So I Present, In Brief, A History Of My Grief
Posts: 6
  • Posted On: Mar 1 2022 1:23pm
Ahnk felt out of place.

That wasn’t altogether unusual. Ahnk was dressed in civilian garb, which itself was unusual. He wore a leather glove over his metal hand, and only his feet were standard issue combat boots; everything else suggested he was here for a good time and not, in fact, for a long time.

He wasn’t comfortable.

Asking Ahnk to do anything with the exception of killing people made him naturally uncomfortable. Do that, he was right at home. Hand to hand, with a lightsaber, a blaster… hell, he could throw a motherfucker into a motherfucker until one or more of the motherfuckers was dead, but this?

If there was anything he hated more than trying to blend in, it was trying to blend in in a queue.

Ahnk had been the former Dark Lord Of The Sith. He’d never had to wait in line back then. How the mighty had fallen.

“Ragnarok, party of two,” one of the porters cried out.

Ahnk slowly pushed his way through the crowd, walking up to the call station. “It’s Rashanagok,” he corrected, and setting his suitcase onto a luggage conveyer.

“Ah, my apologies…” the porter said, then began accessing the information he had. “Alright, let me see here sir… ah yes, you have been booked the deluxe VIP package. As The Halcyon moves through the stars, we will make stops at spaceports across the galaxy. You, as a VIP, can choose where and how long we stop for.”

“That sounds absurdly expensive,” Ahnk said, as Auriga rejoined him. She set down her two suitcases, but Ahnk saw a droid following her with five more bags. “Did you bring enough clothes?”

“I want to be ready whether it is hot or cold,” she reasoned.

“I was just telling the porter that the package we are booked on sounds absurdly expensive,” Ahnk said, turning and grabbing her bags. “How could you afford something like this?”

“Me? I don’t have any money,” Auriga clarified. “I used some of your money.”

“What?” Ahnk exclaimed. “How?”

“I just took some from one of your Vinda Corporation accounts,” Auriga said with a shrug.

“On whose authority?” Ahnk continued.

“Natalya,” Auriga said, and then turned. “By the way, she told us to drop in when we circle by Bonadon. Say hello.”

“Oh I’ll be popping in,” Ahnk said, hefting up the last of the bags. “Need to have a discussion with that woman about boundaries…”

“Ahnk, would you please relax and stop being so grumpy?” Auriga said, turning to him with arms crossed and a big frown. “We’re on vacation. Can you at least try and have fun?”

Ahnk turned to her, and slowly, painfully, smiled.

“We’ll work on that,” Auriga said and Ahnk sighed.

“All of your food and beverage needs will be taken care of, and you will have unlimited access to the shipboard spas… including the executive level,” the porter told them. Ahnk didn’t know what an executive level spa was, but he already didn’t like it. “On behalf of Chandrila Star Lines, please enjoy yourselves, Mr. and Mrs. Ragnarok.”

“Rashanagok,” both Auriga and Ahnk corrected at the same time. Then Auriga grabbed him by the arm and made an excited noise. “I am so excited. Aren’t you excited?”

Ahnk turned to her, and faked a smile. “Overjoyed.”

Auriga was in heaven.

The Marzullo’s were not a poor family; the Coruscant and Ziost branches were among the wealthiest on their particular worlds, with Coruscant in particular having lucrative criminal cash flows to provide members with all that they needed. But on Tattooine, life was much simpler, and Auriga had learned to appreciate the simple things.

But when you’re on a luxury star liner with a card that opens any door and buys you whatever you want, it’s easy to lose track and… overindulge. Clearly, Ahnk’s comments about bringing enough clothes hadn’t resonated with her.

She left The Chandrila Collection, the cruise ships’ boutique shopping outlet, and went to the The Sublight Lounge. She took a seat at the bar, and ordered a Hoth Frost, getting comfortable.

As she sat down, a man from the crowd sat down next to her. “Well, if you aren’t a vision of loveliness,” he said.

She tipped her cup to him. “I thank you for the compliment,” she said, “but I am here with someone.”

The man looked around. “If you were here with me, I wouldn’t let you out of my sight,” the man said.

Auriga looked down at the floor and ran a hand through her hair. That is because you are paranoid and insecure, Ahnk’s voice cut into both of their heads. Just because I am not in the room doesn’t effect my ability to kill you with a thought, so tread carefully in this conversation.

The man, shaken, nodded his head in her direction. “I’m sorry I bothered you,” he said, then added, “enjoy your drink,” before scurrying away like a frightened womprat.

“I was wondering if you were paying attention,” Auriga said, and took a sip of her drink.

Of course I am paying attention, Ahnk countered. You’re spending my money afterall.

“And here I thought that display of toxic masculinity was trying to stick up for me,” Auriga mused.

Sure, I don’t want anyone hitting on my girl, Ahnk admitted. I am old fashioned like that.

“I can handle myself,” Auriga said. “He was harmless, and I enjoy the attention.”

Maybe use his card the next trip you make to the boutique, Ahnk teased.

“Why are you sulking in your quarters?” Auriga said. “I say your quarters because in the time I spent there you seemed to do everything you could to make me feel like an interloper.”

I was ordered to rest and relax, so I am resting, and relaxing, Ahnk said. No one ordered me to have fun.

“Don’t make me call that doctor again,” Auriga threatened. Ahnk didn’t reply, so Auriga went back to her drink.

And when her drink was finished, another.

Then another.

Ahnk, meanwhile, was reading reports.

He’d never imagined himself as a general; when he was a Sith Lord, he still went into battles like any other soldier, sword in hand, boots on the ground. Directing the movements of others seemed pointless; war was chaos, you line columns of men against other columns of ideologically opposed men, and chaos is the subsequent result. In engaging in war, one was an agent of chaos.

Of course, things were different now that he was getting older. The idea of a rogue Jedi didn’t mean as much with scattered temples across the galaxy, but Ahnk would still get reports from various agents, Irtar, Corran, the like, suggesting a course of action. Ahnk would meditate on the action, and if it seemed wise, offer his ascent. His words weren’t orders, so to speak, but his word carried a lot of weight given how often he went into battle, and came back alive.

Most of the time.

Ahnk realized, when he read the reports and the strategic deployments and the latest observations of enemy movements, that every time he suggested a course of action, there were people who wouldn’t come back alive.

That was his curse. Ahnk had gone from seeing the faces of the dead that had fallen at his hand, to now simply seeing their names on a pad. Was he more of a monster because the number was bigger, or less, because his hands were clean?

It was a depressing line of thought.

Ahnk wondered if Auriga was right. Maybe he should relax. He could, at the moment, have whatever he wanted. Food and alcohol were plentiful and could be custom prepared, if he only ask. He could fill the room with music. And sex…

…it had been a few months now since that night on Kuat. When Ahnk and Auriga reconnected in every meaning of the term. It had been passionate, and violent. And in the aftermath, Ahnk had felt something he hadn’t… maybe ever.

Since then, their relationship had been complicated. She was angry with him, for a sin committed a lifetime ago. And a sin compounded by a genuine desire to keep her away from harm. Auriga was a Marzullo, moreover she was an acolyte of the Sith. She had chosen to court danger.

So why did he feel the need to steer her away?

Ahnk knew that he felt… good. With her. When he touched her. When she touched him. Even just being in the same room, things seemed calm.

But then he looked at her as he lay dying. And saw the tears in her eyes.

Sure, he hadn’t died. A human replica droid with the strength and speed of a dozen men had seen to that.

But he would die. Or she would die. And Ahnk didn’t think it was going to work out that they were fortunate enough to die together.

This relationship could only end in tragedy.

And so he had stayed away. He knew, back then, from the first night that they became entangled, he wasn’t prepared for this. Then, all of a sudden, she was in the room with him, handcuffs on her arm, her teeth digging into his flesh, and he couldn’t imagine her even being anywhere but by his side.

Or beneath him, or atop him, or etc etc.

The bloody woman was magnetic.

All the same, they didn’t really know each other. He knew a story of hers from growing up and Ahnk had told her some of his experiences with the war, but actually knowing each other? Intimately? On any sort of emotional level?

It struck Ahnk as absurd, that here they were, sharing an expensive hotel suite, aboard a romantic cruise, on a high priced luxury cruise liner, and they had barely spoken about anything other than The Cree’Ar.

And why wasn’t Ahnk doing anything to change that?

He lowered his report for a moment.

Why, indeed.

Part of it was that Ahnk was a private person. He had become so used to solitude. When he travelled with someone, be it Bill, Chang, Irtar for a time… he treated them more as a distraction than a friend. Someone to deal with, when need be, and then go back to his thoughts. Of which he had many. Complicated. Complex. Some of them were even shaped like a woman.

He sighed. Now, that he had pushed her away, he missed her?

He set the report down on the bedside table.

Nothing was irreversible. He could, if he wanted, reach out, right now, and find Auriga. This starliner wasn’t very big. He could find her and join her for a drink. Or suggest she join him for something else. He didn’t need to be alone.

He had to decide, now, if he wanted to be alone.

But just as he was about to think on it, he heard the suite door open. Given there were only two keys, and he had one of them, that could mean only one thing; Auriga had returned.

“Andrew,” she slurred, from the entryway. “My love,” she added, “I have returned.”

Ahnk smiled. “Well, it was you or a pirate gang,” he said, not knowing who else would try and enter their quarters.

“I’m very drunk,” Auriga said, bluntly, then added even more bluntly, “I want to fuck.”

Well, so much for that internal debate he had planned. “Oh do you?”

“Don’t try and play… hard to get,” she managed to get out. She was pretty sauced. “I know you… love me. Stupid… Rogue Jedi.”

Ahnk, meanwhile, took off his shirt. Not like he was going to fight her. “You’re drunk,” he said, observant.

“I said that already!” Auriga shot back, argumentatively. “Did I say the other part, about…”

“...what you wanted, yes, yes you did,” Ahnk said, laughing to himself. “Well, far be it for me to argue with you…”

Before she said anything else, Auriga stumbled, a foot forward, out of the shadow of the entryway, close enough that Ahnk could make her out from the tableside lamp. And his jaw hung agape when he looked at her.

She’d changed since she had left their quarters, and given she had spent a small fortune on clothing since they had last seen each other, he was at least glad she was getting some value out of it. But the outfit she had chosen…

It was white, and tight; nothing was left to the imagination. Despite that, it was a head to toe affair, ending at the top of the neck. So while it didn’t show any skin, it didn’t hide anything in the way of curves. Auriga had not worn a bra, that also wasn’t left to the imagination. She had worn a belt, something simple and practical, and the outfit had two distinct features, notably the loose fitting bell sleeves, and the hood, which at present was flat against her back.

It was an outfit Ahnk had seen before.

“What… where…” Ahnk began, but then she put her finger on his lips.

“Something I picked up in the boutique,” she asked. “Do you like it?”

“No…” Ahnk admitted, still a little shaken.

“Well, let me take it off then…” Auriga teased.

But that wasn’t what Ahnk wanted to hear either. “No!” he said, turning and twisting away from her. He clutched the corner of the wall, and looked at her. Pain was seared across his face.

“I don’t get you!” Auriga said. “Am I truly so repulsive that you’d recoil in horror at the thought of intimacy with me?”

Ahnk looked at her, took a deep breath to compose himself. “Not you,” he said.

“Not you,” he repeated, as his legs gave out, and he slid down to the floor.

“Not you,” he murmured, barely above a whisper, as Auriga sought him out and held onto him.

Hours passed.

It was impossible to tell aboard a starship. Space was dark, so quarters had adjustable lights, and the exterior halls would subtly adjust depending on the point in a cycle of the next planet you currently found yourself. Since Ahnk had been reading by the table at the bedside, it had been the only light.

No, Ahnk noticed the passing of the time on Auriga’s breath. She had smelt delicious, then disgusting, and now was bordering on only mildly inoffensive as the alcohol in her system broke down. He could feel her pain, acute overintoxication and dehydration combining to drive a massive headache, but to her credit, she hadn’t left him.

She’d fallen asleep a couple of times. Once, she left the room to puke.

But otherwise, her loyalty was commendable.

She’d changed; got the feeling she needed to, though Ahnk hadn’t insisted. He was embarrassed and ashamed. He considered himself to be well composed but, Ahnk was a man like any other. Some of his scars were healed and some of them were fresh.

“I didn’t know,” she said at some point. Ahnk had barely heard her at the time, but now, he squeezed her hand.

Her eyes popped open, and looked at him. “Hey,” she said, confused, only half awake.

“It’s not your fault,” Ahnk replied.

“What…” she started, and then realized. “Oh, yeah. The outfit. Andrew, you…”

“Need to open up to you,” Ahnk finished her sentence. “I know. I need time.”

Auriga took a deep breath. “It’s been half a day,” she countered.

“Alright,” Ahnk said. “Then I suppose it’s time I told you…”

How I Know Organa Solo, Meeting Her, And Why I Can’t Forgive Her

“I was a lot shorter then.

“She was a vision, she was; every bit the regal beauty she was supposed to be. The Last Daughter Of Alderrann. She was busy, I could tell, people were approaching her left and right. But she was focused on me.

“She was summoning the courage. The courage you need to give someone bad news.”

“What happened, Andrew?”

“She knelt down, so that we were face to face. And she put her hands on my shoulders.”

“Andrew, something terrible has happened. As you know when we made our temple here, we did it because getting to the underwater cities of The Gungans is very difficult for someone with ill intent. But outside of that security, we are vulnerable. There is no easy way to tell you this, except to just tell you. An assassin from the Sith approached your mother while she was on a morning run. She’s been killed, Andrew.”

“Oh my god,” Auriga said.

“I blame myself more than you can ever know. I had thought that the secret identities I had given each of the Jedi would allow them to move about in peace. But the Sith learned of my deception and, worse, that your mother had a list of the students in the temple. I failed her, and didn’t do enough to protect her…”

“But I didn’t want to hear it. I remember standing, and shouting. Then, I don’t know what. She was on the floor, and, men were grabbing me. She insisted they let me go, and I ran. I didn’t stop running until Yavin IV.”

“The Sith Academy,” Auriga reasoned.

“That wasn’t our only meeting. We met again, twice on Naboo. The first time, I was but a student; rushing so headstrong into battle, and being gloriously outmatched. She toyed with me, which only made me angrier. In the end, she burnt me, setting me on fire. I didn’t even get the satisfaction of drawing out her anger; instead, she was simply bemused by the entire episode, but it only caused my hatred and rage to deepen.”

“You said there was a second time?”

“I returned when I was a master. I had stolen several of her students, including one, named Kahn. He helped me infiltrate the planet covertly while my military made an open assault to cover my assassination attempt. Kahn led me to her, and we crossed blades again. In the chaos, I remember taking a blade in the back, and then falling, and dying.”

“You died?” Auriga asked.

“Not for the last time,” Ahnk replied. “As I came to, in another clone body, I isolated myself, and thought long and hard on what I had done. I decided I would pursue a new path for myself. I decided I would become a Jedi. My empire didn’t come with me, and instead, betrayed me.”

“Oh Ahnk,” Auriga said. It was a lot to take in.

“She advocated for me at my trial,” Ahnk said. “I went on trial, you see. To see if I would be tried as a war criminal against The Republic, or allowed to become a Jedi. She said her peace on my behalf, and left me to my fate.”

“And you haven’t seen her since?”

“I don’t know,” Ahnk said. “I’ve had… visions. Dreams of her. Did we meet? Discuss our history? Maybe. Maybe it was a shared hallucination. The Force works in mysterious ways. I do know one thing.”

Auriga said nothing, letting him get it out.

“I can forgive her for getting my mother killed. It wasn’t her fault. I can’t hold her responsible for the actions of the Sith. But she let me storm away in anger. Maybe she wasn’t mature enough to sense that I needed her. Maybe she didn’t know how to help me. But Andrew Rashanagok stormed out of the Jedi Temple on Naboo, and he emerged years later from the Sith Temple on Yavin IV, Darth Ahnk.”

Auriga squeezed him, and rubbed his back.

“I can never forgive her, for the death of that boy.”

When Ahnk let his head fall, and sleep overtook him, Auriga quietly slipped out of bed.

She went to the refresher, and burned The Alderaan Royal Dress.
Posts: 6
  • Posted On: Mar 12 2022 4:03am
Ahnk would have shot out of bed in a cold sweat except for three things.

Firstly, there is an odd sensation when your body moves while it is still asleep. Usually you find it in reverse; if you fall asleep upright, maybe sitting or lounging in something comfortable. Your equilibrium gets imbalanced and sends a jolt to your body to wake you up, lest gravity proceed and injury result. But it happens when lying flat as well. The brain reacts to something in a dream, causing a physical reaction. That reaction causes you to move but your body is still asleep, so reacting as if your dream was something real, your body will jolt you awake. This is usually accompanied by confusion followed by de-escalating tension.

Secondly, Ahnk wasn't sleeping alone. His close proximity to another human had led to a rise in ambient temperature he hadn't anticipated, and now, found himself acutely aware of. He wouldn't be waking up cold anytime soon unless the Halcyon made a stop at Hoth.

Thirdly, that other human. Ahnk slept as he always did, only occasionally he had an arm wrapped around him. And on the subject of things done involuntarily, that arm had seized him as he shot up, enough to halt his progress before either of them knew it was happening.

"What's wrong?" Auriga asked as Ahnk sank back into the bed.

"Nothing; just a bad dream," Ahnk told her.

She pushed herself up out of bed on one arm. "Tell me," she said, sounding legitimately concerned.

"Oh no," Ahnk said. "Everyone dreams, and everyone thinks they have the most profound dreams, but there is literally nothing less interesting or relevant than someone else's dreams."

Auriga turned and glared at him. "Please, stop being an asshole when people care about you," she said. "Tell me about your dreams."

Ahnk sighed, trying to line up his thoughts. "Have you ever wondered if you are the worst person in the galaxy?"

Auriga made a face like Ahnk had just farted in her direction. "Can't say that keeps me up at night, no. Is that seriously what is bothering you?"

"Think about it, who are the other candidates?" Ahnk said. "Darth Sideous?"

"Between him and Lord Vader, they wracked up quite a body count," Auriga pointed out.

Ahnk nodded, accepting that. "But Sideous was haunted by visions of the future; far outsiders flooding the galaxy, tearing through cities, killing civilians. He was mad with power and manipulated his way even further but he had his reasons, his justifications, as twisted as they were.” Ahnk explained. “And as for Anakin Skywalker’s turn to Darth Vader, what wouldn’t you do to save the one you love?”

“Most people stop short of homicide on a massive scale,” Auriga countered.

“So, admittedly, Darth Vader won’t win any father of the year awards,” Ahnk accepted, “but he had his reasons. What do I have? There is no one to protect. Everyone I care about is dead.”

“Everyone?” Auriga asked.

“My parents were both killed when I was young, within about a week of each other,” Ahnk said.

“Oh gods Ahnk, I didn’t know,” Auriga said.

“So there is nothing I am fighting for,” he said, “besides revenge.”

Auriga looked at him for a few minutes and didn’t say anything. “Tell me about your dreams,” she finally asked.

Ahnk turned to her with a serious expression. "Do you really want to know?"

Auriga nodded. "I care about you, whether you want me to or not," Auriga told him.

"Do I get a choice?" Ahnk asked sarcastically. "Alright. Sit up." Auriga did as she was told. "Clear your mind. Imagine yourself in a dark, smokey room…"

Auriga let that image fill her mind. She watched the smoke twist and curl, then it moved, jerked as if…

"Stay with it," Ahnk told her.

She could trace the pattern now; breath. The sound of it filling her ears helped now. It started slowly and quietly then louder… then louder still…

"I will put a stop to you, monster!" came a shout. Then a face.

"Butcher!" another.

"You tell your master…" they started to blend together. "Animal!" It was hard to keep them serperate… "You won't win. I have been studying with a lightsaber for…" and they came and went so fast. "You understand anyone who goes in that room won't come out?" It was disorienting and yet… "Is that an order, sir?"

As the faces faded in and out, she saw one face slowly fading in from the black, getting larger all the time. She recognized it, the features of his cheekbones, his offkilter, previously broken nose, his strong jaw and pronounced chin, then his haunting bluegreen eyes. Before her minds eye she watched black lines tendril out from the nostrils, bisecting his face. As the lines dug in his skin almost seemed to bleed. Only it wasn’t blood. It was bright, green ink.

She knew now why she recognized this face.

“I am my own worst enemy,” Ahnk told her. “Always have been, always will be.”

It was about an hour after that that Auriga got out of bed.

The image had shaken her and stuck with her since she had seen it, until she felt the need to wash it out of her mind. A nice, refreshing shower helped her clear her head.

When she emerged, Ahnk handed her a towel. “Were you smoking in here?” he asked her. “You know we won’t get our deposit back.”

Auriga ran the towel over her wet skin. “So, are you finished being grumpy?”

“No promises,” Ahnk said. “But I guarantee that I will do what I can.”

“You’ll have breakfast with me?” Auriga asked.

“Can I drink?” Ahnk countered.

“What use is breakfast on vacation if you can’t drink?” Auriga countered.

The Halcyon had numerous restaurants but they had been told the Portside Diner was the best view on the ship. So they went there, and the view was indeed fantastic, even if it seemed like everyone on the ship had had the same idea, as the bar was packed.

Ahnk and Auriga ordered separately, feeling like something light to start. Ahnk ordered himself a yobshrimp noodle salad, while Auriga the Felucian garden spread. Both of them sipped a hyperdrive. After the first one they started lightly flirting. After the second one, it became more overt. Halfway through the third, one of restaurant staff approached their table.

“Terribly sorry to disrupt your breakfast Mr…”

“Rashanagok,” Ahnk said. “What’s the matter?”

“Yes sir, terribly sorry to disturb you and your wife, sir, but…”

“We’re NOT married,” Ahnk stressed. “I’ll ask again, what is it?”

“Well, you see, our breakfast rush is very busy today and you are sitting at a table that can seat four.”

“I like my space,” Ahnk said and Auriga hit him.

“Please ignore my husband. He is so rude,” Auriga told the woman. “We’d gladly make room for another couple.”

Ahnk glared at her, but nonetheless another couple was brought over and sat down. “Whew, crowded in here,” the man said as he sat down. “Elbow to elbow, I’m sweating like a Nubian serving girl.”

“That’s funny,” Ahnk said, face not registering any sign of humor. “My mother was Nubian.”

The man chuckled a little and then noticed Ahnk hadn’t stopped staring at him. “Mate, I’m just having a laugh, nothing meant by it,” he said. “Let’s try again. Man it’s crowded in here, I’m so warm I feel like I’m in a Mos Pelgo whorehouse.”

Now it was Auriga’s turn to glare. “I grew up outside Mos Pelgo,” she revealed.

“Well shit,” the man said, “I don’t seem to know when to shut up.”

“Or where to find a good whore,” Auriga countered. “Mos Pelgo is full of washed up starlets. The girls on the poles in Mos Eisley work for their money,” she said, then, ignoring a glare from Ahnk, gestured to the couple to sit down.

“I thank you kindly mam, and I’ll keep your advice in mind next time I’m near Hutt Space,” the man said. “I’m Thadeus Tenloss. This is Genevive.”

“I’m Auriga Marzullo,” she told him. “This is my husband, Ahnk Rashanagok.”

Ahnk gave her a little glare but Tenloss didn’t notice it. “Wait, Rashanagok, the contract killer?”

Ahnk turned back to him. “Not anymore,” he said. “I’m on vacation.”

“Even so, back in the day you helped put Tenloss on the map,” Thadeus explained. “Gwen baby, this guy doesn’t just know where the bodies are, he dug the graves.”

“So you’re connected to Tenloss Industries?”

“My uncle,” Thad said, making a toast. That made a lot of sense. Ahnk had immediately disliked this guy, partly because he gave off a vibe of entitled rich kid, which was, it turned out, exactly what he was. “So hey, it’s kind of crowded here. You want to go to Little Bite? Have some more room to stretch our legs.”

Both Auriga and Ahnk answered at the same time. Ahnk said no, Auriga said yes, so they compromised, and the foursome went to Little Bite.

Little Bite was the Halcyon cruisers’ casino, where rich cruise patrons went to drop stacks of cash on felt tables and pay for overpriced drinks. Ahnk, who had basically unlimited money, didn’t care what his drinks cost so he would normally when picking a bar pick one quieter, but it was Auriga’s choice, so he went along.

The couples both split up. Ahnk ended up at the bar and since he was a grumpy misanthrope, he didn’t let it bother him that Genevive, Thad’s girlfriend, was hanging out with him. Meanwhile, Auriga wanted to hit the tables and roll some dice. Games of chance held no interest to someone who could see the future before it happened so Ahnk let Auriga do her own thing, which meant occasionally having Thad grab giant handfuls of her ass before she playfully swatted his hand away.

“So you used to work for Thad’s uncle?” Gwen asked Ahnk, who shook his head.

“I was a freelance assassin, I didn’t work directly for anyone,” Ahnk told her.

“How does it feel, to kill someone?”

Ahnk turned to her and tried to decide if she really wanted to know. “I don’t like to talk about those days,” Ahnk said, and Gwen nodded.

“Thad has a dark past too,” Gwen said.

Ahnk snarled, slamming his drink. He was probably into double digits by now. “Thad is a rich tool who lives the life he does by virtue of his last name,” Ahnk summed him up. “I am sure there is some darkness in his past, a couple of date rapes here and there, but if he convinced you he ever did anything remotely dangerous, he misled you.”

“But you’re dangerous,” Gwen said. Ahnk looked at her. She wasn’t asking.

“You don’t want to flirt with me,” Ahnk told her.

“Isn’t that up to me?” Gwen countered.

“Bad things happen to people I care about,” Ahnk said, as a word of warning.

“Auriga seems willing to take her chances,” Gwen said, looking at her date for the evening running his hand up Auriga’s thigh.

“Yeah, well, she has bad taste in men,” Ahnk said, finishing his drink. “You and her have that in common. I bid you goodnight, milady.”

And so, for the second night in a row, a very drunk Auriga came and let herself into Ahnk’s quarters.

Only this time she didn’t say anything. She walked past Ahnk, and collapsed into the bed.

“What, no hello? No come ons? Not even an angry word?” Ahnk said.

“You left me there with that boring, insufferable asshole,” she said. “It was exhausting keeping his hands off me.”

“You seemed to be enjoying yourself,” Ahnk responded.

“I was trying to give you time to work your magic with Gwen,” she said. “Once you stood her up Thad went from a little handsy to way too rapey for my patience and since you weren’t going to be seducing the vulnerable young fem, I gave up and decided to go to bed.”

Ahnk scoffed. “I didn’t realize that was the gameplan,” Ahnk said, and Auriga turned over and looked at him.

“What, you didn’t think she was pretty?” Riggs stared at him, then sunk her head into the sheets. “I thought she was pretty.”

“I don’t even know what you’re asking me,” Ahnk said.

“Ahnk, do you hate fun?” she asked, peeking back up at him, head half covered in blankets. “I try and bring a pretty girl back with me but you are so annoyed I asked you to hang out at a casino you’d have thought I set Darth Vader lose on you to torture you.”

“I don’t hate fun,” Ahnk said. “That isn’t fun.”

"Lots of people have fun at casinos, Ahnk," Auriga told him. "Look, I don't want to fight. I never win with you. If I am not going to get laid, I am just going to go to sleep."

So she collapsed into the sheets. Where she lay, silently, for quite some time.

Then she pushed herself up and looked at him. "Fine, talk."

Ahnk glared at her. "I didn't say anything," he spat at her.

"Yeah, well, I am an Acolyte of The Sith and I can feel your annoyance from across the room" she said. "You might as well be vibrating with rage."

"I am allowed to be annoyed," Ahnk said.

"And I am allowed to care about you," Auriga countered back. "Talk to me, Ahnk."

"You really want me to talk?" Ahnk countered back angrily. "Cause I don't."

"Ahnk, if you never…"

But Ahnk ignored her. "Sometimes it is best to just let it lie. Sometimes, talking gets people killed."

Auriga ruminated on his words for a few minutes. "You need to talk, Ahnk. The weight of the galaxy, which you thrust upon your shoulders, is crushing you. And there is a core of a person there, buried beneath death and loss… that maybe you want to forget. But it is a part of you… whether you want it to be or not."

Ahnk stood up, pacing back and forth… before he sat down on Auriga's bed.

"Alright. Let me tell you a story of a lesson I learned when I was young.

Names Are For Friends And Sometimes Talking Too Much Gets People Killed

I told you about my mother, and living with her on Naboo. Before I lived on Naboo, though, I lived a lot of places. My dad was… maybe a scoundrel, would be the right word.

He would fall in with a crowd, and make an impression because he was good with his hands. A fixer, a tinkerer… and that group would do gigs together. And when my dad saw a way out, he would take as much as he could, and we would move on."

Auriga nodded along intently. "I know the type; no one cries foul when ill begotten earnings are taken away."

"But people have long memories. They don't forget.

My father had smartened me up a long time ago. Don't make friends, we won't be here long anyway, so just keep your head down and don't draw attention.

But I wanted to believe that this would be different. Mother has here. She wouldn't let anything happen to me. So I started swimming in my free time. I would race other boys, or challenge them to stay under water the longest. I started to make a name for myself.

But I used my real name.

And so, one day, the sins of the father were visited upon the son. A bounty hunter tracked me from the lake to my house. He marched my father out into the woods, and then killed him in front of me."

"Andrew…" Auriga said. Her hand softly rubbing Ahnk's back.

"I killed him," Ahnk reasoned. "By making a name for myself, by letting my ego override by sense of surroundings, I put the gun to his head."

Auriga's hand touched his face. "You are impossibly difficult on yourself, Andrew," she said. "You were only a boy. The past that your father had lived for years before you were born finally caught up with him. A few schoolboys whispering your name never would have made it offworld. It was a coincidence, nothing you could control."

"We will never know for sure, will we," Ahnk reasoned.

"I know one thing is for sure," Auriga stated. "You have been punishing yourself for your past sins for far too long. You need to let go… begin anew. And I know just where to start."

Ahnk smiled a little. "Oh yeah?"

Auriga looked at him with sin in her eyes. "She is twenty five, five eleven, blond with ginger streaks and she smells like strawberries."

Ahnk's grin widened. "God, you are a thirsty woman," Ahnk said, amused.

"I am in my early thirties and I can count my conquests on one hand, I have a lot of catching up to do," she said. "Unless you want to slide under the covers with me…"

A few moments passed wordlessly. Auriga hadn't expected him to say yes, but she hadn't expected silence either. "What is it Ahnk?"

He turned from her, to face the package on the table. "There was a package waiting at our door."

The implications of such a thing drove all the humor out of Auriga, and sobered her up considerably. "Ahnk, who knows that we are here? Are we in danger?"

Ahnk turned to her and squeezed her hand. "I think you know by now I would kill to protect you," he told her, and she nodded. She didn't want him to think she didn't appreciate it. "I know who sent it, and on whose behalf it was sent. It isn't meant as a threat. It is meant as a question."

"What question?" Auriga asked, curiously.

"Read it," Ahnk said. "If we are going to bed together I should be able to trust you to read my mail."

"Even I know, those are two very different things, my dear," she said. "Sex can be less intimate than… some forms of inquiry."

"Indeed," Ahnk replied to her tone more than anything; it had wavered as she read the words. "Now how does one even answer that kind of inquiry…"

Auriga set the letter down. She looked at Ahnk and would be lying if she said she felt comforted by his stoic expression as she usually did. All of a sudden, there was a hesitation there.

And Ahnk couldn't blame her.

For the letter read,

"Why haven't any of your clones gone insane?"
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Mar 15 2022 2:24pm
When Ahnk woke up, he realized he was waking up alone.

He became briefly concerned; while he had convinced Auriga that just having people know he was onboard wasn’t altogether dangerous, that made several assumptions that may be proven wrong. But quickly reaching out with the force confirmed that she was nearby; she was sleeping on the couch.

Ahnk, having woken up enough to confirm that everyone was safe, wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep now. So instead, he went to the refresher.

Some people do their best thinking in the shower. Ahnk didn’t know if he was one of them, but he knew he could use all the help he could get. He needed to remember everything he knew about cloning.

Cloning had been around a long time; he’d heard that some Sith, from The Hyperspace Wars, had staffed their vessels with cloned crews rather than try and recruit and train from their conquered populations.

Presumably, it was some of those technologies that Palpatine had populated his storehouse on Wayland with.

During the original galactic civil war, which would come to later be known as the clone wars, also featured clones as primary component. Those clones were made differently, using Kaminoan technology, but that technology was presumed lost when, in the waning days of the war, Palpatine had Kamino sunk to protect his secrets.

And while Kamino had survived, it hadn’t exactly thrived. The war between the Damuens and the Galactic Coalition had taken its toll on the world. As far as Ahnk was aware, their cloning technology was at the bottom of the ocean.

But what about Ahnk’s?

Well, to say that Ahnk had cloning technology was slightly wrong. Ahnk’s Sith Empire had inherited ancient cloning technology from well before the clone wars. Exar Kun had always held it as an ace in the hole; when he had enough commanders at the rank of Sith Lord, he would construct an army to take the galaxy as his own.

When Ahnk took the mantle of Dark Lord Of The Sith, his first priority was self preservation. To that end, he ordered a handful of clones of himself constructed. Avoid the cataclysm of one bad hyperspace jump ending a galactic empire.

Of course, Ahnk’s contribution to the process was to donate the sample genetics and then inspect the finished product. So he wasn’t the person to ask. He needed to find someone who had been around him during those years… someone who had witnessed Ahnk version one point oh, and then been around for the sequel. He could only think of a few people. Fortunately, one of them wouldn’t be too hard to find.

When Ahnk got out of the shower, he immediately pressed the button to dial the concierge. “Halcyon Guest Services,” a polite young man answered.

“Yes guest services, this is Mr. Rashanagok, one of your executive VIPs,” Ahnk said, feeling slightly awkward even saying it.

“Of course sir, how can we be of service?”

“I was told that I could choose any port of call to have the Halcyon stop at,” Ahnk said. “I’d like to make a stop at Kalla VII.”

“Of course sir, if you don’t mind my asking… what shall I do for the rest of the passengers who don’t have business on Kalla VII?”

Ahnk stopped for a second. “We’ll be close to Bonadon and their spaceport district. Organize shuttle trips for guests who want to do some shopping,” Ahnk suggested.

“Very good sir,” the agent told him, in a neutral tone of voice which was impressive given he had just asked the crew of a luxury cruise ship to stop at a library and tell the patrons to make their own fun. “Is there anything else, sir?”

“No… wait, yes,” Ahnk said. He took a deep breath and emptied his mind. “I want… waffles. Yes. Four orders of waffles, with muja fruit sauce on the side.”

“Very good sir, I will have them sent to your door,” the concierge told him.

Ahnk hung up the datapad and quietly made his way to the living room.

He became keenly aware that he was being watched even before he woke.

“How do I know you’re you?”

Ahnk sighed, and slowly opened his eyes. “I knew that question was coming.”

“I’d never thought about it before but…”

“How do you know I’m not just a clone?” Ahnk said. “Let me put your mind at ease. I’m a clone. When we met on Ziost, over a decade ago, that was a different clone. And when we first met in the woods of Yavin, that was yet another clone. You never met the original Ahnk. He’s been dead for decades.”

Auriga frowned. “So this doesn’t change anything?”

Ahnk shook his head. “Not for me, but, then I’ve known I was a clone since… well, since I became a clone,” he said. “And moreover, I had told you this part of my history as well.”

“I’d never really thought about the crazy part before… are you a ticking time bomb now?”

“No more than I was yesterday,” Ahnk said. “I understand your hesitation, but I’m still the same Ahnk.”

“I know and… I’ll learn to see you the same way,” Auriga said. “All I know is, yesterday I trusted you more than anyone alive. Today… I trust you a bit less.”

“Well, I suppose as long as you still trust me more than anyone else,” Ahnk said. “I saw you helped yourself to breakfast.”

“How did you know I was craving waffles?” Auriga said.

“You project your unspoken desires in the force as you cycle through consciousness levels,” Ahnk told her matter of factly. “I had intended to split it with you, but…”

Auriga shrugged. “Sorry. I’m a nervous eater. I figured if you went crazy and stabbed me, if I ate enough waffles they might insulate me against the blow.”

“Wise; not sure it’s in anyway logical but let’s roll with it,” Ahnk shrugged. “I’ll just grab something at the University.”

“We’re going to a university?” Auriga said.

“I am yes, you are not,” Ahnk said. “I have some research to do.”

Auriga frowned. “Well what am I supposed to do?”

“A few seconds ago you were worried I was going to go crazy and stab you and now you can’t plan a day without me?” Ahnk said.

Auriga glared at him. “You’re grumpy this morning.”

“Yeah well, someone ate my breakfast,” Ahnk spat back. “I’ve been informed that the ship will be making shuttle runs to Bonadon Spaceport so guests of the ship can do some shopping. Why don’t you and Genevive buddy up, go see what the best shopping center in the Corporate Sector has to offer.”

Auriga blinked. “Uh, I would have no idea how to find Genevive,” she said.

“Oh it’s a small ship,” Ahnk said. “Besides, I’ve been meaning to bump into Thad again.”

"Ahnk, what do you mean by that? Ahnk? Sweetie?"

Auriga had to walk rather briskly to keep pace with Ahnk as he began his manhunt. He seemed to have a pretty good idea where he was going and despite Auriga asking what he intended to do, he never did tell her. That was until she saw Thadeus Tenloss and his date for the previous evening, Genevieve, hanging out by an observation deck.

“Thad, sir, if I could have a word,” Ahnk asked.

“Ah, the hatchet man,” Thad said. “We missed you last night. You disappeared rather abruptly.”

“Yeah, honestly, I have trouble being around you,” Ahnk said. “Keep having to fight the urge to vomit.”

“Excuse me?” Thad said, taken aback.

“Yeah, you see, you have an overinflated opinion of yourself, and your accomplishments, as few and far between as they are, in no way justify the way you talk to people. You’re arrogant, and honestly, disrespectful to women. You’re difficult to be around.”

Thad took all of that in and then snickered. “Well, I’m so sorry you feel that way. How about you do something about it?”

Auriga groaned. “You know that he was a freelance assassin and you’re still egging him on? Are you braindead?”

Thad stepped forward, squaring up to Ahnk. “He doesn’t dare touch me, he’s just a washed up retired assassin. He’d have to be insane.”

Ahnk looked at Thad, and then turned away slightly. “The man has a point,” he said to Auriga. Then he drove his fist into Thad’s ribs. “Then again, I’m starting to wonder if there’s something to this whole clone madness idea.”

Ahnk then grabbed Thad by the belt with one hand, the scruff of the neck with the other, and lifted him up and over the railing, throwing him away like he was discarding the trash.

Auriga gasped in horror. “Okay, maybe that was overboard,” she said.

Ahnk, meanwhile, just stepped forward and offered his hand to Genevive. “Still attracted to danger?”

She, meanwhile, looked down. Thad had dropped about sixty feet, but had fallen into a deep pool, and though he was winded, he wasn’t badly hurt. “What girl doesn’t love a thrill now and then?” she countered, and Ahnk led her hand to Auriga’s.

“You girls play nice while I am at school,” Ahnk said, and he leaned in and gave Auriga a kiss on the cheek.

“Ahnk…” Auriga said, flummoxed. She shook her head. “Good hunting?”

“Enjoy your shopping,” Ahnk countered. “I might be awhile. Don’t wait up for me.”

“You expect us to believe that General Kenobi mounted a… I’m sorry, a Boga?”

The woman at the centre of the room waved a hand. “Let’s not get caught up on the details,” she said. “Right now, more than at any other time, there are people who want you to be afraid. They want you to think of deeds of heroism as impossible, exaggerated fables, because they don’t want you to be heroic, or independent, offer any form of resistance. They want you to be cowed. They want you to be afraid. And as much as this is a history class, this is also a class that has a valid lesson to teach. To not be misled by irrelevant questions, but instead to ask yourself the important question; what is inside of you?”

A buzzer sounded and the classroom erupted into chaos.

“Don’t forget we’ll be having an exam next week covering all the major battles of the clone wars,” the woman said as everyone gathered their things and started making their way to their next scheduled class.

Everyone except one man, in a black cloak, at the back of the class. “The greatest of Sith magic was convincing the galaxy they didn’t exist,” Ahnk said. “So that even now, decades of conflict later, we still have history classes where we defend the myth and legend of Jedis.”

“People believe half of what they see, and none of what they hear,” the teacher countered back.

“And everything that is reported on the holonet,” Ahnk offered, cynically. “Professor Azalin.”

“Andrew,” she replied. “I had heard you brought a cruise ship with you.”

“Yes, well, I am on vacation,” Ahnk countered back.

“And how is that working out for you?” Amalia asked him.

“Mixed results, but very relaxing,” Ahnk concluded. “I need to get away more often. When was the last time you took a day off?”

“These are not the times for a Jedi to rest on her laurels,” Amalia said.

“That answers that,” Ahnk said. “Far too long. Have dinner with me.”

Amalia frowned at him. “I’m married…”

“You can stay married,” Ahnk said. “Dinner, questions, answers. That’s all.”

Amalia mulled it over. “The Teahouse, at ten o’clock,” she told him, before she grabbed her possessions and left the classroom as well.

Ahnk was at The Teahouse by nine thirty, but of course Amalia was already there.

“It’s been a long time,” Amalia said, pouring herself a cup. “The last time I saw you, you were trying to get answers from Leia.”

“Yeah, well,” Ahnk said. “I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that she’s not ever going to have answers that work for me. But that’s a me problem. Nothing I would expect her to fix.”

Amalia was intrigued. “This sounds like a new Ahnk; more introspective?”

“I have more at stake, I suppose,” Ahnk said with a shrug. “I think about the past…”

Amalia took a long sip of her tea. “I try to avoid it, if I can.”

“Do you remember the good old days, back when we all had aliases?” Ahnk said.

“Amnde,” Amalia said, of her own nickname.

“Oh, it was far more absurd on the dark side of the force,” Ahnk said.

“Like Lord Maim?” Amalia said with a smile.

“I was thinking of Darth Snack,” Ahnk said. “Never knew whether he wanted to dethrone me or eat me alive.”

“Simpler times,” Amalia denoted. She took a sip of her tea and realized Ahnk hadn’t said anything. “Ahnk, something is bothering you.”

Ahnk actually laughed out loud. “I feel sometimes like I have the entire galaxy on my shoulders,” Ahnk admitted, “and I woke up with a sore back.”

Amalia nodded deeply. “Well, I think a good place to start is by taking a vacation. Rest, relax, clear your mind…”

Ahnk laughed again, this time, longer and louder. “You’ve seen what happens when I close my eyes… how can I rest…”

“So don’t close your eyes,” Amalia said. Ahnk instead turned and stared at her, which caused her to laugh a little. “Okay, that might be a bit too intense. Look out the window.”

Ahnk turned his head. The Teahouse Cafe And Bistro was located on the edge of the University campus, which in and of itself was built atop a large mesa. Ten feet outside the cafe walls, was a sheer drop of several hundred feet. On a night like tonight, birds hurried back to the nest, to rest before the sun rose again. The storm before the calm…

“Now breathe,” Amalia said. Her words echoed in his head. Said both verbally and not. The birds slowed, the wind and rain relaxed. “Calm?” she asked, and this time she was silent.

“Better,” Ahnk said. “I never have time like this…”

“You have to make time, Ahnk,” Amalia told him. “You shouldn’t have to be forced.”

Ahnk exhaled a long sigh. “You’re right,” he told her. “As a Sith, we never learned the benefits of stopping for a cup of tea.”

Amalia nodded and took a sip of hers. “So do you want to tell me why you’re here?”

Ahnk considered. “Do you remember Khan?”

Amalia nodded. “How could I forget? A young man and and his girlfriend came to me wanting guidance… and then they met you,” Amalia said.

“Do you know what happened to him?” Ahnk asked.

“When he came back, he wasn’t the same,” Amalia said. “He wouldn’t tell me what happened, between the two of you, but I heard pieces, from Leia. He felt… consumed. That was the word I would use. He could never let go of what happened. He remained with the Jedi for some time and tried to attone, but I knew that in his mind, he never would.”

“How could he?” Ahnk said. “I bent and twisted his mind and his soul. I left him with an impossible choice. In the end, he couldn’t win, and no matter what he did, he’d have to do something he would regret. The question was, to commit to a dark path, or try and desperately win your way back to the light.”

Amalia hung on his every word, deeply invested. “Tell me what happened.”

Ahnk nodded. “It is a tale as old as time.

The Touch Of Ahnk Rashanagok Is As Poison; All Those Once Touched Doomed To The Same Fate.

I identified a weakness in Leia. She had a fondness for a boy, Khan. I did a bit of research and found out that Khan was dating Hanna Skywalker, a relative of hers, though don’t ask me to track the family trees, the Skywalker family has more branches than an Ithorian Bafforr tree. All I knew was, she cared for him, and her, and for that matter you. She’d entrusted Kahn to your training. So I stole him away.

And then I broke him. First, I broke him physically, with torture. Question his ideology and promise a break from pain if he opened his mind. Then, I began to build hatred in him. Sent one of my clones to prove that he wasn’t good enough to be a Jedi. That when he inevitably failed, the clone would kill Hanna. That led Khan to turn briefly, lashing out with his anger, before calming himself. Then, I appeared personally, to remind him of his humility; I was interested in him, and I did want to use his abilities, but ultimately if he refused to turn, then so be it; in Hanna, I had a backup already in place. That did it. In sorrow he succumbed, and it was then, for the first time, that I understood why the Jedi discouraged attachment.

Khan was an eager pupil. He learned quickly how to balance his anger with just enough restraint to be productive. In that regard, he was probably even a better Sith than I. It didn’t take long until I felt he was ready. I gathered up a few loyal soldiers, and had my fleet launch an attack on Naboo. The idea was to draw a battle into the woods and fields of Naboo and take a small strike team to infiltrate the Temple, razing it and causing chaos.

And now, Khan came to the moment that would shape who he was forever. Murder was the next step in both cases. He could follow my command, join with the fellow Sith I had assembled, and raze the Jedi Temple. And from that day forward, he would be what I made him, what I shaped him, until he died. But there was another option. And maybe, he’d known it would be an option all along. Maybe it was what he was waiting for. The path back to acceptance. And redemption.

Only one murder. Put a saber through your master, Ahnk, and rejoin the Jedi Order a hero, instead of a pariah.

I have to wonder now, if it might have been easier for Khan to come back, even after razing the temple. Because killing isn’t killing, there’s a difference between combat and murder. How you feel after you’ve killed dozens of armed men… against how you feel, processing the look of confusion, after you’ve just murdered an unarmed man and watched his body fall.”

Amalia was silent. “You gave him an impossible choice..”

Ahnk didn’t disagree. “When I was cognizant of what had happened I took control of one of my cloned bodies, but by that time Khan had taken Hanna and left. I was furious but, also, realised I’d been too reckless. I needed that betrayal. It made me more cautious, and calculating, in the future.”

Amalia frowned. “Well as long as you learned your lesson.”

“Maybe I learned the wrong lesson,” Ahnk said. “I’m wondering now if what I should have learned is that I am the architect of my own misfortune. Cause Khan wasn’t my only student. There were others. Bane. Skelosh. Sky Kerebos. Led astray, to sow seeds of death and destruction in their wake. I got a letter recently, asking me why my clones hadn’t gone mad. Who is to say that they haven’t? If the way I have been, indiscriminately murdering left and right, hasn’t been madness, what is? I mean, earlier today I threw some rich prick over a railing, and sure, he didn’t die, but I also wasn’t worried at all that he might. Maybe I’ve been crazy all this time, and moralising, trying to debate whether I’m on the side of good or evil, is a gesture entirely of self indulgence. And maybe everyone I touch is tainted with the same madness. What does that mean for my future? And what about Auriga?”

Ahnk realized he had been emoting non-stop for several minutes, so he stopped himself. He took a deep, calming breath. The edge of the world, bathed in moonglow, calmed him, and Ahnk could reach out and feel hundreds of animals, letting go of their tension, relaxing, safe at home, preparing to rest. Ah, to turn it all off, to get an evening of rest. Ahnk was envious.

When he turned, he noticed that Amalia was looking at him intently. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

Amalia nodded softly. “Who is Auriga?