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Mother & Master

Posted on Thu Sep 26th, 2019 @ 8:33pm by Kalen "Rex" Vickers & Thane & Zenarrah Sozo

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Red Raptor, departing Valley of the Dark Lords, Korriban
Timeline: After "Invictus", Korriban Day 4

OLD

Rynseh could see the maneuver Thane was about to perform the instant before it even happened, but the drain had slowed his reaction time, the blade lock had occupied his strength and supernatural focus, and age and extreme past traumas had hindered his reflexes to the point where all he could do was gird himself for the moment of impact.

Thane brought his offhand away from his hilt with Force-imbued speed to smash it palm-flat straight into the Cathar's sternum, imbuing all of his summoned darkness into the telekinetic thrust, sending a massive wave of energy straight into the Jedi Master.

The blast of power crashed through nearly all of the Councilman's Force barriers - which served only to save his felinoid bones from shattering under the massive wave of power - and sent the hulking scarred Cathar and his lightsaber arcing out of the Red Raptor's open ramp and out of sight with little more than a grunt, tumbling through the storm-ridden Korriban air down into the Valley of the Dark Lords - and the waiting cultists below.

NEW

Thane wasted no time revelling in his victory and disposal of Zennarah's former master. Instead, disengaging his lightsaber, he stepped over to the controls and activated the ramp's closure finally, as the Raptor rose ever higher into the tombworld's skies.

The tumultuous valley below dwindled into small indiscernible shapes, the deep and ancient rot of planet's nascent dark side nature flowing through every visibly-diminishing crevice and rock, a sight that was shut away by the satisfied hydraulic hisses of the ramp finally sealing shut. Although the vessel continued to rock with the occasional gust from the cult's storm, the terrible screeching of the wind was now blissfully muted. The small industrial bulb built into the bulkhead beside the ramp also now flickered briefly, accompanied by a momentary bloop from the associated console to confirm the vessel was secure once more.

Feeling the Raptor increase speed with the ship firmly sealed, Thane, satisfied, turned towards the other fallen Jedi Knight within the compartment, who was recuperating against one of the walls with slow breaths, her recovery rapid but measured.

Although the vortex of the dark side was now subsiding within the young Sith, Thane kept his composure focused and his manner haughty, his back straight as he addressed the Nautolan with a crisp tone, not belying any of his exhaustion from the days' many terrible and varied conflicts. Korriban had, after all, been everything it had promised to be.

"You are Zaracoda's mother," he observed simply, returning his lightsaber to his belt. Once again, his eyes were returning to their natural ice-blue colouring.

Zen nodded through panting, yet gradually slowing breaths. "It's remarkable how far you've come," she said with a subtle hint of awe as she started to catch her breath, her normally blue face a bit more pale than usual. "Yet somehow you're not the same. You have his face, but you're not quite the star pupil of Sotah anymore, are you?"

She knew she was likely asking the obvious, but even though Thane's eyes had reverted to their normal colour, his Force aura was still cascading with the ripple effects of the dark side. She could sense that it flowed with more clarity in him than even the twisted Cultists they just fought. There was great comfort in him as he wore the darkness like the nobleman's cape on his shoulders, unlike that of Zen's own conflicted dabbling in it, as if the Human had been an old hand at using the darkest of powers his whole life.

Hearing his own Jedi master's name caused an unwelcome pang of emotion to strike at Thane's tempestuous core, but he did nothing to betray to the Nautolan woman the inner turmoil the Selkath still represented to him. Interceding in Zenarrah's conflict with her master had already made him dwell on his relationship to Master Sotah, something that was infinitely more complex than his relationship with the Jedi Order, of course. Blasting a Jedi Master into a nest of waiting Dark Jedi to his likely doom had, of course, further sealed his fate with that particular organisation - but he had no regrets.

The recently-declared Sith Lord examined this new Nautolan passenger with a clinical eye. He had many questions for her; he had numerous mysteries he wished unravelled by her, Amare's true mother. Looking at her now, he could see the similarities. Like his chosen apprentice, Zenarrah obviously had the pale-blue skin tone of the younger woman, and whilst she could also boast an attractive visage and modest curves upon a lithe frame, she was more solidly built than her daughter, and taller, both more assured and focused. Thane imagined that looking at Zenarrah was akin to looking through a scrying-glass to regard the woman Amare could one day become.

Naturally, he wondered now at Amare's true provenance, of how to truly discern the fictions from the facts of her familial upbringing and relationships. He also wondered at Zenarrah's knowledge and involvement in these circumstances. After all, Thane had not forgotten the revelation on Vaa that Zaracoda had killed the Wolphs of Glee Anselm during her youth, a dark truth that had evaded her troubled mind and had forged much of her her Force sensitivity had subsequently manifested and masked itself.

Indeed, there had been many dark truths since they had found one another on Nar Shaddaa, and they had been through many dark trials, together and apart. Irrikut, Sheva, Vaa, Lorrd, Yavin... Korriban.

How would Amare - Zaracoda - deal with this latest trial? Thane wondered, electing to not lay bare his own knowledge of his apprentice's circumstances to Zenarrah.

"Why now?" He asked as the ship bobbed slightly, seemingly flying higher into and out of Korriban's upper atmosphere.

Whilst he did not make any threat against Zenarrah, Thane knew his recent display of power served sufficiently as a declaration of its own, and although he did not move to stand between the woman and the hatchway, his tone made clear he expected an answer. Amare would meet her mother, Thane accepted; another trial in her journey towards her own Sith mastery.

"I've had plenty of opportunity to kill him recently," Zen replied as she straightened and clipped her lightsaber to her belt. "But I couldn't make my move until I secured Zaracoda." She turned to gaze at the closed boarding ramp, drew in a deep breath, and shook her head. "Even now, Rynseh lives. A simple fall isn't enough to end my former master. Not even military grade explosives. For his sake, I truly hope those Cultist scum give him a quick death. I've never wished for him to suffer. Quellus, on the other hand..." Her words drifted off as she turned back to Thane and could see the his understandable look of judgment and scrutiny on his face. "I can tell my words are not enough for you. Please show me to the cockpit. There is a capsule I left nearby in space we must secure if I am to answer all your questions. But we must act quickly; the Judicial Fleet will arrive in the system at any moment."

Thane continued to regard Zen carefully for a few moments longer, before finally extending his hand in gesture towards the hatch. The warning of the Judicial Fleet was not lost on him. Although he and Bomoor had not been declared enemies of the Republic - it was something he had taken pains to check over the past few months - there was certainly enough confusion afoot from the various confrontations at Korriban, and there would undoubtedly be some nominal Reborn Jedi presence in the fleet. They would not so readily abandon Korriban to those they believed to be Sith.

On this occasion, Thane considered with wry amusement, they were more right than they had perhaps ever been.

Following but leading her quickly towards the cockpit, he was sure to avoid passing by the medbay on this occasion, preferring to avoid any further interaction with Amare or even the other newcomers at this juncture, as well as appreciating the need for a rapid departure from the Horuset system. Although he could still feel a lingering sensation of pain ebbing through the Force from his Ithorian friend, Thane's recent immersion within the dark side had augmented his occasional barriers, adequately shielding him (and Bomoor, in turn) from rogue sensations.

As they reached the cockpit, Thane's eyes immediately fell upon the shambling astromech that the Human, Rattataki and Jawa trio had brought with them. It was an old and embarrassing thing; its optical sensor could barely maintain a stable light for more than a few fizzing seconds, and it was covered in scratches, scorch marks and scuffs that looked older than Thane himself. Numerous components and joints attached to the little whirring machine were from barely-compatible donors, leaving Thane unsure of the droid's original configuration and model. In one of the rear cockpit chairs, the dark-skinned Human was asleep, deep rasping breaths escaping his dry mouth. Thane paid him no mind for the moment, but he wondered where the Jawa was.

Sighting them both, it retracted its scomp link from the Raptor's navicomputer with a start, and began buzzing and warbling at them in that droid language that caused Thane such a headache. G2's constant need for communication had trifled him enough, but listening to this device's screeching broken binary dialect was far more excruciating. He almost did not need to pretend he could not understand what it was saying.

"Turn control of the ship over to manual, but ensure the hyperdrive is primed and that a suitable course can be plotted as quickly as possible," he ordered the astromech, walking over it to claim the co-pilot's chair, electing to put faith in the prodigal mother of his Sith apprentice.

He spun in the chair and looked out beyond the viewport, the orange skies of Korriban now firmly replaced by the infinite void of space, flecked as this particular view was with asteroids and bright twinkling stars. Fortunately, no other vessels were visible, but he did see the cracked shell of the Jedi orbital station that they had passed during their arrival. As his eyes searched the smashed husk of his former colleagues' space station, he struggled to discern his exact feelings on their fate. Oddly, a part of him wanted to feel some degree of remorse for the Jedi that had served aboard, given the Cult of Axion would probably not have arrived here, had the Red Raptor crew not ventured to the surface. Even so, there had been no requirement to murder them. It was just another example of the pathetic and impulsive murderous nature of Axion's brood, of their chaos.

The chaos of their darkness.

"You have accepted the dark side," Thane said quietly to Zenarrah, not yet taking his cool gaze away from the tumbling debris within their view. It was not so much a challenge, as his earlier comments had been, but sounded perhaps almost whimsical, albeit certain in its declaration. Numerous thoughts raced through his tired mind, especially as he considered the growing number of Jedi falling since his reclamation of the Sith creed.

"As have you," Zen noted cooly as she settled into the pilot's seat with her comlink in hand. "You've come a long way from that little boy I once helped Master Sotah train all those years ago," she added as she dialed in her link's frequency into the Raptor's comm system. A soft repeating ping was heard through the overhead speakers, and the short-range sensor monitor displayed the location of her beacon in space. She squinted at the monitor, but couldn't quite read the tiny text on the screen. "There's my supplies, but I can't make out its bearing on this display."

Thane now frowned, and turned now to face the other former Jedi, not addressing her latter comment. "I do not recall a Nautolan ever being a part of my training with Sotah."

"You weren't supposed to," Zen replied with a wry grin as she found the dial she was looking for. "Ah, there you are." She twisted the knob and increased the text size to suit her older eyes. "Set to two-six," she said to Thane to adjust course and heading. "I wore the white mask, cowl, and armor of a Temple Guard in those days. You and a few of the other initiates required some refinement on your Shii-Cho katas. Sotah asked me to demonstrate with him to inspire improvement in the class. I was still on-duty, so I had to keep my face concealed. I personally adjusted your ready-stance, stood back, and watched as you sparred and surpassed my expectations."

As he input her instructions into the co-pilot's console, Thane found it peculiar hearing about his youth from a figure that had known him then, even if briefly or from a distance. Given the amount of time that had passed since he had spoken positively with anyone that remembered him from his formative years as a Jedi Knight, barring Bomoor, it almost made him feel uncomfortable, as if it were undermining what he had achieved since his resignation. Thinking about his happier times during his youth, when the kindly Master Sotah had formally taken him under his guidance as an older and somewhat troubled youngling, also threatened to give him more pause for thought.

She seemed to have already accepted his indulgence of the dark side, perhaps having examined his and Bomoor's progression since their mission to Nar Shaddaa and beyond for some time. Now, he wondered for how long she had taken an interest in their escapades, whether it had been for any prolonged period of time, or simply since their discovery of Zaracoda on their latter visit to the Smuggler's Moon. Her journey in the darkness had been a long one, he was certain, but he was confident Amare served as the impetus behind it all, even if her absence from the girl's life remained a mystery for the moment.

"And now I am your daughter's master," he said, the Raptor rapidly closing the distance to Zenarrah's supplies.

There was a long awkward pause between them as the objective was in sight. The tracer signal pinged more rapidly as the metal package was in clear view through the cockpit window. It appeared to be hastily fashioned from the spare parts intended for a proton torpedo warhead.

"Perhaps it is so," Zen said, a bitter hint of regret in her voice as she gently drew back on the flight yoke to tilt the Raptor's bow up a bit so the ship could fly just about the drifting space container. It appeared to Thane that she had been quite comfortable at the controls of a Corellian freighter, experienced even. "Sixteen years I kept her safe on Glee Anselm while I selfishly went about my life as a Jedi on Coruscant. Gave her a family willing to adopt her, even anonymously provided legal defense to prevent the Jedi Seekers from setting foot on their property. In spite of the power I knew she had, I never wanted her to become a Jedi, or even know about the Force. I used to dream of her becoming a pilot like her father, or a mystic healer like my grandmother. As always, the Force never sets things up quite the way we want them to."

The fast pinging reached an almost annoying crescendo for several seconds right before it came to a sudden stop. In its place, there was the single faint sound of the blunt contact of metal on metal on the underside of the ship's hull.

"That should do it," Zen said as she noted the proximity sensors noting the magnetically attached object. "Let's be on our way, 'Master' Thane," she said with almost spiteful emphasis. "I would hate for us to be spotted after the mess we left behind."

Thane left that comment unanswered for the moment, not offended but, in fact, satisfied at the response and exposure of information. He was also pleased it only took a brief backwards glance to the old astromech to receive a garbled confirmation that the vessel was ready and the course plotted. Having to place faith that the machine had chosen a suitable destination, he forced his hand upon the central lever and thrust forwards. A few unwelcome blips appeared on the nearby display, indicating several vessels leaving hyperspace close to Korriban, but it was only a momentary concern as the whole cockpit was lit up by the pseudomotion display of stretched stars beyond that signalled their own acceleration into hyperspace.

"She is destined for so much more than the humble mundanities of piloting machines or salving villagers' wounds," he said crisply, not taking his gaze away from the cosmic blue miasma swirling infinitely before the Red Raptor, the optical sensation as troubling to his eyes as it had ever been. "She is remarkable; the Force whirls about her like a torrential storm, raw and striking at everything about her. Yet, also at once, she is naturally enveloped by it, garbed within it like a well-worn cloak, shielding her from even the most attentive of mystics." Thane now turned his head towards Amare's mother, leaning back slightly in his chair as he did, suppressing a wince from his slowly-returning aches and injuries. "Do you know what became of her adoptive parents?" He asked quizzically, a dark eyebrow arched.

"Slain," Zen replied with a stoic return of Thane's gaze. "I can tell you the details, but...I think it is best she face her past and tell you herself when she is ready."

Thane nodded ponderously, not revealing the fact Amare had already disclosed the dark reality to him, shortly after her own awareness of her amnesiac involvement. "I think you are right, Zenarrah. I think you are right."

Zen assured the autopilot was set and rose from her chair. The slight strain of rising made her notice the feeling of a sharp bruise-like ache just below her sternum. She glanced down at her gold breastplate and noticed a small black horizontal gash across the abdomen portion. In addition, there was a glancing blow on the guard plate fastened on her right arm. The cortosis mesh had indeed saved her from failure.

"That low-born Nala fiend," she commented to Thane as she started to make her way to the medbay. Thane rose and halted at the door as she spoke. "A disgrace to my kind, but her skills were commendable. I've never seen anyone adapt to Juyo strikes so easily before. If you are to be my daughter's master, you will need to train her to surpass Nala, lest you and your apprentice will have no chance against the master of the Cult."

"Again," Thane replied, "you are right. Despite the injuries and suffering of this day, the excursion to Korriban was ultimately a victory; none of us have died, and we control another Kaiburr crystal. The Cult of Axion's days are numbered, just as they have been from the moment they stepped foot upon the soil of Caanus, as is the pitiable existence of their 'Dark Master'."

Thane watched as Zen then continued her small walk towards the medbay, mentally judging how quickly she would arrive, and immediately deciding it may be best if he introduced himself first. Before he did, however, he took one purposely-loud step towards the apparently-unconscious Rex Vickers and brought his mouth up close to the other Human's exposed ear. "And those of eavesdropping smugglers."

Although the Sith left without waiting for any response from Rex, the dark-skinned man suppressed a massive jolt and clenched his eyes even more tightly shut. The poor gambler's mind was already racing with fiends, mystics, katas and magic crystals, and it took all of his willpower to not sob.

He painfully tugged his tattered duster up closer about him in an effort to lull himself back to sleep and slinked down further into the chair. "I just wanted to save Reave from some mobsters..."

Continued in "Room for Compassion"

 

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