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Korriban

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“Well… you certainly look like you’ve had some work done.” Keenava said quietly as she smoothly drifted across the room, noting the blood covering the Cathar’s body and her, ‘adjustments.’ The smell of copper lingered, mingled with trace threads of force energy and what might have been… ozone? Hmm. There was something peculiar about the array of items strayed about the room and the floating sword. But questions were useless right now. She needed answers. As she scanned the room for a place to lean against, Keenava’s lekku squirmed a little on her shoulders. The tension that lingered in her braintails pressed against her thoughts like a handful of cotton swabs pushed against her face. But, with years of pressure applied to and taken away from her lekku, she learned to screen such minor inconveniences out. This was important. It required her full focus.

 

“Firstly, I’m Sith Assassin, Lord Ootunavi, former apprentice to both Master Furion and the Dark Lord.” Keenava paused a moment to let each name resonate with its appropriate significance. Though there was a slight acerbic spin to Furion’s name, hinting at something deeper. “I’d love to elaborate on what’s going on here aside from some interesting choices regarding interior decoration. But I’d rather cut to the chase. I’ve seen, through talents of my own, your prowess with creating things; I’ve seen the fire within you that burns as you push to create things of beauty. So, I wish to ask for your help in making or fixing something of mine. And, in return, I offer you a choice. One, I can owe you a favor of your own devise, whatever that may be. Two, I can find and procure something for you, whether it be money, tokens, ingredients, etc. Three, I can kill someone for you,” Keenava oddly preened at the thought of sinking steel into flesh. It had been too long. “Four, I can take you on as an Apprentice. No doubt another master has caught you in their web, knowing your potential. Or, five, you refuse and I take advantage of your current vulnerability and kill you. But I leave it up to you. The choice is yours.”

 

Seeing the machinations that pulsed within the frail Sith’s chest and eyes and the sword that floated languidly by as the Cathar weighed her, Keenava delivered her last lines with deliberation. Each syllable was cut off with precision and severity. Keenava’s own whip-knives were not hidden and flashed cold steel on her hips. They glinted in the low light of the room. Her lightsaber, freshly repaired, glinted under the dim illumination as well. Keenava’s ruby eyes lit with crimson flames. And her expression, betraying only the hint of a smile, was utterly pensive.

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A numbness, defined by its distant coldness seeped into Ailbasí, chilling her bones and stilling the features on her face. Why now? She could have been getting laid tonight… Surely there were some guys into the glowing red demon eyes look… A false patina of pleasantness honed from years of working retail during prep school and college calcified over her face as she responded to Darth Pfask Foiler.

 

“Let me change out of these wet clothes and then I’ll get your measure, I’m assuming it’s armor you want me to work on since you’ve come so well heeled.”

 

The spartan quarters of an apprentice did not offer much in the way of space, and Ailbasí just wanted to get this over with, so she changed in full view of the assassin. However, if the interloper was hoping for a show she would be disappointed, the warrior’s movements were quick and efficient. It wasn’t long before the soiled smithing gear was replaced with fresh warrior attire. Her sword found its place not long after.

 

A simple trade of favors for services would have been a reasonable ask, but the assassin had to complicate things by adding a threat. Even if the assassin had offered her something she deeply wanted, she couldn’t afford to appear to be cowed by threats, vulnerability was a death sentence here at the temple. Ailbasí gestured to the door and it closed and locked, creating a claustrophobic arena where the assassin’s stealth and mobility would count for nothing. The arrogant assassin had adopted a tactically unfavorable stance, leaning against the wall, and Ailbasí executed a piercing lunge that intentionally strayed right of center so that if the assassin took the easier dodge she would be boxing herself further into the corner of the room.

 

“Now I will take your measure, assassin.”

 

((Duel Post 1))

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With her head no longer shrouded by her hood and her lekku free to breathe the stale air, the Assassin’s eyes gripped every surface they could.

 

One step, two steps, three steps…

  • Small room, limited mobility.

The air is still, smells will linger; breathe carefully...

 

Keenava lengthened her breaths to retain as much air as she could. She flexed her hands a little as she moved. In what seemed like a flippant gesture, cavalierly moving across the floor with little discretion, touching only part of her shoulder against the wall, preparing the muscles in her legs to leap into action should anything go awry, Keenava committed an instinctive act of deception and survival. Because, A, everyone should be prepared for violence at a moment’s notice. And, B, Keenava was predisposed to assuming everyone had violent tendencies. After all, even among people she cared for, her history suggested that they did. The Cathar’s tone, the shift in her fur, and her painted smile touched violence before blows were drawn. Keenava even began to assume the apprentice’s next moves. But assumptions and plans were fallible. Assuming she would attack left would leave Keenava open if she didn’t and vice versa. So instead of exposing her realization, Keenava watched, readying her muscles and conditioning herself to the limited arena.

 

When the Cathar changed clothes, Keenava’s eyes drifted to the floating blade. It surged with power similar to the Cathar. And while she didn’t quite understand what had transpired, it seemed logical to assume that they were connected somehow. Then the Cathar, gripping the hilt of her blade, sneer apparent in the glare of her eyes, attempted to cut her off and attacked her with a piercing lunge. It was a nice move. The Cathar was clearly trained and her body was built with big muscles. A cut with the blade would be vicious. And, in a room this small, a three-foot blade seemed a little precarious. But it worked both ways. Provided her connection didn't add extensive mobility, playing with a long blade in a room that couldn't be bigger than three hundred square feet was... daring to say the least.

 

 

  • The image of fullered steel slicing the thin layer of flesh at her midsection flittered through her head, capturing the breath in her mouth; the familiar feeling, the icy cold steel that brushed her warm flesh, splitting the only border between life and death... ... ...
     
    stop...

 

Silly girl…

 

Then again, how many Sith would truly understand the compliment and vulnerability implicit in stating a threat instead of - or before - actually carrying it out? The Sith were taught to believe 'might makes right.' Thus, this episode was nothing more than a reminder of Keenava's time as Lallu; a crazy time to say the least. But, what kind of assassin would Keenava be if she told her marks she was going to kill them before she actually did it?

 

Regardless. I can’t actually kill her. I need her. And it would be a shame to answer potential with death.

 

A thin veneer of purplish residue glinted on the edge of her knives. It smelled vaguely fish-like. And, if not used soon, it would destabilize and prove useless as anything other than colored gunk on her blade. Yet, Keenava didn’t touch the hilts of Clotho or Lachesis - not that they would be of any use here - despite the apprentice's implicit demand for armed combat. Even the Spark rested gently across her hip. No, hands only.

 

Instead of jumping out of the way, she let the blow continue toward her and inched just enough to the right to avoid the bulk of the blade. She saw the cunning of Ailbasi's ruse and smiled. Her focus changed, her root shifted from her center-of-mass to her calves and feet. While the blade whistled next to her, the world slowed in a moment of brief clarity. Colors took on a rosy hue as Keenava let the force ripple through her. And, after the sword passed, tearing Keenava's tunic and biting at the skin of her stomach, the Twi’lek grabbed at Ailbasi's arm, intending to continue her opponent's momentum toward the wall. With a slight lift, aided through the force, Keenava would use Ailbasi’s own kinetic energy to try and slam her against the back wall of the room. Afterward, taking care to observe any interference from Ailbasi's sword arm, Keenava would roll backward toward the middle of the room to ready her hands; each fist tight with the index knuckle protruding just a little further than every other.

 

If she made it to the center of the room, exposed as she would be to the oncoming barrage of Ailbasi's rage, it would put the Cathar's sword arm at a severe disadvantage. The size of the room would compromise her elbow, blocking it in, making it harder - though not impossible - to strike with ease. In a knife fight or a sword fight, your objective was always to control the blade arm.

 

Mutely, Keenava smiled and awaited the next bout.

 

((1))

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Ailbasí expected white dots to be dancing across her vision as she recovered from the impact to the back of her head courtesy of the wall, given that armor did not magically stop physics. Aching pain spread throughout the back of her body, but surprisingly Ailbasí’s vision grew sharper and the force of the impact lingered in the crystalline matrix she had crafted, glowing an otherworldly crimson.

 

Had Ailbasí been wielding a lightsaber, her ability to attack in the tight quarters would have been limited severely by the walls, but a Sith sword allowed for techniques that a lightsaber did not. Her opponent had not drawn any sort of weapon, despite having close quarters weapons prominently displayed on her hips. It was a strange decision, perhaps she thought to establish dominance through displays of unarmed prowess, as if Ailbasí wasn’t worth her drawing her weapons? Another insult that would not go unanswered. And a tactical blunder that would not go unpunished.

 

The assassin’s roll had taken her into the center of the room… right next to Ailbasí’s bed. The sheets were lighter than other objects Ailbasí was used to lifting, and they launched off the bed like a tidal way of linens to entangle and blind the woman. Despite having only done minor Force use in the duel, Ailbasí was still feeling the strain on account of her earlier ritual and self mutilation. A weaker person would have been overwhelmed by the strain, but both heavy physical conditioning and pain endurance training had prepared Ailbasí for pushing past normal limits.

 

While the sheets launched through the air, Ailbasí spun her blade into a mordstreich grip, turning her sword into a mace and shortening the reach to allow for fuller swings in the tight quarters. While the sheets wouldn’t incapacitate a Sith, they would serve as enough of a disruptive influence to reduce the opponent’s ability to react. Ailbasí used this opening to swing savagely with Gwn Marwolaeth in a flurry of blows, giving herself enough reach to outrange the assassin but not not enough to foil her own attacks.

 

((Duel Post 2))

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Waiting, testing her breath against the still air filled with sweat and exertion, Keenava watched the apprentice. The Cathar’s cheeks were shallow, mired in the color of poor health. The only light that bathed the small room they fought in was wreathed with dried blood; Ailbasi’s blood. And yet, here she was, determined to strike Keenava down.

 

That desperation reminded her of Umbara; survival beyond reason. Touching that memory with cotton fingers, seeing the rosy hue of colors accented through force sensitivity, Keenava extended a field of negative energy, sapping what little vitality remained in the room. It required concentration, which left her open to the shift of force energy that passed her by, yanking the sheets from the apprentice’s bed and pulling them into the air. But Keenava was unconcerned. Her hands shot to the sheets as they descended. Each hand gripped an end and wrapped part of the length of cloth around her arms, bracing the sheets with both arms and forming a line of cloth between both of her hands.

 

A hint of amusement curled the edges of her lips. It was an interesting ploy. With a flick of her index finger toward the durasteel walls, followed by a powerful ripple through the force, she cut the wires connecting the lights to their power source, blanketing the small room in darkness. It meant little to Keenava. She trained to fight in darkness. But there was a chance it could give her a hand in this fight.

 

Sweat broke out on her forehead as she continued her aura, feeding off the energy in the room. It was intoxicating. Every color continued to magnify. Moments slowed ever so slightly as her eyes bloomed with a predatory fire. Ailbasi's flurry slowed to an observable strike, allowing Keenava to avoid most of the damage by maneuvering herself around it, catching one or two grazing blows as she moved. After she finished wrapping her arms, she saw Ailbasi prepping another strike and watched as the apprentice began her attack. The Cathar's arms were taut with exertion as she lunged forward to pop Keenava with the pommel of her blade. And Keenava matched the apprentice’s new assault with something of her own. Using the blanket that was meant to incapacitate her, Keenava attempted to catch the weapon by the crossguard as it swung by. Her intent was to sideline Ailbasi’s mace and sidestep to Ailbasi’s left side. Succeeding in that, Keenava would release the sheets, enhance her muscles through the force and strike at the Cathar’s throat using her index knuckle to find the soft spot between her helmet and breastplate.

 

Then, following the success or failure of her maneuver, Keenava would prep her groaning muscles to dart away from reciprocation.

 

((2))

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Mordecai sighed as he was ordered to do the task again. To him, it was pointless, the exercise of an ability that he felt he had already demonstrated his competence with. As he stood to place the age-old hilt where it was before, to repeat the test, his eyes lingered on the crystal at his feet. It was beautiful, the blue shining ever so softly in the dim lighting of the chamber. The battery, brand new in comparison with the ancient weapon in his hand, the metallic sheen reflecting the crystal’s glow. He looked away, placing the hilt back in the sand.

 

He moved back to his prior position, returning to sitting.He breathed in, picturing the hilt in his mind, the memory of its owner still fresh in his mind, even if it was no longer present in the weapon. He could see her hand tightening around the hilt, bound by a leather that had long since eroded away. Before the sith’s fall, it had been simple, a chrome hilt with a simple brown leather, but after she fell, the weapon had changed to match. The guard and pommel of the hilt

had received intricate etchings, filled with gold, which had rusted away over the years. The engravings had faded as well, though were still visible in places. The simple leather had been replaced with a high quality fabric that was unknown to him, though that too had rotted away to time.

 

He reached out again, commanding the Force to obey. It was a tool, and he was the one that wielded it. He molded it into tendrils, reaching out towards the hilt. Slowly, they wrapped around the lightsaber, lifting it into the air. He pulled it towards him, much the same as before, his frustration at the repetition fueling his command more than his meditation before had. Much more quickly, the weapon floating to in front of him.

 

He honed his frustration into a tool unto itself, guiding the battery and crystal off the sandy ground beneath him. The crystal seemed to hum in response to the Force, but he paid it no mind. Slowly, the weapon began to assemble itself, a presence pressing against his mind, guiding his actions. He had never learned to make a lightsaber, but the force guided him.

 

With a soft click, the process completed. He opened his eyes, and the newly completed weapon dropped, sending a small puff of dirt into the air. He reached down, lifting it. It didn’t look any different, but he knew that appearance was a deceptive one, that if he simply pushed a button…

 

With a loud hiss, the blade sprung to life. The soft glow of the crystal had given way to the brightness of the lightsaber’s blade. He stood, giving the weapon an experimental swing. It was weightless, but dangerous. A single swing could end a life, a capability that he relished owning. He looked to the Sith Lord.

 

“What now, my Lord?”

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As Ailbasí attacked she felt an odd sluggishness in the air as the assassin tried to siphon energy from the Force through distant and faded memories. The energy here was different though, frantic and close, manic and visceral. But most importantly, it was her energy. The air and her opponent filled with color as she watched the currents of the Force pulse and surge in waves and eddies of electric neon, a map telegraphing intent before execution was realized. The assassin gestured to the wall and the electrical cables severed, cutting off the electrical flow to the lights. If the room had gone dark, Ailbasí wouldn’t have known, her new eyes didn’t see in terms of light and reflection.

 

A plan began to formulate as the currents of the situation came into sharper focus. Each movement would play its part, like brush strokes coming together to form a painting, or dancers performing carefully choreographed steps to convey the emotion of a scene in a musical. The difference in energies revealed the nature of the assassin, who was focused with laser intensity on detached control. Her opponent’s natural state was distance and avoidance, and she channeled energy sterilely, afraid of touch, of connection. Of harm. It was the fundamental philosophical difference between warriors and assassins, confrontation versus avoidance. Accepting that you will be hurt versus trying not to be hurt.

 

Ailbasí saw the shifts in energy and allowed for her blade to leave her grasp when it became entangled in the sheets, nudging its course subtly so that it embedded in the wall touching the active part of the power line. As her sword drank deeply, her crimson eyes turned a throbbing scarlet, but she wasn’t done yet. The energy in this place was her energy, attuned to her distinct frequency through the blood rituals she had performed. Through will forged by harrowing tribulation Ailbasí seized back the energy that the assassin had tried to steal, while simultaneously maneuvering her gauntlet to block the depowered strike. Her eyes blazed effulgent and the walls began to bleed again with fresh blood as Ailbasí tapped into that primal darkness once more.

 

When her opponent disengaged, Ailbasí also withdrew, but for different reasons. Gwn Marwolaeth returned to her hand and she pressed the flat of the blade down her body, while bracing her body flat against the wall, pressing against it to endure what was coming. The final step was incredibly risky, but she was far better equipped to survive it than her opponent.

 

“You have no claim to anything in this pfasking room, most of all me. You came in here with threats but no armor, and despite being well armed, you’re fighting like a kath as if this were a practice match. I used to think that I was weak, and that’s why I had trouble finding a master, but you’ve shown me what true weakness looks like. You reek of someone who always had a safety net and a choice. Oh, I’m sure you think of yourself as a survivor, desperately, pathetically clinging to some past version of yourself, or a dream about who that waste of flesh would become with the help of your black magic sugar daddy, but you’re in the real galaxy now, locked in a room with me, and guess what kath? I PFASKING EAT PEOPLE!”

 

“I’ve shattered EVERYTHING I was to become the kind of monster that would excel here, not because I had to, but because I wanted to be something greater than what I was. I’ve been evolving while you’ve been “surviving” and leaning on the pedigree of your masters. I’ve sacrificed things that you will never understand, through my own choices, to build my bed of bones here. Tell me assassin, are you ready to see what a sacrifice looks like?”

 

Incandescent rage overflowing, Ailbasí released the energy that she had been collecting throughout the fight in the crystalline matrix that connected her body, her armor, and her weapon, shaping it into a concussive blast that detonated a few feet ahead of her. If she hadn’t already been braced against the durasteel door it would have been lethal even with her armor just from collateral impact, but the risk was necessary, because on the other side of the blast was a room full of shattered toys, failed prototype swords, and broken collectible holovid weapon replicas that had just been turned into an improvised fragmentation mine, rocketing towards Keenava’s general direction at lethal velocity.

 

((Duel Post 3))

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Eyes glowed crimson under a helm of charcoal black. The eyes observed silently, judging the abilities of the acolyte and were only obscured by the vaporous darkness that every so often crested over the crimson. It was that darkness which Valinor scattered about himself which hindered the eyes of foes and allies alike. But for now the eyes watched the young man work on his sabre.

 

When the acolyte looked up he was now deemed an apprentice, he had passed the first test. The building of a weapon of war. Valinor pushed against the wall at his side and the wall slid open to show three individuals, beaten and bloody.

 

All three were in their teens, both males in their late teens and the girl, whose cheeks reflected the red blade from the tears that traced down to her chin was in her early teens. Imperials all, and taken from Kuat during its fall. All of them had been in the junior flight academy there and the tattered remains of their uniforms still still showed the white imperial crest against the crimson fabric.

 

You have built a sabre and with that comes the power of apprinticeship. Now you decide their fate.

 

((You don’t have to be graphic, but this would be a good time to reflect on any old friends from childhood or sisters/brothers your character might have. Then kill or free these ‘innocents’ ))

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Mordecai had expected many things when he decided to come to Korriban and train as a Sith. Pain, both physical and mental. Difficulties on a level that were previously unknown to him. He prepared for even more. His death when he arrived, failure to complete his training, even the possibility that he was shot down before ever reaching the cursed planet. What he hadn’t prepared for was seeing familiar faces.

 

He recognized one of men, Fal, a friend of his whom he hadn’t spoken to since he left. They had grown up together, but Fal had left for Kuat a year ago. Immediately, he called out. “Mordecai! What are you doing here?” Fal grew silent, glancing at the ominous sith lord that was wreathed in shadow, then back to Mordecai. “It doesn’t matter. You can help us! Just-”

 

He didn’t have time to finish his sentence before his head tumbled to the ground, severed with a single cut. The other male gasped, and tried to move away. Mordecai stopped him with a single word.

 

“Stay.”

 

He grinned. Before, the youngest of his family, the heir to nothing, his word was next to meaningless. His older brothers always trumped him. But here… He stared at the weapon in his hand. He held the power of life and death now. There was guilt, of course. One does not kill a lifelong friend on a whim and come away without the feeling of guilt, but it would pass. An Imperial claiming association with him after being captured would do him no good in the days to come. He had no room for weak blood in his midst.

 

He could feel the fear radiating from the two others, though mostly from the other man. He stepped in front of the cadet. “Where were you when Kuat fell?” He received no answer. He frowned. Surely, this whelp of a prisoner didn’t defy him? No. It was the fear. Even he, as unaccustomed to the force as he was, could feel it. Too timid.

 

This death was not as clean. He stabbed the man through his heart, and let him die in pain. There was but one more. The Sith Lord had told him the only way to build a legacy was to kill more than the previous sith before him. This was a good start. And yet…

 

There was one more. He hadn’t even come to a halt before she uttered her words. “You’re a coward, and a traitor. You kill shackled prisoners and think yourself mighty. But you’re weak.” He breathed in, his momentary anger fading. She was stronger than the other two, a fact hidden by the tears that marred her face. He doubted she would survive if he released her, so he did the next best thing. “She would make a good sith. She may have the will for it. But if she lacks a connection to the force, or if you disagree, she will be my slave.”

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Keenava felt the energy she built moments before, siphoning from the muscles in her arm as her fist met Ailbasi’s gauntlet with a disappointing thwump. But Keenava’s energy-well hadn’t been exhausted. And the lack of energy available in the room simply helped her change targets. Keenava continued drawing energy, but from the planet and the Academy instead. Acolytes milling about their day, wandering about the halls, would feel slightly light headed as they passed. Apprentices, hard at work, training with their instructors, would start to feel sluggish after every blow. Generations of Sith, who fought and died in the wastes of Korriban, whispered to her as their dark power slithered from the tips of her toes to the tips of her fingers.

 

The shift of potential violence in the room was noticeable. But Keenava was allowed the freedom to disengage. She noted the blood on the wall, the fire brimming in her opponent’s eyes and the Sith blade floating back to Ailbasi’s hand. And, while she continued to feel the hideous claws of ancient Sith energy raking the inside of her carcass, she patiently waited while the Cathar took her position against the door and started monologuing.

 

But, for the Cathar’s wordy troubles, silence followed.

 

In the string of time that followed Ailbasi’s blast, an icy realization struck the practiced calm of Keenava’s mind. She barely noticed Clotho and Lachesis - her twin whip knives with barbed chains - rising from her hips, extending to their full forms, and dangling lethally by her side, the purple-colored fishy smelling paralytic still glistening on their blades.

 

Every catalyzing syllable, every goad, every arrogant, self-serving, slanderous sleight kept piling on and on and on. It was a noxious slime that eagerly waited to crush Keenava beneath its odious girth. But deep within the fog of ooze and slime, alone and unafraid, memories fought to surface.

 

 

  • A small girl cried. Her little brain tails, scarcely more than nubs, were scarred and burned. Her body was soaked with various unknown liquids. And she lay amidst the sludge, in a fetal position, bawling floods until all that remained was desiccation.

 

  • A larger woman lay on cold steel, her life a murmur in the dark.
  • Another, hunched and alone, sat on the dead ground and bellowed raspy tones of vacuous hunger.

 

  • Two more replaced them, streaks of desperation etched into their face, with bloody hands and terrible smiles.

 

Rows upon rows of cold flesh rest beneath the surface of Keenava’s mind. Every trial; every tumult; every hurdle; and every mark was one more step on the Assassin’s journey. And every syllable from the Cathar’s wretched throat was an acrimonious admission of ignorance; her tirade was nothing more than an excuse to showboat. It was something all young Sith did. It was something that Keenava had done years ago. The vivid recollections of her anger and pride manifesting in explosive fireballs brought phantom tingles to her skin where burns used to be.

 

 

  • But… Sacrifice? All Sith know sacrifice. All people know sacrifice.

 

Every molecule in Keenava’s body boiled. Her flaming crimson eyes slipped into an intense blue that burned the delicate skin of her caruncula. Copper filled her nostrils as gore began to flow from the corners of her eyes. Her cold expression, stolid in the face of the Cathar's raving mania, stared daggers at Ailbasi from a few steps away. Her fists tightened.

 

Her whip blades blazed with the same blue as her eyes.

 

But she refused to explode.

 

And, when the Cathar's concussive blast built to its fantastic crescendo, Keenava backhanded it, popping the explosive energy like a harmless soap bubble, sending countless items back to where they came, clattering against the stone walls and floor; an orchestra of junk. There was explicit care taken in the gesture to avoid any excess force being pushed toward Ailbasi. She was spared, while her junk and idle knick knacks were not. Vicious ethereal knives pierced the side of the Assassin's arm that came into contact with the blast. A grotesque crack emitted from her left forearm; skin broke, cloth parted, and blood seeped.

 

Her eyes remained fixed on Ailbasi. The Cathar amassed an impressive display considering how weak she was when the fight started. But it was hard and foolish to pretend that Ailbasi was anything less than a competent, cornered predator. Letting Keenava disengage and the boisterous monologue -- she'd been baited like this before. She had Fynn Relmis to thank for that. Sorry... Baron Kern

 

Quicker than Keenava imagined, Clotho and Lachesis, their barbed chains taut, slammed toward the door where Ailbasi waited, perpendicular to the Cathar's ready stance attempting to secure her arms to the durasteel door. Their gnarly barbs glistened in the cool blue flames that wreathed them; a lethal incentive to prevent resistance.

 

Ancient power clamoring through her veins, peeling the ebony skin from her hands and breaking the fragile capillaries at the ends of her fingers and toes, Keenava stepped forward until she was face-to-face with the Cathar. Her eyes, burning azure flames, accented by the blood dripping from porcelain cracks in her ebony face, creased. Her eyebrows knitted together while she attempted to remove Ailbasi’s Sithsteel helmet and mask with the force. Following that, Keenava would backhand the Apprentice across the face using her undamaged hand. The blow’s intent would be to leave a scorching red mark instead of inducing any lethal consequences.

 

Then, after a moment of silence passed between them and tears of blood continued to fall on Keenava’s face, the Twi’lek would bend a little closer to the presumably restrained Ailbasi and say: “you talk too much.”

 

((3))

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Ailbasi Zirtani vs. Keenava Ootunavi

 

In the quiet after Ailbasi Zirtani literally put her heart and soul into crafting a sword, Keenava Ootunavi went to her room to demand her assistance in crafting a piece for her, under pain of death. Rather than be coerced into performing the work, Ailbasi lured her into the undoubtedly cramped quarters of a Sith acolyte and locked the door, sealing her into the room and robbing the Twi’lek assassin of the space required for the mind-bending maneuvers in Ataru. Afterwards… well, to put it mildly, this situation escalated. It got out of hand fast.

 

Ailbasi’s opening attack of a stabbing lunge was simple, but considering the cramped environment, effective enough. Repeatedly, she utilized simple attacks that were in line with the abilities of a very inexperienced apprentice, though the telekinetic bomb at the end of the duel strains the imagination a little bit. Her attacks made use of the cramped environment, with a mild use of telekinesis intended to wrap Ootunavi in bedsheets, and avoiding the pitfalls of wielding a physical blade in such a restrained environment. Again, as much as I enjoyed the taunting in the third post, my imagination was strained a little bit by the prospect of an inexperienced apprentice gathering the Force and detonating it in an improvised telekinetic bomb, even with the assistance of an attuned weapon. It was a good idea, though it’s likely to inflict substantial harm on the user in these close quarters.

 

On Keenava Ootunavi’s part, she quickly nullified the disadvantage of being lured into such a cramped environment with a simple grapple and throw, a maneuver that is perfectly possible against a physical blade. The same follows for the attempt at disarming Ailbasi with the bedsheets--this would be nearly impossible against a lightsaber, but a simple and effective defense against a steel sword with the hilt being used as a bludgeoning weapon. Where Keenava faltered significantly, however, was in her use of the Force. Ailbasi no longer has organic eyes and assuming that she would be hampered by cutting off the lights was a minor error and waste of effort. More significant was her extension of Force drain from an individual within a room to multiple Sith throughout the Sith, with the intention of using the energy to counter the telekinetic bomb--I consider that to require a substantial degree of focus. Despite this overreach, her counterattack with her barbed whips took advantage of Ailbasi’s vulnerable state and would effectively pin her.

 

 

Despite being at a disadvantage due to her inexperience, the Ailbasi Zirtani utilized the cramped environment very effectively and tailored her attacks to suit the arena. Keenava Ootunavi effectively countered her physical weapons with improvised tactics and simple grapples Both Zirtani and Ootunavi made an overreach in terms of their powers in the third post, but Ootunavi wasted a substantial degree of effort in plunging the room into darkness and in draining power from the Sith academy. These missteps decided the duel for me.

 

Ailbasi Zirtani is the victor of this duel and gets the next post.

 

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A high pitched whining sound pierced the room, rising in intensity with Ailbasí’s rage. This assassin lacked the resolve to follow through on her threats, and it would cost her everything.

 

The whining sound exploded into a hissing roar as the knives rocketed out of the walls on geysers of blood. When Ailbasí had meditated before, the darkness had been one of melancholy and despair, with blood oozing coldly, lazily from the walls. But this new darkness was rage and motion, heat and pressure. Torrents of blood came into the room and from the now waist high depths figures clawed and grabbed at both combatants greedily to pull them under. Ailbasí brushed them off and surged forward. Movement was agony due to her self inflicted injuries from the blast, but Ailbasí had trained to act through pain. Her now unrestrained fist shot out and connected with Keenava’s unarmored stomach with meaty impact, forcing the air out of Keenava’s lungs and leaving her gasping for air.

 

“You fight too little.”

 

Ailbasí didn’t relent as her opponent struggled to draw in breath, instead she gripped the woman by the shoulder with her off hand and began raining down blow after blow on Keenava’s head. When the Twi’lek went limp Ailbasí drug her over to the desk and laid her out like it was a sacrificial altar. The remaining pieces of porcelain cracked and peeled away as if gravity had been suspended, before they transformed into white butterflies and flitted away. Underneath the doll like facade was not the oily darkness that Ailbasí had seen before, but rather the battered and broken body of a girl caught up in a chaotic storm. She should have gotten out before it came to this, Korriban is no place for people seeking shelter.

 

“There’s no kindness in throwing you back into this nightmare, you’re not meant to run amidst monsters like us. Such a fragile little thing. So I’m going to take you out of this nightmare cycle so that you can have peace at last. You may have company down the road, but it’s not like they can kill you since you’ll already be dead. Now I will admit that this next part will be a bit messy and awkward since in the past when I’ve eaten people I’ve either been in a trance state or used the Force. But I need to send a message to others that might make the same mistake you did.”

 

Ailbasí unwrapped her prize and as it stirred she delivered a pommel strike to its spine, paralyzing it. There were a couple of false starts, but eventually Ailbasí was able to set in on the grisly banquet. When the last light started leaving Keenava’s eyes, Ailbasí peeled open the rib cage and plucked out the heart like a pulsating fruit nestled in briars. She consumed it with sensual abandon, revelling in the tastes of spicy alien blood and lean, iron rich meat. The act was not only delicious and nutritious, but also symbolic, and upon its completion that infinite spark of identity was also devoured and trapped within the prison of Ailbasí’s pearl heart.

 

********************************

 

Sentimentalists would readily tell you that the topography of the heart would be defined by warm memories and places of joy, sanctuary, and nurturing. In truth it’s more of a mixed bag, as places that make your heart sink or freeze in terror can just as easily find purchase there. An Escheresque network of places resided in the young apprentice’s heart, connected not by reason but dream logic and matrices of sentiment and trauma. Keenava’s soul, at least enough shards of it to consider itself Keenava’s soul, found itself here. It was empty, just like the apprentice had said it would be, at least as far as Keenava could tell. Peace at last.

 

A growl reverberated through the heartscape from something large and hungry. A hunter that had been without hunting for far too long at last sensed a prey thing, and the chase began, the ghost of the krayt dragon roaring triumphantly at a new conquest.

 

**********************************

 

“Oh… oops.”

 

When Ailbasí had had her fill she opened the door to her quarters, and a river of blood burst out. The half eaten body of Keenava followed shortly after from the lightless room. Content that a sufficient message had been sent, Ailbasí departed for one of the many temple med bays to recover from what was surely a great deal of damage.

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Like the many scattered and self important attendees to a Naboo Royal Wedding, the combined arms fleet of the Sith Empire and the Blackest Sun arrived over the sandy desert world of Korriban. It was overkill of course, as was everything done by the Blood Prince, but the combined fleet carried thousands of prisoners taken at Kuat who had been deemed fit for service. Some had even tested positive for force ability, and as an offering, the Black Sun had brought these newly minted slaves to the halls of the Sith Academy.

 

Delta himself had come to see how his daughter and his ex-lover were doing. Qaela would likely be in the halls somewhere screaming at men for being in her way, and Telperien would be with...what the Dark Lord? Maybe? He didn’t know, but dressed in his black armour none the less, walked through the halls of the Sith Academy, looking for familiar faces.

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It was days before Ailbasí was let out of medical, not because she was too unwell to leave, but because the biomancers were concerned that she wouldn’t follow their activity restrictions. Which was a fair hypothesis. But still stupid and annoying. They may have also been mad about the med droid that malfunctioned and then caught on fire while repeatedly screaming “CRITICAL FAULT, NO CARDIOVASCULAR MUSCLE DETECTED!”

 

When Ailbasí had first come to this temple, she had been full of fear. Now she wore it like armor. Other students gave her a wide berth now, so news had gotten around. She wanted to celebrate, but Sith were rubbish at parties. A few months back a girl threw a party upon being accepted into the academy, within two hours it had imploded from power plays, duels, and drunken sorceries gone wrong. The final death count was never disclosed, but Ailbasí was fairly certain it was in the oodles range.

 

Even dating was difficult. Either the guys were all obsessed about showing dominance and expecting you to be some leathered up assistant, or they were sleeping with half the temple already. The worst was a date with an almost normal seeming guy who took a turn for the super creepy, talking about how their offspring would be the vessel for a new breed of super Sith. She wanted to get laid, not mother the new master race. Not like she could mother anything to begin with, being an infertile halfbreed. Jokes on you, eugenics prick.

 

While musing and walking the halls, Ailbasí’s attention suddenly settled upon an outsider with fierce intensity. He wasn’t as brilliantly lit as the other students, meaning he wasn’t a Force sensitive, but he was beautifully defined in his own way. He looked like a knight, a feudal armored knight, not the creepy cultist Jedi knight type. His armor, once burnished gold, was blackened by the flames of war, and his hands dripping red from the atrocities he had committed. This didn’t deter Ailbasí though, her hands had their own share of blood on them. A half shattered halo floated above his brow, with the broken pieces forming a horn. This was a good man ground down into something darker by the wars he had fought. Maybe he had been a hero even. Ailbasí liked that notion. A familiarity that she couldn’t place clung to him, but there was no apprehension or unease tied to it.

 

There was an instant attraction, undercut by a sudden fear. What if she said something wrong, or foolish? What if he wasn’t into Cathar? What if he wasn’t into women? What if he wasn’t into Cathar Sith women with crimson dragon pearl eyes?

 

What if I let my fear control me for the rest of my life? What if I end up alone because I’m always too afraid? This isn’t like back at school, where most of her classmates were arrogant, xenophobic kaths who could sleep with an alien but couldn’t date one. Her world sucked and she already changed it once, time to do it again. Say something clever but don’t overdo it. She approached the mystery man and linked her arm in his while whispering conspiratorially in his ear… at least as close as she could get with the height difference.

 

“It’s dangerous to walk alone here. Pretend you’re with me and maybe by the end of the night you will be...”

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The caves were so full of the force on Korriban. Delta was not too fond of the force, and in his lifetime he had seen more death and destruction brought to the galaxy because of religious differences between the two warring sectors of force users than any man made plague. Of course he did not mind the death and destruction, for every bullet or starfighter expended in the pursuit of domination, the military estate made someone money. And luckily through many years of deals, the Black Sun brought in much of that money. Deepening the pockets of the Vigos and those mercenaries that survived their adventures in the service of the Black Sun. It was in thinking of those trillions of credits that Delta’s thoughts fell to something he had not thought of in a long while. A forbidden thought crossed his mind.

 

What is it all for?

 

Instantly the ever present ghost of a long dead Jedi General was there to whisper in his ear.

 

Ca’aran…

 

The Blood Prince took a deep breath and shook his head. No matter the eons that passed, the trillions of parescs he travelled, or the thousands he had murdered, that presence was always there. Waiting for a moment to exploit the chinks in his psychic armour to torment him with conscience. She was always there. That red haired demon. If only she had joined the force with his blaster bolts instead of grabbing onto him.

 

His eyes looked down the corridor, hoping not to see any pale milk blue eyes that indicated a physical apparition, but just as fast as Kailen had appeared, she had vanished again. Leaving him fighting against the wave of conscience that she always brought with her. But it was not blue eyes he saw in the corridor ahead of him as he fought his invisible fight against guilt, it was Red eyes. A crimson flash that paused his steps, but then a feline arm had wrapped around his and a voice smooth vandian silk whispered in his ear. A smile replaced his frown, as the shields in his mind were restored to double front.

 

“Then I will not mind the company.”

He reached a gloved hand and placed it over hers, two black hands hidden in the darkness of the shadowed corridors. His heartbeat increased at the thought of the nights end, however the voice was familiar and it awakened another memory of a meeting on Onderon.

 

“I recognize your voice from Onderon during the takover there, tell me beautiful, what journey brought you to this world?”

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“That’s a story that I haven’t had enough drinks to tell yet. Suffice it to say, I did what I needed to do to survive, and that led to some dark places, places that I think changed me. But I don’t think that I’m too far gone. My entire life up this point was spent searching for an elsewhere to be, whether it was in holovids and mythographs, or studying ancient alien civilizations, but there is a sense of belonging here, a natural intuition within me that helps me find my way in the dark.”

 

There was an ease in opening up to the man, knowing that he was just as changed, or maybe broken, as she was. Any potential judgement would be hollow and false, and any empathy honest. It was a foundation of kinship different and yet more accessible than any she had felt before.

 

“I never got the chance to thank you for coming back for me at the hospital, there have been a lot of people that have discarded me the moment that I became inconvenient, but you came for me before I was even conveniently good for you. It means a lot to me.”

 

Maybe she was being too open, but she didn’t care. Fear was no longer an obstacle, but a companion that bid her to fight harder for what she wanted. What probably they both wanted.

 

“I don’t know if you have somewhere you need to be, but if you don’t, you can join me for drinks on my ship… My quarters at the temple are currently a disaster zone from a couple of rather messy rituals, but my yacht has been kept up and we can have a few drinks and… talk. For as long as you want to.”

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Rituals. Why did the sith always have to have rituals? Why couldn’t they just be normal people who sometimes dabbled in the art of being a religious nutcase? But he did not know this girl yet, so he could only assume that the rituals were like those he had seen Ar-Pharazon do aboard the Marie some decade earlier. Those were mostly bloody affairs that had involved the youngest members of the old Naboo royal family, which while fun, had left a distinct sour taste in his mouth.

 

But hey, anything for power and wealth right?

 

Right?

 

His heart did not agree so he ignored it and continued to walk down the winding corridors towards the feline’s waiting vessel. But the mention of dark rituals did set his mind on alert. He shelved it for later discussion as they continued their walk. This was a strong girl, who had been through a personal hell and he could only respect anyone who had been through the mess which was Sheog the Mad’s court. His voice was hesitant as he spoke.

 

“Then we shall drink to your victories, though I hope that somewhere deep down inside there is a kernel of the person you once were to keep in check the pure lust for power that can corrupt and seduce so many of the Sith. That desire that spurns any past dreams to only grasp at the ever out of reach last credit or last throne.”

 

It was not romantic language, but he knew he was there mainly speaking only of his own journey. So to add humour which was in his best opinion the best way to break ice or tension from previous statements he spoke again. Appearing to all the world as Bi-Polar as he felt.

 

“So you said you studied ancient civilizations and history eh?” He rubbed his chin with his spare hand and gave her a sloppy grin. “Ever hear of the clone wars?” He laughed again and pulled her closer as they approached the hanger together. “Well miss, I must say I am grateful to have come to you in that hospital, and you are welcome.” They entered the hanger which sprawled out for nearly a kilometer of carved sandstone in the rock of Korriban.

 

“Before I join you up into that ship…” He raised his hand which was clasped with hers as he pointed to the looming Starwind class pleasure yacht that sat on its landing struts with all the grace of a beached Antaluviian turtle. “You should know that I am the fleet commander of the Axis combined arms, so you know, don’t like sacrifice me to and old Sith like Dagon or something like that.”

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His words hit her like a bucket of ice water. Her immediate gut reaction was to feel anger, to feel slighted by his dismissal of her sacrifice. But he didn’t know about her sacrifice, he only knew that rituals had been performed, and he took it to a very logical conclusion. It hurt, but not nearly as much as his lamenting the loss of the girl she once was. That was like an icicle through the heart. She didn’t think there was anyone left in her life that cared about That Girl. Memories of That Girl came floating up to the surface like shards of a broken mirror and Ailbasí felt nauseous. She forced the urge to vomit back down and composed herself.

 

“I’d be lying if I acted like I could bring back who I used to be on a whim. I’m damaged now in ways that make such a notion simply impossible. But this conversation is the first time in awhile that I had the desire to do so, and that has to be worth something.”

 

She wiped away rebellious tears and turned to face him, looking up directly into his eyes. It made her feel vulnerable, and the darkness within her raged and railed at that. But something inside her told her that this was exactly the right time to be vulnerable, to be open to the intervention of someone that cared about her.

 

“So here’s my offer, we go on my ship, and you tie me up so that you can feel safe. There was a guy I knew in Uni that was into that so I have ropes. Next I soberly tell you what all I’ve done to get here, and you make a decision. If think you can still save some measure of me, then you tell me, and you hold me like fragile porcelain, even if I feel harder than smithed steel. You tell me how pretty I am, how sexy I am, despite the fact that I’m built like a monster. When you look into my eyes, you pretend you don’t see hardened pearls that can handle anything, you act like you need to tell me that everything is going to be okay. You lie to me, until I dare to believe those lies and see some measure of hope for reclaiming pieces of my past self.”

 

“If you don’t think that I can be saved, or if you just don’t want that burden, we drink to what we lost until it stops hurting, and then we pfask until we pass out. Then when you wake up you leave and never speak to me again. Save me or use me, we’re both getting what we want tonight.”

 

The Best Behaviour’s ramp descended like a timely dramatic threshold, creating a portal into a life that Ailbasí had tossed aside only a few days ago. Was this a second chance or a moment of temptation? Either way, Ailbasí hoped that Delta was too distracted by her to notice the holotoon characters on her bed sheets once they got to her room...

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Oh she’s crying? Classic me.

 

He ground his heels into the dust covered Korribani hanger and seized her by the shoulders. His two strong hands encapsulating her lithe shoulders and pinning her in place. His eyes, steel blue as they were, were full of grim determination as well as a touch of fear at what he himself was uncovering.

 

“You are not someone who needs saving, you have made countless decisions that left you here. If you are happy with what you are, then I am glad of it. I know and fear that decisions made are often regretted. For I am a creature of regrets, and if that scrap of heart I still have had its way I would place the barrel of my DC17 under my chin and join my brothers in whatever counts as an afterlife for clones. The galaxy would rejoice in my fate and my brothers in this Axis would be glad of another step up in the ladder of power I opened for them.”

 

His eyes flicked up and to the left, looking off into space that was unoccupied. His brain rushed from thought to thought, despising the fact that he had opened up to this poor Sithari girl. His heart told him that there was a chance of salvation here. His brain told him that she was not worth his time and his loins told him a very different thing. It wanted what every evolutionary biologist deemed the desire for every lifeform. But he could ignore lust. He was trained to do that, to live and die in a trench on Christophsis, and not to be distracted by that Jedi general laying beside him…

 

He shut that thought down before it awakened a spirit long subdued, and the mind and heart went back to war. So he spoke finally when the ramp had firmly settled onto the hanger floor with a hiss of outgassing from its interiors.

 

“I…”

 

His face scrunched up to a scowl and he spoke the words that both his brain and loins hated him for.

 

“I would like to get to know you, then we can decide if passion is our game.”

 

Then he leaned forward and placed his forehead against hers, so their eyes were close and his skin could feel the silk of hers. It was a Mandalorian tradition, usually done when helmets were on, a sign of affection and trust. His voice was very soft as steel blue looked into crimson red.

 

“For you are no monster.”

 

He released her and walked confidently up the ramp into her ship.

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((You have gained an NPC thrall/retinue which in a few posts we will decide what to do with))

 

Will is only a temporary thing young one.

 

The voice of the commander of the Felix Legions emanated from behind his mask as he evaluated the young apprentice’s deeds. He was strong, and learning, learning the desires that made a man great. He strode forward and placed his hand upon the young woman’s head, his fingers clawlike and where the armour touched, blood seeped from the pores until her face was matted with bright blood. She tried to scream but it came out a gurgle of pain as her bright eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed.

She has the force and it is strong. In time you may mould her to your will, and I will send her to your chambers. Keep her as a thrall, but do not fall to the weakness of lust with this thing. A Sith deserves better. Now follow me.

Valinor strode from the room until they arrived at a large room, its floors covered by a few short walls and ramps. In its center, some ten meters high suspended in the air there was a crystal, blue in colour and radiating energy in the force.

 

Bring me that, and then we may continue one. You have ten seconds.

 

Turrets, three of them, descended from the ceiling, their low powered blasters scanning for a target, and when those seconds were up, they would knock the apprentice back down to size.

 

((Try and fail, learn how to overcome these obstacles, Distance, blaster bolts, and frustration))

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Ailbasí watched Delta stride confidently up the boarding ramp. Part of her had wished that he would have just picked one of the two options that she had laid out, kept things uncomplicated. This was the opposite of uncomplicated. Now he was going to be on her ship and be all paying attention to things and asking awkward questions like “why do you have so many toys?” or “what’s an Ereneda Handmaiden Sorceress Force and why do you have like fifteen posters for it?” or “What’s cosplay?”.

 

“Give me a minute to change out of my evil mistress of the night getup, yeah?”

 

When the changes in her mass and figure had stabilized, Ailbasí had hired a personal shopper to pick up some new outfits. They were waiting for her in her closet, neatly hung and folded. And virtually indiscernible from one another to Ailbasí’s new eyes. If it had been her old clothes, she might have been able to recognize some pieces by what memories were attached to them, but these were all blank canvases. She settled on a fitted tunic with a V neck that had the words “Board certified professional hugger” embroidered on it and some ridiculously soft and fluffy thermaweave pants. An angled leather belt and knee high leather boots finished off the outfit.

 

She put an elastic hair tie on her wrist like a bracelet in case the night took a turn for the better and checked herself out in the mirror out of habit. What stared back at her though was an image of her in her warrior armor, glaring daggers over her philosophical about face.

 

“Oh come on, we both know that I can’t even settle on a favorite color for five minutes, this won’t be an overnight change for me,” she whispered.

 

The reflection reached through the mirror and tried to seize her head and smash her face into the mirror’s surface, but she grabbed the frame and braced herself, and promptly left the room after the attack failed. The pursuit of the dark arts would just have to learn to share time with the pursuit of hot guys.

 

Ailbasí found Delta where she had left him, and guided him to the passenger lounge area where she plopped down in an overstuffed armchair and folded her legs cross legged. She gestured to a myriad selection of other chairs and couches, indicating Delta could take a seat.

 

“Alright, Inquisitor Delta,” she spoke in an over the top Imperial Core worlds accent occasionally interrupted by giggles, “how would you like to begin your interrogation of the subject?”

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Where Delta found himself was jarring to him, the girls atmosphere had been all evil and dangerous, but aboardships looked more like a homesick girls college dorm. Not like he had been in many of those in his time as a vagabond in the employ of the Black Sun, but he had seen enough Holofilms to get the idea. To him she seemed very conflicted, which spoke to his heart. A girl hesitating before stepping into the speeder traffic that was the dark side. But was it his place to save, or to pursue her? He couldn’t make up his mind, and before he could she had returned in an outfit that was very much not what he expected. It brought a smile to his face and he walked with her to the lounge and as she sat, he did as well, though on some kind of exercise ball which shifted uneasily under his weight. Plus the durasteel armour he wore could likely pop the thing so he decided to get more comfortable. He grinned at her sloppily,

 

“Mind if I get comfortable as well before the interrogation starts? Plus it wouldn't be proper to get to know a girl unless she also can ask questions, so ask away if you want, let's make this a double sided interrogation eh?”

 

Ritualisticly, as he had done for many years he began to remove the Katarn class armour, beginning at his hands. Seals hissed and they were released, and he pulled off his gauntlets, freeing his hands from the durasteel which enabled him to slowly pull his vest and chest armour off. He kept his eyes on the beautiful feline as he did so, and to break any tension he started some small talk.

 

“Your quarters are very nice, they remind me a lot of my Jedi Generals back in the day, though she was…” He was about to say ‘Much younger than you and just an apprentice’, but felt that was an insult so simply pulled his chestpeice over his head to change the topic following it up with. “But that was a long time ago, you probably know the origin of someone like me, but in case you don’t...Hi i’m a clone of some mandalorian, bred on Kamino and trained by the Republic to be a killing machine. What is your story?”

 

Within several minutes of frustrating work he had left a orderly pile of durasteel and armourweave beside the flexing ball of air and polymeerine plastic he was sitting on. He himself was now dressed in a red undertunic much akin to the type he had worn on Kamino so many years before. He piled the weapons he carried haphazardly on her floor, and sat back, cradling the lightsabre he had kept for decades for but a moment before tossing it into the pile. A relic of a time long passed. A time of murder. Then he looked back at her, his strong hands twisting awkwardly as if they desired a blade or blaster to hold. “Are you happy here among the Sith?”

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A message came in for Delta, no encryption at all.

 

 

"I have the Imperial bitch leader at Dark Sun Station. Send whoever you like to have fun with her."

 

 

It was short, and Zalis didn't really address herself. She didn't feel like she had a need to. Delta knew who it was and who she was talking about.

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Ailbasí didn’t respond to the question immediately. Instead she chewed it down to the bone, her mouth scrunched up and angled off to the side as she mulled it over. It was one of those simple questions that required a complex answer.

 

“I didn’t seek out the Sith in a bid for fortune and glory, in fact I didn’t seek out the Sith at all, they found me. But now there’s this thing inside of me that’s awake, and if I don’t learn how to live with it, it’s going to seize the wheel from me forever. And the light, the light is the same thing except you’re expected to just give control over while all the bits of yourself that make you… well… You, all that fades away. I don’t want armies and limitless cosmic power, I want to know that the sword on my back is sharp enough to cut through any chain. To exist beyond the Great Game being played and to choose my path rather than to grind down everything that is me chasing after armies and secret rituals. So big picture, I’m not happy yet. But at the same time, in the small moments, I absolutely am happy right now talking with you.

 

I’m going to stumble and make mistakes following this path, and they’re going to cost me, but that’s not really any different from any other path in life. Either I dive in headfirst or I let other people make decisions for me, or worse, I just live on the sidelines of my own life. But me is what I’m fighting for, not some vague dream of power or wealth. Besides, I think having things to care about makes me a better Sith, since I have more to feel things about. I’m definitely feeling things about you, and how you and I may fit together. In multiple ways.”

 

Ailbasí knew she was coming on strong, but after months of keeping her head down it was refreshing to be reckless with her intentions. She pondered for a moment before settling on a first question.

 

“What was the first choice you made after you were discharged from service, and what was it like after being in a super disciplined environment for so long?”

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There was a glimpse of kindness in her question, perhaps through a lack of knowledge of the Clone Wars or perhaps because she was a nice person underneath the Sithari personality. But what he did not expect was how with a single probing question that she brought back so much horror, so much regret, and those feelings of worthlessness. He could feel his stomach surge for a moment, but his tough military exterior saw him through. Outwardly perhaps his face became more hard, the lines at the corners of his mouth twitched into a small frown.

 

“Miss.” His voice was soft, as if what he was saying was impossible. “I had to learn to live again. We were chattel to the Republic and the Empire after it. If anything what I learned from the clone Wars was that the Republic deserved its fate. Most of my men were silently put down when strain from their actions in the war began to show or if they were too wounded to continue on. The rich fought a war against separatists without ever getting their hands wet with the blood of millions that died. So my first choice when I found out that I was going to be ‘retired’ was to live. To venture into that void outside the purpose for which I was designed. My second choice was to bring whatever revenge I could upon those royal houses, and those vestiges of the Republic. I have fallen from that path to pursue simply riches and blood because that was easier. We all have a part in the Great Game whether we wish it or not. For to turn away from the game is to play it for what it truly is, to find your fate in a galaxy torn by war.”

 

He grimaced. This was very personal stuff he was throwing out into the space between them, and he could sense his chances of getting some tonight slowly slipping away. So he continued as he could feel small ghostly hands upon his shoulders, and he knew that if he looked up he would see them. Always trying to draw him into the past, to be swallowed there. To acknowledge that he should have pulled that trigger on the battle worn DC-17 he had placed against his temple after he saw what he had done after sixty six. He had been a man without purpose, without the only thing keeping him sane. Without Her. He quickly looked up to the black coated cathari and smiled. Distracting himself from those memories at his back.

 

“I am very glad to have met you, though I cannot recall if I have ever learned your name. So we must start there. My pod brothers named me Ca'Aran. But you must also tell me of where you come, what was it like to have a family, what is college like?”

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