

"Of that I've no doubt," Syrosk plainly admitted. "Even now, you're consciously keeping me out. But your efforts are too blunt. In protecting certain aspects of your mind you've drawn attention to them. I know exactly where you keep your most hidden thoughts."

"Doesn't do you much good if you can't reach them," Fay declared.

"A prideful thing, aren't you?" Syrosk softly rasped, neither praise nor condemnation in his delivery. "Very well, let us see what your training has afforded you."

All motions stopped. The two figures stood across from each other, eyes locked. Fay maintained her rigid stance, arms firmly crossed. Syrosk, meanwhile, tucked his arms behind his back as he narrowed his gaze. All was still. All was quiet.

Suddenly, there was a fluttering amongst the white void. The tall woman's braided hair swayed as if caressed by a gentle breeze. But the calm would not last. The manifesting winds picked up, lashing out at the two adamant figures, but neither would budge. The swirling air soon carried an added grit, flakes of white that managed to stand out from the pristine surroundings. The air grew thicker and thicker as a fog rolled in around the pair. The floor beneath their feet began to vibrate as a new texture supplanted the perfect surface. The whiteness was tarnished, but not entirely missing. In its place, stone beset by ice and snow.

----------

Nami had all but lost the feeling in her extremities. Her hands shakily gripped her weapon, the heavy rod struggling to stay upright. The winds had picked up, stinging her eyes and exposed flesh. Disoriented, she had lost track of the Trandoshan lurking in the fog. Sinking into the snow, the Jedi spun on her feet, anxiously seeking her foe.

A whistle cut through the air, and a sharp tingling ran up Nami's spine. She didn't even have time to turn, only duck, as a heavy piece of metal swung past where her head was only a moment prior. The swipe carried with it a wind stronger than any surrounding the combatants, one that shook the Jedi to her core. Nami knew she had to move, but found herself unable. She was frozen in place, stilled by the missed blow that would have otherwise separated her head from her body.

Just as she regained control, she attempted to right herself, only to find the Trandoshan's scaled fist driven into her cheek. The strike sent the girl tumbling to the ground, her weapon slipping from her grasp. As Nami lay prone, half-embedded in the snow, Nesk stood over her, looming with his towering frame.

The instructor began pacing back and forth, emanating a low snarl as he looked upon his fallen student. Nami struggled to lift herself from the ground. She was tired. She was numb. Even as her cheek reddened, she had felt little of the blow itself. All that was left were motions. Motions and strength.

Nami began lifting herself, step by step. She dug her hands into the snow, locking her elbows. Slowly, she rose until her arms collapsed beneath her, sending her back to her prone position.

"Get up," Nesk snarled.

"I… I can't…" Nami muttered, still on the ground.

"Yes it can," Nesk sternly replied. "Get up."

The Jedi dug her hands in once again, but instead used her strength to flip over. Her back against the ground, the girl looked up at her looming instructor.

"And then what?" Nami asked, finding the energy to speak. "I'm just going to… get knocked down again…"

The Trandoshan offered the arch of his scaly brow. "So?"

"So what do you want me to do?" Nami mumbled.

"Get up," Nesk bluntly replied. "Get up and get good."

"What kind of advice… is that?"

"The best kind," Nesk firmly stated. "It is soft thing. Soft things die here. Become hard thing. Strong thing."

A soft groan emanated from the downed student as she slowly raised herself into a seated position. Hunched over, the girl released a series of heavy breaths, visible amongst the chilled air.

"Why do you keep calling me 'it'?" Nami muttered. "I'm not a thing."

Nesk took a few steps toward his student, before squatting at her side. "Is it not? What is it then?"

"A person," Nami stated, refusing to lock eyes with her instructor.

"And what does that mean?" Nesk asked. "Why does it consider that better? Hmm? Because it has a name? Because it is Human? Because it is girl? Because is it youngling?"

"I'm not… a child," Nami countered.

"No. It is not. It is Sith. Or am I mistaken?" Nesk pressed.

"What are you… talking about?"

"If it wants to be Sith, I will treat it like Sith," Nesk declared. "If it wants to be Sith, that is what it must be. Nothing else may take precedence. Being Sith must rest at its core, must flow through every fiber of its being. Do not be girl who happens to be Sith. Be Sith who happens to be girl."

Nami drew in and released a series of heavy breaths as she turned to look the Trandoshan in his beady eyes. "That… oddly made sense. At least… some of it did."

"Then it understands. Good," Nesk said as he straightened out his stance. "Now, get up."

As Nami pivoted about her waist, the student felt what little control she possessed over her body steadily being sapped by the exhausting cold. "I can barely move."

"Don't care. Get up," Nesk directed as he kicked a pile of snow toward the girl. Nami's limp arms could do nothing to block the clumps as they struck her face and chest. She winced, mostly through unpreparedness rather than true discomfort.

"I think my body's gone numb," Nami muttered, snow still clinging to her upper robes.

"The Force flows through every cell in its body," Nesk declared. "A Sith controls the Force. Therefore, a Sith is always in control of its body. If it wants to move, it possesses the ability to make it so."

"I don't… I can't…"

"If you do not take control, the Force will abandon it, and its life will not be far behind," Nesk said as his bare foot delivered another pile on snow onto the student.

Nami shivered, not from the cold, but from her body's efforts to move itself from its stilled hunch. The girl gritted her teeth, clenching her numb fingers.

"Get up," Nesk commanded.

Another kick, another pile of snow heaped upon the sitting student.

"Get good," Nesk continued.

Another kick, but this time, Nami managed to raise an arm to intercede. The clumps ineffectually clung to her sleeves, but the Trandoshan would not relent.

"Get strong," Nesk pressed.

Another kick. Nami opted to weather the snow. Her arm was better suited as a brace as she struggled to push herself off the ground. A low grumble began to slip past the girl's gritted teeth as she urged herself upward.

"Take control," Nesk snarled.

Another kick. This time, the snow would land upon her pants as she lunged forward. The grumble had turned into a primal shout as the student raised herself through sheer force of will. Eyes wide, nostrils flaring, the girl wound back her fist before delivering it straight into the Trandoshan's gut.

The strike came to an abrupt stop as it impacted against the instructor's sturdy hide. Nesk stood unwavering, unaffected by the haphazard blow. Nami, meanwhile, slipped and fell back to the ground where she would lay prone in the snow once more. The Trandoshan cast his sharpened gaze upon the now motionless student. Tilting his head, Nesk offered a few quick nudges with his foot against the girl's shoulder. No response.

The instructor release a quick sigh. Stepping away from the fallen student, he casually walked around the snowy field that surrounded them, retrieving the bag he had brought, and the rod Nami had dropped. Reclaiming his belongings, Nesk paused beside the stilled girl. Carefully, he removed the swords strapped to his back and placed them in the bag alongside the metallic rods. Resting his luggage on his ground, the Trandoshan finally turned his attention toward his student.

In one swift motion, Nesk lifted the girl's limp body and slung it over his shoulder. Making sure she was secure, the instructor then picked his bag up off the ground and began making his was back toward his home.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.17.2014 , 02:53 PM | #27
Chapter Nineteen

A familiar gray haze stretched in every direction, interrupted only by jagged peaks of frozen stone. The winds had died down, only a gentle breeze passing over the fields of rock and snow. But even without the bellowing air, the scene's inhabitants would have succumbed to the cold, if not for the fact that none of it was real.

"Ziost," Syrosk spoke up, continuing to cast his sharpened gaze upon the subordinate across from him. "I didn't expect to be returning here so soon."

"Is it really that surprising?" Fay bluntly asked, stance ever rigid. "This is where I received most of my training. I'm sure most Sith have unpleasant memories from their time as an acolyte."

"But you hold the power to forget. To just let go," Syrosk rasped. "What is it that you're holding onto?"

"You're the telepath," Fay offered with a light scoff. "You tell me."

The alien's eye's sharpened. "Very well."

The winds hastened, kicking up a veil of snow that washed away the cold wastes. As the flakes drifted and fled, the scene was replaced with that of the Ziost Academy. Rigid and imposing architecture welcomed a group of trudging children. Gray slabs of stone and metal rose high atop the already tall ridge, casting no shadow and yet basking the new acolytes in its darkness.

A lone adult led the group of children, all Human, out of the cold Ziost exterior and into the cold Academy interior. The adult stood out from the younglings bundled in their many layers of robes and winter attire, standing tall in his Sith garb over all but one. In the rear of the group, a girl not yet even in her teens was tall enough that her head reached the adult's shoulders. She kept her head dipped, her stance slouched, allowing the long, dark hair atop her head to fall and conceal her face.

Fay watched her younger self move into the unwelcoming bastion of the Academy halls, whilst Syrosk gently scratched his chin.

"Came as a child to study in the ways of the Sith," he mused. "Despite efforts to mask your presence, your size immediately made you stand out from your peers."

Inside, the group of children advanced not only in place, but in time. The students found themselves in an oppressive chamber, confined to small desks as an instructor stood at the head of the class prattling on about codes and doctrines. The large girl was barely contained in her desk, and as she sat hunched over, it felt as if all eyes were upon her. Sideward glances fueled by sharpened eyes weighed down upon the isolated student.

"Alone and a target," Syrosk listed. "The worst possible things a Sith can be. A lesser being would have been utterly crushed. But not you. You persisted. You endured."

The classroom faded, its gray walls contorting from a squared chamber to a winding hallway. The sounds of conflict echoed throughout the halls. Years had passed. The young girl had only grown taller, stronger. She had pushed herself physically, training her body to resist the constant trials of the Academy, those issued by instructors and students alike. Backed into a corner, the girl's tall shoulders rose and fell with each heavy breath. Her nostrils flared as she offered a firm scowl. Her knuckles were stained with the blood of her fellows, those who now lay unconscious in front of her.

"It would seem you were more than capable of fighting," Syrosk rasped.

"I didn't have a choice," Fay plainly said.

"I suppose not," Syrosk muttered. "Unless…"

"Unless?" Fay replied, narrowing her gaze toward the alien beside her.

"While we are often forced to defend ourselves," Syrosk said before a pause, "defending another is entirely voluntary."

Behind the standoffish girl, another faded into existence. Curled up into a ball in the hall's corner, the girl peeked through her fingers at the defeated acolytes that lay before her and her tall defender.

"An excellent tactic," Syrosk rasped. "Instead of hiding the memory away, you willingly offered a piece, hoping I wouldn't notice the parts you left out."

Fay remained silent. Looking at the girl cowering behind her younger self, she narrowed her gaze, only this time, instead of a harsh glare, she offered something much softer. As the woman gently sank her teeth into her lower lip, the scene faded once more. The gray walls shifted and expanded, turning from the winding corridor into a central hall.

Fay and Syrosk watched as a pair of teenagers walked side by side through the Academy, shoulder to much lower shoulder, both garbed in the plain gray robes of an acolyte. The pair were contrasts. One Human, one a red-skinned Pureblood. One tall, one short. One hard, one soft. But where they did not differ, was in emotion. As the smaller Sith wore a beaming smile, the larger one released a giggle of her own.

"You found a companion," Syrosk said, a surprising warmth to his usual rasp. "Two Sith who desired each other's company enough to risk the potential outcomes of such a relationship."

The walls of the Academy collapsed and fell as Fay and Syrosk found themselves standing amongst the cold exterior of Ziost. Before them, a number of acolytes stared one another down in pairs, training sabers firmly grasped within their hands. Meanwhile, an instructor cast his discerning gaze from duelist to duelist.

The tall girl kept one hand wrapped around her weapon as she offered a silent glare to her opponent. The boy across from her seemed inferior in all aspects, trembling from a mixture of fear and exposure to the cold winds. Nearby, the tall girl's friend readied herself against a foe much more confident in his standing. With the drop of his hand, the instructor signaled for the acolytes to begin. In an instant, the gray figures did battle amidst the equally gray haze that dominated the field. Boots stamped across rock and snow. Metal rods clashed against one another, sparking as the energy bands running their lengths collided.

As the isolated duels progressed, the tall girl and her friend managed to occasionally sneak a peek at the other. They would lay eyes upon one another for an instant, before returning to focus on their duel. The tall girl made short of her opponent, batting his weapon away and sending him face down into the snow with a balled fist rather than her training blade.

As the acolyte writhed on the ground, the tall girl quickly turned toward the nearby duel her friend was engaged in. The pair of duelists brought their metallic sabers together time and time again. The two Sith were unrefined, sloppy, but such was to be expected of the teenagers. They were raw emotion, lashing out with wide swings and harsh yells. But as the combatants released all manners of shouts, a third source provided one of her own.

The tall girl called out words of encouragement, urging her friend onward. As the duelists locked their blades, the Pureblood turned her head as she maintained her guard. Her crimson eyes locked with those of her tall friend, and a determined smile crept across her lips. The girl shoved the boy away, and found the opening she needed to send her training saber crashing into her foe's abdomen. The other acolyte fell to his knees, clutching at his stomach with his head hung low, hands raised so as to yield.

The Pureblood's smile widened until it had morphed into a toothy grin. Baring her sharpened teeth, the girl offered a giddy bounce as she deactivated and hooked her weapon to her belt.

She and the tall girl abandoned their foes, running to meet each other with a warmth in their eyes. A warmth strong enough to combat the surrounding cold. As they met, the tall girl wrapped her arms around her friend, lifting her into the air and locking her in a strong, yet comforting embrace.

As the tall girl spun on her heels, she swept her friend around with the greatest of ease, the both of them releasing laughter into the flowing air. In conjunction with the movements, the winds hastened once more, kicking up snow until the scene was obscured from view. One by one the duelists faded into the snow, the last of which being the embracing pair. Finally, Fay and Syrosk found themselves staring into the familiar gray haze.

But as the winds calmed, as the snow settled, the pair were granted sight to a most pleasant vista. Gone were the bleak flatlands and wastes of Ziost. Instead, the tall girl and her friend sat upon the precipice of a overlooking ridge, watching the sun set on horizon. Breaking the gray monotony of frosted stone, the teenagers basked in the orange luminescence of the fading sun.

Gone were the harsh winds and debilitating cold. Winter had passed, and there was almost an air of comfort as the two acolytes sat together, legs dangling over the cliff's edge.

All was silent as Fay and Syrosk stood behind the teenaged pair. Even as she could only see the back of her head, Fay knew that her younger self wore a smile, one that caused her own lip to quiver. The silence persisted as the two acolytes were content with merely one another's company.

After a few seconds, the smaller girl began to lean, resting her head upon her tall friend's shoulder. There, the teenagers would remain as they continued to gaze toward the Ziost sunset.

Fay's firm crossing of her arms began to rescind. Her limbs had loosened, but as she gripped her elbows, the tall woman began unknowingly tapping her index finger. It moved as a shiver whilst she looked toward her younger self with soft eyes.

Meanwhile, Syrosk offered only the stoic scratching of his chin.

"Hmm," he muttered. "I see now why you took such a liking to Nami. I suppose she reminded of this girl?"

There was silence as Fay continue to stare at the pair of acolytes. Only after a long pause did the faintest of noises slipped past the tall woman's lips.

"No… she most certainly did not," Fay slowly whispered.

Just then, the orange warmth of the setting sun was washed away, replaced by the familiar gray haze. Fay perked up, panning her gaze amidst the bustling winds as if searching for something. When the scene finally cleared, it barely did so, heavy winds carrying flakes of ice and snow clouding her vision.

Suddenly, she could make out two figures trudging across the wastes. The same pair. And yet, different. Acolytes, one a Human, one a Pureblood. But instead of their gray uniforms, their bodies were wrapped in black robes. They had each aged, progressed, grown.

The two teenagers were older, advanced in their studies. Together they marched, feet sinking into the heavy snow with teach step. The tall girl dragged behind her friend, following as the other blazed a trail. There was a tempered haste in the leader's gait, and the tall girl was more than capable of keeping up. But their final destination she did not know.

"How much further, Dess?" the tall girl called out. Her words were filled with wonder, and only a hint of trepidation.

"I told you, Faera, it's just at this next ridge," the other girl replied, voice filled with bubbly amusement. "Now come on, stop asking questions. This is supposed to be a surprise!"

"I guess I should thank you for not blindfolding me," the tall girl replied, a subtle smile upon her lips.

The two acolytes continued their trek across the frozen wastes, as Syrosk and Fay watched from afar. The Sith Lord was atypically silent as he surveyed the unfolding scene, but Fay's breathing was growing faster and heavier with each passing moment.

The snowy winds coalesced into an impenetrable wall of frost, before fading to reveal something besides the usual flatlands the observers had seen. A tall ridge sprouted from the ground, cutting into the sky with its jagged peak. In front of the wall of stone, two statues lay crumbled, ancient monuments to some forgotten Sith Lord. Crumbled, broken, and cast from their pedestals, the statues had long since been claimed by the planet and rendered utterly unrecognizable. But between the remains, was something far less so.

Inlayed with the jagged, imperfect stone, a square archway stood buried in the snow, only a hint of the darkness beyond revealing itself to the pair of acolytes. In front of the archway, the smaller acolyte turned to face her friend.

"It's a tomb!" Dess shouted with glee. The other girl was speechless. Gazing upon the half-buried structure, it was small, hidden, but still somehow magnificent to behold. "This is it, this is our chance to prove ourselves to the Overseer!"

Fay could sense the wind picking up again, threatening to overtake the scene in yet another consuming blur of gray snow. The tall woman's hands were already trembling, and the moment the wind began to die down, the moment she saw the first glimpse of the cavern walls beyond, she shut her eyes with all her might.

In an instant, the mental connection was severed. Ziost had been replaced with the calm of Syrosk's chambers back at the Citadel. The Sith Lord stood in front of his seated subordinated, head dipped with almost a wince upon his face. As he recovered, he looked to see Fay glaring at him, eyes red and on the verge of watering.

"Are we done here?" Fay muttered, a harsh scowl upon her face.

"Yes…" Syrosk calmly rasped. "We're done here. For now."

Fay immediately pushed herself up from the seat and stomped toward the room's exit. Passing beyond the threshold, she didn't even acknowledge her compatriots as they offered their waves and words of welcome. Instead, she kept her sights firmly down the hall as she marched, intent on putting the Citadel behind her.

Graves watched the tall woman round a corner, disappearing into the dark halls as he was left tilting his head. "What do you suppose that was about?"
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
Yesterday , 02:25 PM | #28
Chapter Twenty


A new day.

Obscured was the passage of time. Outside the small bedroom's window, the unchanging skyline of Kaas City presented itself. The skies remained in their permanent state of chaos and shadowed clouds, ever obscuring the rising sun. If not for the ringing alarm of a clock on the bedside table, none would know of the morning's arrival.

Shifting beneath her sheets, the tall woman stirred from her slumber. Sitting up, the Sith moved a calm hand toward the alarm, silencing it with a single press. Lifting her large frame from the bed, the constrictive nature of the apartment was made all the more apparent. Raising her arms to stretch, Fay could not help but brush against the cold ceiling.

In silence, the tall woman trudged down dark and gray corridors, dipping her head as she passed through each open doorframe. Stepping into the nearby bathroom, she flicked a switch, basking in the rays of artificial light. The shift stung the Human's eyes, but elicited not even a flinch as she maintained her stoic countenance amidst the early hours.

Hair unbound by knots or braids, the stern visage was at odds with the almost chaotic appearance presented. The dark fibers fell upon sturdy shoulders, continuing down the woman's chest and back in an untamed waves. Paying no mind to the reflection in the mirror before her, she shed whatever nightclothes graced her body and stepped into the walk-in shower. Shutting the pane behind her, the tall woman's head peeked over the opaque barrier.

Hot water left the wall-mounted faucet, splashing against her chiseled frame. Closing her eyes, Fay basked in the warmth of the spray, and soon enough, the once chilled air became far more welcoming. Upright, the water had no hope of reaching anywhere near the Human's face or scalp. Instead, she had to bend her legs if she wanted anything above her shoulders to not remain dry.

Bracing herself against the forward wall, Fay directed her head just below the faucet. As the waters cascaded down her form, it hugged every firm contour and ridge that graced her figure. One particular ridge, however, stood out from the rest, as it was not born from her efforts, but from another's.

A deep scar ran the length of the tall woman's back, a diagonal gash that stretched from shoulders to waist. The singular mark upon her otherwise pristine, unmarred body. And one readily kept from sight outside the confines of her domicile.

The routine continued much as it had on any other day. Despite the recent happenings in her life, some things had no intention of changing. No manner of new masters or purpose would interfere with starting the day with a warm shower.

----------

The steady stream of the faucet turned into a mere trickle as the water ceased its advance. Amidst the steamy air, the door of the walk-in shower slightly parted and an arm emerged. Reaching for a nearby rack, the speckled limb found the towels just beyond its reach. Ceasing its frantic grasping, it instead opted for a series of smooth waves as its hand clutched at the air. Soon after, a towel lifted itself from the rack and began floating toward the slowly clenching fingers.

As soon as fiber met burnt flesh, the hand snatched the towel and pulled it behind the cracked barrier. The shower head releasing its last trickle, the faint sounds of rustling filled the bathroom as the figure dried off. Finally, the burned man emerged from behind the opaque screen, towel wrapped around his waist.

Stepping out, the Human's legs were rather unremarkable. Fair-skinned. Typically haired. A firm contrast to the man's upper body. Starting just above the waistline, Asher wore the aftermath of a lost bout with fire. The skin covering his lean, athletic frame was spotted and of varying tones across his head and torso. But the effects seemed superficial as the Sith continued his morning routine undeterred.

Maneuvering toward the nearby mirror, Asher's focus was not on his reflection, but the cabinet that stood before him. Kneeling down, the burned man opened the container, within which rest more than a dozen rolls of white material. Pulling a handful of the bandages out, the Sith set them on the countertop before finally looking up and down his body in the mirror.

Unravelling one of the rolls, Asher went to work doing what he had done countless times before. Pressing the end of the bandage against his abdomen, the burned man began slowly unrolling the material and wrapping his flesh. With each methodical second, the white material obscured more and more of the pink skin underneath. And so the Sith worked his way up, covering his abdomen and chest, until the roll had no more bandage to give. A new roll started, wrapping around his shoulder and continuing down his left arm. The same was done to the right.

Finally, wrapped below the neck, Asher locked eyes with his reflected self. The stare-down lasted for only a moment before both figures cracked a sharp grin. With his final prepared roll, the burned man went to work wrapping his head, maneuvering around each contour and pressing down the short bedraggled hair that graced his scalp. Soon, all was covered but the gaps left for his eyes, mouth, and ears.

Stepping away from the mirror, Asher made his way back toward the bedroom. As little flesh he exposed at that moment, bandages and a towel proved an insufficient alternative to clothes. Passing through dimly lit corridors of plain grays and smooth surfaces, the burned man eventually reached his destination.

Swinging open the doors of his closet, the Sith looked upon the numerous sets of baggy robes and clothes with which to further conceal his being.

----------

There was an audible click as the scarred man buckled the fastener at his waist. Hands working in tandem, one of rough and calloused flesh, the other of smooth and polished metal, Graves had firmly secured the armorweave around his legs. Half of his outfit had been donned or, more appropriately, assembled. The plated boots and hardened leggings of his battle attire hugged his battered hide, the rest of it yet unburdened by the stiff material.

Reaching into the closet, the Human returned with a long-sleeved shirt. The black, form-fitting compression garb was merely a base, a buffer between the skin and the armored chest-piece that would surround it. Slipping his arms through the sleeves, the thin material hugged Graves' organic and inorganic parts. The black shirt soon masked the litany of scars that graced the man's sturdy musculature. But with his hands and face still exposed, there remained little hope for achieving anything resembling symmetry.

The scarred man hoisted his chestguard off of the ground, carefully lifting the bulky garb over his head. The armorweave had the maneuverability of hardened leather, but the inlayed plates and attached pauldrons made it a hassle to don even with the wearer's enhanced strength. His arms stretched high, Graves slipped his limbs through yet another set of sleeves as he lowered the chest-piece down upon himself, eventually popping his head through the armor's neck hole.

A few quick adjustments, and the pieces had shifted into place. Comfort wasn't something on the Sith's mind, but he knew each piece had its proper position, and he knew each piece belonged there. Bending his even bulkier mass over, the scarred man retrieved a pair of plated gloves and slipped them over his hands. No longer was there the distinction of flesh or prosthetic. The armored state took precedence. Fastening the gauntlets, Graves clenched and unclenched his fists before turning to the final piece of the ensemble.

For his last foray into the closet, the scarred man retrieved a utility belt, various boxy pouches and attachment points lining its length. Wrapping the piece around his waist, the clink of interlocking metal sounded out as its two ends met. Thus, the suit was complete.

Taking a few steps back, Graves sat on the edge of his bed. Holding his hands in front of him, he began staring at his open palms. Focusing on his left, he ran through the same sequence he did ever morning, extending each finger one by one. After the five movements proved satisfactory, he urged his prosthetic into various arrangements to further to test its operation.

When his left hand finally ceased its motions, the scarred man did not rise. Instead, he directed his focus toward his right hand of flesh and bone. He began running the same sequence, extending and retracting each finger before moving into more varied arrangements. Spending just as much time with his right as his left, Graves showed no favor toward either hand when it came to capability.

Lowering his palms, the scarred man turned his attention to the left of his limbs. Poking and prodding his numb self, the Human moved with an ordered grace about his armored figure as he continued sitting at the edge of the bed. He ran his fingers up his left arm, giving a few subtle taps along the way. Then, the same with his right arm. Then, his right leg.

----------

Sitting on the edge of a bed that looked practically makeshift, the horned alien sat in the dim lighting of his office turned domicile. Running his leathery hand over his right, knee, Syrosk stopped to give it a series of quick taps, eliciting a muffled clank from beneath his black robes. With a raspy sigh, the Sith Lord raised himself from his cot, setting his sights on the adjacent table.

Though converted from its original state, much of room remained occupied by the tools of prior purpose. Armoires stood adjacent to data terminals. A once central desk had been shoved against the wall, losing whatever magnificence it once possessed as it lay buried under a haphazardly tossed cloak. In the corner of the compact chamber stood a mannequin garbed in a suit of armor, black plates home to the scars of battle. Scratches and scorch marks graced every surface, wrought by both saber and blaster, by both Jedi and Sith. Of note was the piece missing from the lower-half of the right leg, and the hole bored through its abdomen.

Picking up a datapad from the nearby table, Syrosk had already begun the day in earnest, cold eyes scanning the various status updates and notices that presented themselves. Despite having slept through only one of the preceding seven nights, even the Sith's restlessness could not compare to that of the Empire's. The Executors could operate without his direct oversight. And given recent responsibilities placed upon the alien, they would likely have to.

Tapping away at his datapad, Syrosk quickly authorized a series of low-priority requests and operations that had accumulated whilst he slumbered. Finishing off the backlog, the elder Executor then sent a trio of notices to his subordinates, summoning them to the Citadel in a matter of hours.

With that, he set the tablet back down, never shedding the dull stoicism that dominated his visage. With a series of uneven steps, the horned alien approached the wall-bound desk, clutching the cowl of the black cloak within his rough hand.

----------

Sharp claws gripped the black cloth but for a moment before giving it a mighty tug. In once swift motion, the scaled arm flung back the bedsheet, revealing the slumbering girl underneath. Shaken awake by the chaotic motions and sounds, the Human's eyes shot open to see a Trandoshan standing over her.

Immediately, she constricted, covering herself with her arms despite being garbed in her under-robes. Nesk offered only the narrowing of his beady eyes as he looked upon the shivering Human.

"Time to get up," said the Trandoshan. His words were blunt, and his tone sharp. But Nami was more interested in her surroundings. Turning her head side to side, she examined the unfamiliar room, compact and free of excess adornments. The black sheet that had apparently been covering her lay in a disheveled heap at her feet.

"How long have I been asleep?" she asked.

"Too long," Nesk snarled. "It must train."

Rubbing her eyes, the girl shivered, a distinct lack of heat gracing the bedroom. "I don't… remember getting here."

There was a worry in her voice. One only she could understand. The Trandoshan remained adamant, not budging from his bedside stance.

"Dragged it back after yesterday's training," Nesk explained. "It's had enough time to rest." Bending over, the Trandoshan reached down, just below the girl's sight with the edge of the bed. She couldn't get a clear picture as he stood back up amidst the darkness. Instead, she found a pile of clothes tossed at her face. "Must continue training."

Nami examined the disheveled attire in her lap. Black, form-fitting robes. Robes of an acolyte. Robes of a Sith. The ends were frayed, and nothing at first glance seemed to be quite the right size, but she knew better than to offer protest.

"Thanks," Nami finally spoke after a moment of hesitation.

"Thanks not necessary. Robes necessary," Nesk declared. "Should fit small thing."

The girl released a low sigh. "Can we stop with the 'soft thing' thing? Heard enough of that yesterday…"

"Said 'small thing', not 'soft thing'." The Trandoshan crossed his arms. "Is improvement."

"Hmph," Nami vocalized, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. "I'll take your word for it."

"It should," Nesk plainly stated, bending slightly to better meet his eyes with those of the Human. "Is change. Sith is change. If it can change, it is Sith."

"Inspiring as always," the girl muttered, toeing the line between deadpan snark and morning grogginess. "So, are we going to spend the day fighting out in the middle of nowhere again?"

"No," Nesk bluntly answered, turning toward the bedroom's exit.

"No?"

Pausing, the Trandoshan shot a quick look over his shoulder, eyes piercing through the darkness. "Today, you belong to Vurt."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------