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Ghost in the Machine

Posted on Mon Jul 29th, 2019 @ 12:51pm by Bomoor Thort & Thane & Amare

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: XoXaan's Temple, Korriban
Timeline: Early Hours, Day 4

OLD

There was much yet to learn about the dark side and the storied legacy of the Sith, and the power they wielded, and Thane was intent on uncovering it and claiming that mantle, not content to let such treasures and repositories fall into ruin or, worse, the hands of the uninitiated.

The next person that dared set foot in this place, Thane vowed, would be Sith.

NEW

An amber lightsaber blade slashed through that which time and insects had wrought. Coda's weapon set fire to the silk strands and webbing clusters that cluttered their dreadfully silent passage on their way back towards the surface of Korriban. At the same time, her left hand acted as an unholy torch that lacked the comfort of warmth, but was possessed of ample crimson illumination that exceeded that which lightsabers were capable of.

With her hands occupied with the duties of the party's vanguard, Bomoor Thort was close behind taking over the task of Force-guiding the grav sled with G2's remains on board, and Thane was endwise with formidable awareness of their legendary surroundings.

"I will not miss this place," Coda said pensively after a long silence had fallen betwixt them, "but I don't regret coming here. I didn't like Hazarrah, but I still want to know more about his people."

Thane's mythical ruminations were brought back to the mundane by his apprentice's comment, and he considered for a moment the response that he first thought to say: that, as far as he and Darth Bane's gatekeeper would now be concerned, they are his people. Whether it was his own small-flickering embers of sentimental restraint that held his tongue or the presence of Bomoor, he nevertheless kept the comment to himself.

"We are the three living beings that probably now know most about them in this galaxy," her master said instead, his voice slightly raised to carry ahead to Coda.

Ornate carvings and glyphs adorned the time-worn walls of the tunnel they were now traversing, and Thane occasionally ran his fingertips along their outlines, almost seeking some physical connection to the beings that had carved - or ordered them carved - in the countless generations before. He was certain these particular images were from XoXaan's time, far predating the One Sith or any commonly-accepted modern Dark Lord's reign. The detail that had been retained was remarkable, almost staggering.

He was both pleased and impressed at the Nautolan's application of this peculiar talent she had developed during his tutelage, too, though wielding it himself remained beyond his capabilities or understanding at this time. The glow was both reassuring, in an oddly half-grim kind of way, and useful, especially now as the trio regarded another portal they now drew close to. Although their pace slowed to examine this new chamber, they did not stop, and the light of Coda's Force power illuminated this new room clearly.

The chamber was of a modest size, carved with the same markings and symbols as the hallway but it showed signs of adaptation by the latter Sith occupants of Xoxaan’s temple: a series of now-defunct consoles and welding stations were set around the edges with a series of droid construction frames attached to the far wall. Only one frame still held an occupant: a strange humanoid-formed droid that was unfamiliar to all but one of those now assembled in the room.

“What kind of droid is that?” Bomoor asked, arriving last with the sled containing G2’s components, “It looks more like a skeleton than a machine.”

Thane's chest tightened, and a fist clenched. Although he did not shake, the memories of his recent ordeal within the Mind Prison - so fresh, and yet equally so distant, in a detached way - burnt within him. An undesired ire threatened to rise, instinctive at the harrowing sight of the mangled machine.

"It bears a resemblance to a machine I saw kept by the Herald, the mad creator of the Replicants - undead cyborgs I fought during Hazzarah's games," he said calmly, stepping carefully around the perimeter of the room, rather than swooping towards the Builder-inspired droid. There were a few differences in the aesthetics, he could see, and unlike the archaic Mind Prison, it was not made of any material he could believe would have survived the two-dozen millennia since Fabricants razed Korriban. "This one is... different. Given the horrific amalgamation of bone and metal that those mindless beasts were and the Herald's insane designs for the Sith people, I presumed the droid was some prototype or precursor to the monsters I faced - or some eventual successor." Viewing the machine made the memory of the Infernal Engine all-too-real, as if the trials of the Mind Prison were not quite something that happened to someone else, as it was almost too easy to believe. Thane then thought briefly again on that final decision that had been lain before him, of the opportunity planted within his grasp.

The full details of Thane’s ordeal at the hands of the Rakata Herald had yet to be divulged but Bomoor felt a deep disgust in his stomach as the images played on Thane’s mind. Yet, there was something oddly intriguing about this droid that was never meant to be just a droid. For what purpose was the design reconstructed by the Sith here?

They continued to look about the room; on their right was a doorway that might perhaps lead back into one of the main corridors, but it was firmly sealed. Placing down the grav-sled, Bomoor walked over to the door controls and tapped at the keys with his slender fingers.

“It’s not opening,” he commented, “Do you think we can override it?”

Coda found it difficult to tear her eyes away from the somewhat creepy yet strikingly fascinating droid husk, but she turned and politely bowed her head to the Ithorian in the affirmative.

"Of course," she said calmly. "May I see?"

She disabled Thane's old lightsaber and clipped it on her belt on her way to the panel. She then rubbed that free hand gently over the controls, unable to make heads or tails of them.

"It's so...analogue," she softly commented partly to herself as she held her light point blank near the panel, the flames harmlessly caressing her forehead and tendrils. "I'll have to slice it." For the first time in her life, she could say that with literal meaning.

With her free hand she retrieved her shoto and activated its green blade. With her thumb on the hilt, she ran it over the lower of a pair of small gold hued dials. The adjustment began to cause the blade of pure energy to narrow itself to finer, more precise instrument.

"Someday, I will tell you both about Master Nakomo," she said as she stabbed into a corner of the panel and began to cut along its perimeter. "I met him on Lorrd. He perfected the ability to attenuate a lightsaber for utility purposes. He made a special tool called a 'lightspanner'. It was cute, like a miniature lightsaber that had a tiny little energy blade you could use to fix stuff. He liked to joke that it was his 'patented Force-powered screwdriver'." She smiled, stopping herself just short of a chuckle. She swallowed her nostalgia and nearly choked on her next words. "He...he was a good man. He deserved better." The panel came loose and fell to the floor, and what she saw inside wasn't exactly what she was expecting.

"Hm, it's a hot mess in there," she noted with a frown. "I'm more of a software girl. This...I wouldn't know where to begin."

Eyeing both his apprentice and the machine in turn, Thane offered only a slight shrug. "Technology - not really my thing, unfortunately."

“Do try whatever you can,” Bomoor chimed supportively, but with a hint of urgency, “Would perhaps any of these parts I am carrying come in handy?” Bomoor picked up G2’s shock arm and waved it in the air, “Perhaps give the circuitry a jolt?”

"A jolt..." Coda echoed, then shook her head and gently added, "...I see, but not with that." She sighed knowing the implication of the idea that was swirling through her head. Bomoor's suggestion with G2's tool was sound, but there was no way to adjust the current without an active control regulator which could only be governed by the math co-processor embedded in the CPU. "I want to try something I learned today. Please stand back and be ready to shield your eyes. We're going dark."

Upon saying that last word, her ethereal flames winked out, blanketing the room in near total darkness. She carefully stepped back a full pace from the open panel, closed her eyes, and stretched her arms in front of her, palms down, fingers pointed at the strange circuits. She began to quietly speak in tongues, an amalgamation of Nautila and the ancient Sith language she heard in the Lorrdian desert.

If you do this, if you summon the lightning, the Ithorian will have no doubt of what you are becoming. The secret will become known. It could sow discord between the three of you. You will put Serus into a corner he may not wish to be in. It could anger him yet again. It could have certain...consequences...for us... said the essence of Amare within.

The proceeding mental exchange between them occurred within the span of several seconds, far faster than was possible with spoken words.

I don't care. Coda mentally shot back. After the way Bomoor shamed me before Lorrd, the way he made me feel stupid, made me feel like I couldn't do anything with my powers...no, I want this. I want him to respect me. I want Thane to see how I've grown, to show that his faith in me paid off. I nearly died for this today. I want this! I deserve this power! I will not hide from it, or them!

A small spark popped along Coda's fingertips.

And, as before when she had displayed a sudden and remarkable feat of power, Thane's eyes both widened then narrowed, interest and fear flickering across his mind. He could feel her rage and ambition coursing through her. It was intoxicating, as so much of the dark side could be, but in such a differently intense way when coming from another - from one he had introduced to the dark side, even.

What you desire is...me. Embrace me, Zara. Become Amare once more. We are one and the same. One voice, one entity, one destiny. You were born for this. Now...search your feelings and go beyond Bomoor and your master. Remember the scientist that imprisoned you in the aquarium...

Another spark that extended into snaking coils of hair-thin electricity danced along the lengths of Coda's slender blue fingers.

Remember those gangsters that tried to kill you...

A narrow lance of energy zapped the wall just below the panel.

Focus. Use your wrath to guide your will to your goal. Remember how you felt when Nakomo betrayed your trust? The terentatek...did you sense its boiling anger? Its dark essence still lingers in you. Can you feel it? Can you feel its centuries of hunger raging within?

Coda straightened her back and pulled her hands back closer to her chest, palms up, and balled them into fists as sparks of energy crackled beneath her fingers.

I feel it...yes, Amare! It feels...good. There is more. I sense...I can feel...

The azoth, yes Zara. Do not forget Archonus...remember how angry he made you feel when he tried to kill you? Remember how his daughter mocked you with the false Amare? Recall how she pleaded for a chance to be made whole again. So pathetic. She is unworthy.

And Hazarrah... Coda remarked. ...I hated how powerful and in-control he was, dragging us into his trap against our will. He put our lives at risk for his own amusement. That bastard! How dare he lord himself over us? Anyone who threatens my master should be put to death.

Yes, Zara. Justice is yours. Vengeance is yours. Use your power and reclaim your freedom!

"I will not be held back by these dead Sith anymore!" Coda furiously shouted, followed by a pained scream that reflected all of her pent up frustration as she released her fists and thrust her fingers at the open panel. A scant few arcing streams of turquoise electricity roared out from her hands, nowhere near the incredible show of power Thane exhibited on Vaa when he dueled Darth Cabal, but each bolt energized the circuits with raw power. There were several loud ear-piercing pops from the circuits, and Coda's lightning ceased as she shielded her face from the violent electrical reaction.

With a great groan, the aged door crept open, allowing a slightly fresher air to fill the rancid old chamber, seeped in the smell of mould and rust. The group all instinctively moved forwards slightly but, as they did so, another groan from behind answered the call of the door. They turned to see the Fabricant-inspired droid craning forwards out of the construction frame. As it moved, several joints in its face came loose and its unusual lower jaw drooped downwards. It was a vision not unlike the horrors seen in the original Fabricants of the Trayset siege.

“Watch out!” Bomoor shouted, instinctively placing himself in front of his friends, with his hand ready to activate his lightsaber, “It seems we’ve activated more than just the doorway.”

A worn and weathered arm began to reach out, almost pleading, from the droid and then, as quickly as it had sprung to life, it sparked and shut down again, now drooping forwards in the frame.

“Hmph,” Bomoor droned quizzically, “Well, that was rather anticlimactic. It seems not all the traps in this place are as resilient to time as the Mind Prison. I don’t think it will be getting up again any time soon.”

Despite the lurching of the ancient war machine, for which he held a certain (more personal than usual) disdain for, Thane's thoughts remained with Coda's display, to which Bomoor was exercising a remarkable amount of cool restraint towards. Either that, or it was not as surprising to the increasingly-cynical Ithorian as Thane expected it to be. Regardless, the Nautolan continued to astonish him with her rapid developments, of how effectively she had drawn his teachings in and how naturally she resonated with the darker aspects of the Force.

For a mere neophyte in the arcane arts of the universe, Zaracoda Wolph was proving herself a spectacular sorceress. His own teeth were on edge following from her esoteric display, which he had felt almost as though he had cast the lightning himself. Aside from Bomoor, he had not felt that connection to or from another; perhaps this sensation was wrought from their master-pupil relationship, as he had oft been told of such naturally-forming connections (unlike his bond with Bomoor), or perhaps it is because he had never shared any nature of comradely bond to one using the dark side.

Is that what Bomoor feels from me? He wondered, not casting any glance towards the Ithorian. "We already have the sled," Thane said instead, wrenching the droid free with an indelicate usage of the Force, placing it over G2's own remains. "There may be something of worth held within, either Builder or Sith." He cast another look about the room, knowing from the lighter air drawing into the chamber they were close to finally leaving. "Our time here is done, wouldn't you say?"

Coda found herself staring at the palms of her hands, astounded by what she had done. Casting the lightning wasn't like the first time where it was reactionary, and done with supernatural assistance from vengeful Sith spirits that held a grudge against Archonus. This was an active, deliberate choice to freely use the power. She somehow felt different inside again. It was a seductive feeling she wanted to experience again.

We did it! she thought gratefully to Amare. The reply, however, was not with words, but a wave of euphoria as her disjointed mind reintegrated itself. She closed her eyes, calmly inhaled some of that old dusty Korriban air that had once passed through the lungs of other Sith long ago, and clenched her hands into fists again as she opened her eyes and looked upon Thane who regarded her with stern, yet approving eyes. She nodded with a satisfied smile in reply to his question, not as Coda, but as Amare once more. No... I did it.

Thane and Amare left the room together, Master and pupil satisfied with their progression of power and the darkness that supplied it. Bomoor looked onwards for a moment; coming here in itself had meant turning a blind eye to much of the darkness he had been trained to revile and, in turn, had allowed a good portion of that same darkness into himself for good or ill.

He looked at his own hands, which had channeled his own Force lightning abilities back on Irrikut. Seeing Coda use that same power was a frightening demonstration of how fast she was growing and absorbing the energy of the Dark Side: he would need to find out what had happened to her with the Terentatek

Serus and Amare left the room together, Master and pupil satisfied with their progression of power and the darkness that supplied it. Bomoor looked onwards for a moment; coming here in itself had meant turning a blind eye to much of the darkness he had been trained to revile and, in turn, had allowed a good portion of that same darkness into himself for good or ill.

He looked at his own hands, which had channelled his own Force lightning abilities back on Irrikut. Seeing Coda use that same power was a frightening demonstration of how fast she was growing and absorbing the energy of the Dark Side; he would need to find out what had happened to her with the Terentatek before the Mind Prison. What exactly did the name ‘Amare’ mean to her?

However, it was not revulsion he felt in this moment; instead he felt a growing confidence in the power of their little party in making a change to this galaxy. He hauled up the sled once again, now carrying the weight of two droids with ease, and moved it out into the corridor and back towards the warm glow of Korriban’s sun. They had experienced the secrets of this long-dead Sith world; both those of the ancient Purebloods and of the much later One Sith. It had now given birth to two more Sith Lords, who would soon have the power to topple Axion and then save the feeble Republic from itself.

TBC
__________________________________

AMARE
▼ Dark Side Shift
▬ Force Lightning increase

 

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