When Sellis awoke he saw the Sith woman looking at him from her corner but with less wariness. As he blinked trying to shake the fog from his mind, his stomach rumbled.
“They do feed us, yes?” he asked, and the woman’s lips pursed trying to prevent a slight smile as if convey a common observation that women have been making about men since the beginning of the universe about men and their stomachs.
She stood and walked along a wall until she reached a mid-way point and pressed a corner of a rectangle indentation. A covering slid away revealing a tube of something brown and pasty and a tube of something hard, like packed birdseed. She pulled one of the tubes out and walked over, handing it to Sellis. He sniffed the birdseed composite and frowned.
“It seems they do not take pleasure in eating,” he remarked reluctantly opening his mouth to nibble a bit.
This comment elicited a smile from her. She sat down next to him. Sellis clamped down on his natural defensive reaction to dark side users. It was like letting sitting next to a feral tigress but other than her understandable reaction in the beginning, she did not seem like your typical murdering Sith psychopath. Then again, what did he know? He rarely spent any time with females let alone murderous Sith psychopaths.
Those hellcats were Ruuvan’s brand of flavor!
He smiled at the thought of his fellow White Knight and the woman smiled along with him misinterpreting his reaction.
“What are you?” she asked and he turned to her sharply. While most reptilian races had trouble showing emotional expressions, Azguardians had not such problem. Probably not as expressive as humans but for one who could read Azguardian body language, Sellis was practically shouting and waving his hands in incredulity.
“I am an Azguard,” he said a little confused as if it were common knowledge.
The woman reddened, embarrassed sensing his confusion. “I have not travelled much, most of my life living on Corellia.” She confessed.
Sellis pointedly looked at her medallion. “Are you a Sith?”
She reddened further, “I thought I was...” She started and paused as if considering, “…I said all the right lines and boasted all the hateful remarks about Jedi that I could think of. I think I convinced myself that I hated them but, honestly, I never met them. My father who was my mentor used to subject me to all manner of pain but upon reflection, after all my time here, I just think that is how he was brought up into his organization.”
“Was he a part of the Sith under Lupercus Darksword? I am sorry, I am not sure how many Sith organizations there are. There was the Naboo Sith Order but I don’t know if they are still around, if their the same as the Sith on Xa’Fel or something new?” the White Knight admitted.
“I was not a part of any organization,” she admitted too. “It was more like I hung around but was not on any membership rolls. Darksword ruled Corellia but my father had told me to stay away from Lupercus and his palace. Especially his dungeons. But I do not really know if Lupercus had his own Order. It is hard to tell Sith Hierarchy without the Rule of Two.”
“So your father will be looking for you?” Sellis asked wondering if it would be the Cree’Ar or and enraged Stih father that would skewer him with something pointy.
She looked away, saddened. “No. He was killed.”
How anyone could be sad about the parent that tortured them? But he guessed torture was relative. Where --… ??
“By the way, what is your name?” Sellis asked.
“Traya,” she replied.
Traya Honey-Murder, his addled brain thought off the cuff before returning to the thoughts he had before regarding torture and it being relative. Where Traya had been tortured with pain, with him, his mother had tortured him making him memorize his multiplication tables. While hers was more painful physically, both methods left them with indelible memories forever etched on their brains amid tears of frustration and anguish. Yet we still love our parents.
“My father was not liked by other Sith. He was a member of the Sith Brotherhood or Brotherhood of the Sith, I forget how it goes. His Master, Sith Ahnk, was betrayed by his followers but my father refused to participate in the betrayal so others looked down on him.”
“Ahnk?” Sellis thought. The name was familiar but somehow not. “I do not remember where I’ve heard that name.” he admitted.
“He decided to join the Jedi but his people did not feel the same,” Traya added.
Sellis snapped his fingers. “That’s it! He joined the Jedi.. no wait! He ..it was a rogue Jedi Order he joined?”
“Something like that. But from that man, my father was trained along the belief that only through pain and suffering can one truly learn and ultimately discover their power.”
“And what does that teach you?” Sellis asked aghast.
“It teaches us that we all have the capacity to endure,” she gestured throughout the room. “We are all faced with the darkness that life throws at us. Eventually, that pain and suffering builds up because our natural reaction is to either bottle it up. Put it in a mental box and throw away the key. But eventually, it builds up. Those little mental boxes get full. The rooms those boxes are placed in get full. It gets to the point where it can no longer be ignored so we crumble. It eventually breaks us. But if you are purposefully subjected to the pain, purposefully subjected to suffering, the way you deal with it, the way you endure it begins to change. Suddenly you become numb to the experience, suddenly you know longer recognize it as such and, instead, being to welcome it like an old friend.”
The White Knight leaned back thinking about it. In a weird way, it made a sort of sense. He may not like Mon Calamari Opera as it sounded like off-key wildebeests having an argument with Onyxian geese. He supposed if he continued to subject himself to multiple operatic performances, it might start to make sense, begin to resonate with him on an emotional level and finally eagerly attend them with appreciation. Perhaps that’s how Sith get ‘made’ in the Brotherhood? Or were made?
Or the whole thing turned them into murderous thugs. But a father doing that to his daughter?
As if knowing his thoughts, she continued, “I think father was more worried about other Sith than he was about Jedi. The Jedi do not torture or so I am told.”
“Not as a rule, no.” Sellis agreed. “Though some Jedi break off and become what is called ‘Dark Jedi’ which is not Jedi but not Sith either. But Dark Jedi would not seem to have your best interests in mind either.”
“How is it?” she suddenly asked pointing to the tube of birdseed. “Do not worry about eating it all. There is always a new tube in the box,” gesturing towards the containment area where she had pulled the tube out from.
“You know what an oscillating power distribution coupling for a YT-freighter is?” he asked.
“No.” she replied frowning, “though I know what a YT freighter is.”
“Well, Traya, this,” he shook the nibbled tube of birdseed, “this tastes like the box those parts are packed in.”
She laughed, surprising herself and pleasing the White Knight.
A little laughter spruces up any dingy torture chamber room!
Korah watched the massive Cree’Ar leave his craft. They were meeting on a small moon as a neutral location. The Contegorian detected the confidence radiating from the other and he felt a hesitation.
Was he doing the right thing?
The visions of the Void were becoming more and more frequent. It could not be the madness. It was too soon!
But to save the Confederation, sometimes unpleasant actions were required. At least that is what he told himself.
“Tell me, man of the Confederation,” a voice boomed, “Why should I not kill you now?” the voice was strong and penetrated into Korah’s mind as if the Cree’Ar was standing right next to him.
“Yes, I know you are hunting my kind, but I believe we may be of assistance to each other.”
“And what makes you think you have anything I would want? Other than you, yourself?” Korah could feel the calculating mind behind the words but, in his growing anger, his hesitation seemed to burn away and he took on a defiant stance.
Korah smirked, “I have no idea why my kind are so important to you but there is a choice before you Cree’Ar. You could stretch out your hand and have me, one person, or you can choose to listen and have hundreds if not thousands. It is my word against yours! It is not my goals verses yours but simly the certainty of mathematics. But,” he waved at the large creature before him, “by all means, take me in if you feel I am that important.” He spread his arms wide.
Varro Kai was both repulsed by the insolence but also intrigued. “And in return for this bounty of numbers?”
Korah’s smirk turned menacing. “I would like you to attack Kashan to provide a distraction to their forces.”
The Cree’Ar considered this request mentally filing through the inventory of his forces to see what could be detached. “I may be able to send some Song Ships to attack. They should be distraction enough. But what exactly are you offering? Besides nebulous numbers?”
“Instructions for making clone force users. If you wish to chase them across the galaxy, that is your business but what would your superiors say if you were able to create at will without having to scour the galaxy searching?”
Varro Kai’s eyes narrowed and he stepped up to the human, “If something is too good to be true and usually is. Where is the hidden blade?”
“What?” Korah was confused.
Varro Kai frowned, “Where is the hidden blade? What is the catch?” Whenever a human promises the sun, moon and stars in one hand, they are usually holding a blade to your gut in the other.
Korah smiled in understanding, “The ‘catch’ as you say, is that the created force users will eventually go mad.”
Before the Cree’Ar’s anger could take over, Korah hastily added, “But there is a key, I believe, to addressing that problem.”
“And that is?” Varro asked bitterly and Korah’s smile turned predatory as if he were selling used landspeeders to travel the galaxy in.
And so Korah explained his visions of the Void to the Cree’Ar and what he felt they meant. And, what Varro Kai could do to aid the force user in his fight against this.. Void.
He is not asking much, the Cree’Ar thought sarcastically. “If you know the key to this problem, why not find it yourself and confront this ‘Void’ yourself?”
“Because, there is no more time for me. For you see, I myself feel the encroaching madness I do not know how long my sanity will last. For there is one who has overcome this flaw to prevent the madness. Or so I have come to understand but I do not have the time to search the galaxy for this person. And if you agree to be my sword in this, I will tell you this person’s name for you have only begun your conquest of this galaxy and so you will have the time.”
The Cree’Ar stared silently at the human debating the validity of his claim. Still the solution was doable. Was the risk worth the reward?
“So who is this person?” he finally asked the human.
“So, a distraction for the Genetic Rennovation Program and my request for your sword against the Void for the key. Do you agree to my terms?”
“Yes. I agree.” Is an agreement made with an inferior binding?
“I do not know if this person is alive or where he is, but he was known as the Sith Ahnk, Andrew Rashanagok!”
The Cree’Ar thought about the task of finding one human in a galaxy of many? While the force-user may already be mad, what did he have to lose? What was asked of him still complimented Lord Artanis’ strategy. Didn’t it?
Globulus Arkanius – Ship of Life
Artanis strode down the corridor with Parrow-Lin lining the hall on either side. The vessel had just joined his fleet and had completed docking with his Command Ship with various Arbiters holding position at strategic points around the connected vessels.
“Carrow-Cree” a rather large yet graying Cree’Ar greeted when Artanis entered the Room of Gathering. Seeing his old comrade, Artanis felt more at ease that the rest of his purposes would be carried out satisfactorily.
“Carrow-Mar” he replied gripping his comrade’s arm in the more informal greeting of close acquaintances. The older Cree’Ar was known as Bendar and he commanded the Globulus Arkanius, also known as the Ship of Life. Its purpose was as the name described, a “collector vessel” and was sized accordingly to house all manner of life.
“The hunt goes well?” Bendar asked, his fingers tingling with excitement.
“It has just started,” Artanis admitted, “though I was hoping you might have more Creanti in season? I only had three with my fleet and Strategy suggested at least two more.”
“As long as it is successful strategy,” Bendar replied.
“With your four, it shall be,” Artanis challenged and the two stared at each other until Bendar bowed his head and gestured an arm wave to nowhere specific. “Lord, they are yours.”
Though not required from a leader of his stature, Artanis nodded his head in acknowledgment.
Raising Creanti was not an easy task and that Bendar had four to spare spoke well of his talent and that of his crew. The Creanti were space dwellers and not considered sapient, as such things are measured according to the Coalition but, unlike the Coalition, they were entirely peaceful. They went where they wanted, when they wanted and did whatever they wanted heedless of borders, sensor buoys and quarantines. They claimed nothing and merely satisfied their more basic of needs. The need to feed. The need to move and the need to procreate. They were able to be tamed for a time but the closer they were to benig “in season”, the harder it came to confining them. Eventually they would break from their confinement damaging whatever was holding them. It was always the smarter move to simply release them when they came in season or the greater damage to whatever facility was holding them experienced. They were essentially large, armoured whales that lived in space. They could be killed with enough force to shatter their hardened carapace but it was not usually worth the trouble. They were, however, attracted to power generators and outputs which was why the vessels that housed them and operated near them had their reactors shielded. Still, they were not by nature hostile. A “Creanti Peace” was an old term from the Cree’Ar galaxy that had, for the most part, gone extinct as it required many Creanti to enforce. In ancient eons, an advanced civilization would stop warring factions from fighting by simply inundating those factions with Creanti. Soon the powerful energy outputs of warship, war machines and weapons would attract the Creanti and they would gather in the locations where these great engines of war were made since great power and energies were needed to create the items that expended great power and energies. Soon, such manufacturing locations were untenable with so many Creanti gathered and the cost of constantly moving such facilities outweighed a species need to continue warring with their fellows, thus the Creanti Peace. Some primitive races were undeterred and continued to expend the money, effort and energy to slaughter but eventually, this would only bring about the “Creanti Judgement”. For these space-dwellers would either grow in size and population to the point that systems were affected for their main sustenance was from the stars. Even a stellar ecology can be affected over the course of time and whether or not planetary dwellers great and small admitted it, they were a part of that Stellar Ecosystem as well. Now, the Creanti were all but extince in the Cree’Ar home galaxy but the Cree’Ar were nothing if not caretakers of their charges. Having become the dominate power in their own galaxy, they acknowledged their responsibility to care for that galaxy after the damage done by the war that laid them so low as well as the war that made them the apex of species. The Ships of Life were the preservers of life as well as the spreaders of life. They moved unchallenged throughout the universe seeding distant locations or locations who had not seen such life in an Age or two with new. It was not cloning but, rather, more like a zoo or preserve who would, after building up their numbers, release life into the wild where it may prosper and flourish.
“I am fascinated by your description of these ‘Force Users’.” Bendar started, walking alongside Artanis, “though I am unclear if they endangered or not.”
Artanis grunted, “It seems to be unclear to the people of this galaxy as well. Tradition seems to suggest that there are two main species or factions of force users that once numbered in hundreds or even thousands until one faction decided to reduce their numbers to simply two.”
“Self-extermination?” Bendar shook his head. “The taking of one’s own life is one thing but for a species or faction to devour itself is quite another.”
“It is not without merit,” Artanis relayed, “It is a concept called ‘Survival of the Fittest’. Since these two main factions warred, the one turned on itself to force itself to grow stronger, more powerful intending to have a singular warrior crush a multitude of weaker carrion. It is a flawed concept but it would produce a fine warrior. One of note.”
“And a strong bloodline.” Bendar added thinking.
Artanis turned to Bendar. “What did you do?”
“I thought to bring in a male and female into captivity to protect their numbers. It seems even the people of this galaxy are not sure of the exact numbers of force users. Some say they are already extinct and yet another group of them is announced. Rogue Jedi? Jedi Enclave? Order of Golgotha? The Naboo Sith Order, the Sith Order, Brotherhood of the Sith, Jedi Corps… there are so many groups how can anyone know force-user population numbers?”
Artanis seemed amused, “Especially if each group slaughters the other with glee. Sith and Jedi younglings are encouraged to duel each other to prove their prowess to the ’Masters’ within their group. The waste is incredible.”
Bendar agreed, “Well, I tried to see if I could set aside two hoping they would mate and thrive behind protective barriers.”
“The female killed the others when the males tried to mount her and even when they didn’t. Apparently, they were from a differing group or faction she disapproved of.”
“It is hard to identify their complex and illogical array of loyalties and prejudices.”
“Well, she hasn’t killed the latest male. I could not find a Jedi Knight but we did capture a White Knight.”
“I have not heard of that force-sensitive group but it seems all of these creatures have inflated opinions of themselves.”
Bendar agreed. “Well, it will eventually happen. If not them, then others. We would not want them to completely self-exterminate.” The older Cree’Ar gestured over a projection of the Azguard system. “What will you do here?”
Artanis glanced at projection and felt a glimmer of satisfaction. “This group of force users are more organized than any other reported by Zeratul. I wish to offer them a place in the Greater Dominion and use that organization to our advantage. It helps us and it helps them.”
Bendar was surprised, “Do they understand the honor of such an offer?”
“I doubut it. The denizens of this galaxy are woefully short-sided. I will give them the choice. Either they will have the privilege of furthering our goals or they won’t.” Artanis’ hand clenched into a fist.
Bendar nodded at the purpose. “I have found that these creatures rarely do what is expected. It can be frustrating.”
Artanis nodded sagely. “I agree. Their egos are fragile things but the important thing with handling them is that once you close off all other options, they end up doing what is expected of them. Even if done grudgingly or if they resign themselves to it, eventually they can convince themselves it was a direction they wanted to go all along.”
“Sounds delusional. They may bite the hand that feeds them.”
Artanis shrugged as if it was of no material concern, “It will be their choice. It will merely be cause and effect. Their fate will one chosen by them.”
“Actually,” entered a new voice of that of the Cree’Ar Master Scientist, Vejuun. “It is a trait of the younger races and according to my calculations, this galaxy is so very much younger than that of the Red Sun’s.”
“I expected you here yesterday,” Artanis chided the scientist.
Vejuun waved the complaint away. “The realities of space travel, Lord Artanis. The splinters of the oh-so-great Empire are still irritatingly troublesome.”
Bendar grunted, “You chased the rats from their nest and now that they have gathered and established new nests, they deign to hiss and bite back.”
“Their core was rotten but their industrial centers still hold. Tentatively but they do hold.” Vejuun remarked. “We captured a great many vessels when their capital fell but even with half as much, these splinter cells may prove as irritating as a small pebble in one’s shoe.”
“Do they even know what is happening?” groused Bendar.
“I doubt it,” Artanis growled, “but it will be done.”
“The most advanced faction that Zeratul and our Vanguard found stumbled upon the concept,” Vejuun answered. “They called it Forced Evolution. But the lesser beings only realize that their banana was taken so they pound the ground, beat their chests and howl into the wind. Purely reactive.”
“They consider the worship of Borleas as akin to their own worship of items made of stone, wood and gold. As if the divine required such ministrations.” Artanis scoffed.
“Such ministrations do not seem to upset Raktus,” Vejuun slyly pointed out. Artanis turned sharply to the scientist but could not completely hide the amusement in his eyes.
“A god descended from a primate is prone to have some unflattering traits,” the Cree’ Ar Leader commented.
“He is the trickster god, after all,” Bendar interjected.
“I do find it strange that the example of the Black Dragon Imperium went unnoticed.”
“Not unnoticed,”Artanis disagreed with anger.
Vejuun bowed, “Forgive me. I should have said, unrecognized. And so they will pay for that lack of recognition.” He sighed, “It is unfortunate that one must go through much pain to gain such insight.”
“It is our Calling,” Artanis agreed. “It is messy. It is tragic but, ultimately, they and we will be better off for it. We will Uplift this galaxy out of the mire.”
Bendar’s eyes gleamed with a growing fervor. “And what is your ultimate vision for this star system?” pointing to the representation of the Azguard System.
“After everything has been done, at the end of the day, this star system will become a Preserve.”
“Emtaro, Artanis!” Bendar shouted into their minds before raising a hand, “Release the Creanti!”
Ship of Life indeed!
Thracken eyebrows rose as the elder White Knight stood up pointing to people acknowledging that they had the ability to, in fact, speak based on the empirical evidence of those people uttering sound. Was he a moron? An Azguard rage monster?
Thracken could tell he was angry and while the Minder was annoying, it wasn’t his speaking that annoyed the Corellian but his presence. He wondered if the Coalition diplomat would catch on or would she simply go through the motions simply to pass time before the shooting started.
Maybe they knew all they needed to know and had no interest in whatever Thracken had to say? While Artanis or these Coalitionists (bastards all!) may not give a whit about the life and times of one Thracken Sal Solo, he certainly did! He very much gave a whit! A hundred thousand million whits!
“Do you make him speak your poisoned words?”
What kind of name is Radagast?
The elder Knight was pointing at the Minder but, so far, all the bastard alien had said was ‘Truth’. Since when is ‘truth’ poisoned? Didn’t the Coalition champion Truth, Justice and the Azguardian way? Truth is in there somewhere, no? His lips pressed together since the Azguard was liable to simply stab him in the heart if he responded with snark.
Beady-Eyes shouted drawing his attention from the constipated Knight.
And then Beady-Eyes threw out a lifeline... “Are you prepared to continue, or would you prefer a recess? There are ample commissary facilities in the adjoining area if you would prefer not to return to your vessel. In matters of state import, it is imperative that we maintain a clear head, and not allow such unpleasantness to disrupt our work. A break may be in order.”
Bless you, Beady-Eyes! Bless your Charming, Good, God-Damn Beady-Eyes! I could kiss that droopy nose six ways to sundown!
Thracken leaned back nonchalantly and turned to the Minder. “Would you mind getting the proof and having it ready for display?”
The alien stared at him for a minute before silently rising and walking out of the room.
The moment the doors closed, Thracken seemed to slouch in his chair and exhale slowly in relief. “Damn glad to get that bastard away from me!” he exclaimed and flashed a grin, “and I would very much like a stiff drink.”
He stood, “If you would like to escort me to your commissary facilities, and, honestly, put as much distance between myself and the Minder, I would appreciate it. Once he finds me, I will have to display the more disagreeable parts of my personality so for as long as you have me, ask me what you want to know. If I know it, I will tell you.”