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Out of Sync

Posted on Tue Jul 27th, 2021 @ 10:43am by Mentis & Amare

Chapter: Chapter VI: The Last Bastion
Location: Imperial Hangar, Bastion
Timeline: Follows "Guns Are Safer"

OLD

The Ithorian then addressed Mentis and Rex, "I trust you two are comfortable working together again. No complications this time."

Mentis looked down slightly, "Of course, we were just discussing how this 'Empire Day' event may give us a bit of cover. We'll work something out."

"Then it is decided," Amare said as she started to leave, but then tapped the Rattataki gently on the shoulder as she passed and turned to him, "Mentis, before we go our separate ways for the day, may I have words with you for a few minutes? Alone?"

NEW

The Red Raptor sat quietly in the dim Imperial hangar, lit only by some floor lights that illuminated the way to the exit. While the ship was no longer impounded and use had been returned to the crew, the main hangar doors were sealed shut, with Imperial authorisation required to release them. But, for now, they were left in peace with no guards or security.

It was out here that Amare led the now curious Mentis for a discussion, making sure the inner door was closed behind them.

"My gratitude is yours," Amare said with her back to Mentis as he approached her, the words sounding a bit pained, remorseful even, but restrained partially by pride. "As are my apologies for using my power on you earlier." She turned to look upon him, gazing deeply into the ash colour of his eyes, a calm, almost Coda-like warmth and kindness to her expression, as if Amare had taken off the mask for a bit...or was actually wearing the mask now. "As you know, the dark side compels us to act aberrantly with selfish actions and intent. It's...it's so damned intoxicating. The power it gives has made me so strong, and so fast, I can't help but love it, but...well, that is not entirely who I am. This time only a year ago, I wanted little more than to help a brother I still loved and start a new life on Glee Anselm. Now, I'm a killer...a murdering schutta, and my brother is ashes by my hand. Yet I feel nothing...no regrets. Probably not much different than your old companion, Nala, but I need you to understand that I am not her, and Thane is not Axion. We're trying to be better than that. I hope that is how you feel of us...or am I wrong?"

“You’re not wrong. Well, not entirely,” Mentis came to a halt beside the open boarding ramp and leaned loosely against one of the arms, “But I think you do feel something, despite how much you may want to tell yourself you don’t.”

The Rattataki wrinkled his scarred nose, seemingly recalling something unpleasant or uncomfortable, “I have lived most of my life around those who wield the dark side of the Force and even the coldest bastards in the cult relied on emotion to fuel their powers. But when you live and breathe fear, anger and jealousy, you can feel almost as if you are no longer experiencing those emotions, but rather letting them pull you along for the ride. That’s when you begin to feel cold and empty and that’s precisely when someone else can come along and feign to fill that void in your life with some kind of meaning, whether it is some great crusade or promise of a higher power.”

He then set his mismatched eyes cautiously on her, “Make sure you don’t let…”

Mentis stopped himself and looked away, “Well, just remember to take account of what you want from time to time. That business with your brother: did it end how you wanted it? If I recall, we did not venture there with the intention of executing him.”

Amare gazed to the floor to ponder her feelings on the bitter subject of her departed brother, but she shook her head and looked back up at Mentis, preferring to focus on him, to identify with him and search for his meaning in the Force. To dwell on a family she lost was a side of her old self she refused to further indulge.

"What's done is done, and what's dead is no more," Amare answered with grim acceptance. She drew her shoto from under her longcoat and held it out to Mentis upon her open gloved palm. "Take it for a moment. Tell me...I...I want to know if you can feel anything from it. If you can 'hear' the crystal from within."

Mentis stopped leaning and took a hold of the short hilt Amare handed him. Amare knew that Mentis arrived after she acquired the weapon and so would not know its violent history, taken from the hands of the Rift Jedi apprentice she had slain on Lorrd. He twisted the smooth, silver weapon in his hands, seeming to take in its weight as well as the deeper essence of the Force-imbued crystal within.

"This is not a synthetic crystal like mine," Mentis pondered, keeping his eyes on the lightsaber, "I have held only a few true crystals and it always surprises me how alive they feel, despite being nearly structurally identical to their synthetic counterparts."

He ignited it, the buzz of the ignition reverberated around the near-empty hangar and the distinctive chartreuse beam followed, "I may be wrong, but this weapon does not feel as though it is in tune with you as it should be," the Rattataki continued, "I was once that natural crystals often call to their owners and can be difficult to wield by anyone else. I don't know how true that is, but this crystal..."

He backed off and gave the blade a few spins, cycling through a couple of basic strikes in the air before frowning slightly, "Yes, it is subtle but there is some resistance. Have you ever thought about a synthetic crystal? Bomoor was talking to me about my own red blade and mentioned that they found a crystal furnace on Korriban just before we met."

"No..." Amare answered, "...the thought hadn't occurred to me. Interesting...it seems to be a little more calm in your hands. When I use it, it resists me, but I'm learning more and more each day how to control it. I don't wish to replace the unruly crystal. I wish to tame it, humble it, give it focus, turn its wrath towards our enemies without the need to constantly fight it. I just wish I knew of a way to truly make it my own."

The pale humanoid sheathed the plasma blade and offered the shoto back to Amare, "That is likely a more difficult procedure. I do not know if the crystal will naturally bend to your will or if it will always resist."

With the weapon returned to its owner, Mentis himself resumed his position against the ramp, "There was one of the cultists, Kelderesh, who claimed to have used the Force to bend a crystal to his will. He was always a reluctant lightsaber user and despised the synthetic crystals Axion provided him. It was only when he acquired a natural crystal of one of the cult's victims that he became intrigued with conquering its power. He called it 'bleeding' the crystal; a dark meditation technique that forces the practitioner's will into the crystal, if you can overcome its own natural resistance."

Such information struck Amare with visible astonishment, her lips parted slightly agape with profound fascination. Not even the Telos Holocron would impart such knowledge when she asked; it had deemed her unprepared for such knowledge. "Mentis," she said as she glanced at her shoto before clipping it back on her belt, "if what you say is true, then I must explore this dark ritual for myself. Would this Kelderesh happen to be the one that summoned the storms against us on Korriban?"

“Indeed,” Mentis stated, although he seemed uncomfortable with this avenue of conversation, “He is Kelderesh Jai Nektus, a dangerous Kaleesh sorcerer who has an affinity for elemental manipulation. Perhaps this type of crystal manipulation is particularly suited to his abilities but it is not something I can pretend to know much about. I have never used anything but synthetic.”

He unhooked his own weapon and studied it in his hand. The tight black bands made the weapon sink into the background of the dim hangar aside from the thicker red leather close to the emitter end. The loose end of the leather swayed slightly as he twisted it.

“Famous warriors often say their weapons are tuned to them,” Mentis observed, almost sounding slightly wistful. “They carry a certain weight or have some quirk of design that aids them in combat. But sometimes, the familiarity of your weapon is enough. Knowing it will be consistent and reliable is something you should not discount. Particularly in this galaxy of mistrust and backstabbing you should try to have some constant at your side. If you cannot trust your weapon then you should do whatever you can to change that but just be wary looking into that ‘bleeding’ power. You’re not a mad power-hungry Kaleesh, after all, so your parsecs may vary.”

"Oh, make no mistake," Amare said with a smirk, her tone a touch deeper and a bit more insidious, "I am as power-hungry as him, if not more, but I haven't reached the point of madness...not yet. I think this Kelderesh is in possession of secrets...Sith secrets. I will deprive him of his powers, and then I will deprive him of his life, but not before I find a way to make dear sweet Nala suffer before I end her. When that's done, we'll take Axion's head, and then my Master will have justice, and you'll be free."

The shift in Amare's tone appeared to trouble the Rattataki who suddenly turned away and took a few steps away, "I want to be free Amare," he spoke in a pained voice, his teeth clenched, "But you speak just like one of the cultists: just like Nala. She too took pleasure in pain too: other people's pain. You don't know the depths of the cults power, let alone Axion's. This Sith religion that you and Thane practice: I have not yet seen the evidence that it teaches anything greater than what Axion does."

He turned around and pointed at her weapon, his eyes suddenly more full of a sharp anger, "You came to show me your weapon and expose your weakness to me: that you cannot control your own power, your blade that should bring you the greatest focus. Then you expect me to believe that you will topple the greatest power I have ever known in this universe?"

He ignited his own blade and held it in her direction, "Confront your own fears and banish your weakness before you speak to me about facing the cult."

Amare made no move upon being threatened by the captivating scarlet blade. Twice, once in each eye, the image of the blade was mirrored at Mentis almost perfectly, and the light illuminated bits of the hidden features swirling deep within the Nautolan's eyes. One could almost see a round shape of something within, round like regular eyes, hidden windows to a troubled soul within.

The Force did not guide her hands to defend herself, and for that, Amare suspected she was witnessing not a hostile action, but a pure expression of emotion. She reached out with her senses, closed her eyes for a second, and began to look at Mentis with the monochromatic view of the universe through the Force. What she saw in the man was startling, chaotic, frightening, and...calming all at once. There was a dark oppressive veil of torment and agony covering Mentis' aura from head to toe, but there was something deep within, very difficult to see, pulsing faintly beneath his heart...something modest, something frail, and...something decent.

The fire in Mentis' eyes began to fade as quickly as it came and he dropped his crimson blade to his side, "There is a reason I stayed at Axion's side so many years: I do not doubt my skill with a lightsaber and know how to hone my fear into a weapon. When you can face me with the blade, then perhaps we can talk again about the cult."

Amare closed her eyes again and reopened them to her familiar mundane and colourful view of the world, glancing at the still active lightsaber in Mentis' hand, and then to the troubled expression on his face.

"There is much you can teach me," she remarked calmly, a modicum of compassion, expressing her understanding a part of the unintended lesson, "and I think you just taught me my first lesson. I have no wish to be anything like Nala. I do not take joy in making others suffer...that is a truth I can assure you of, especially after what happened with my brother. Sure, the thrill of a kill gives me a moment of satisfaction, but when I think of the consequences..." She shook her head as her words trailed off, then added, "Look, I said what I said because one way or another, we're going to have to kill Axion and his lieutenants, or die trying. I see that murder doesn't sit well with you, but I think you know what must be done, and I'm confident you're prepared to fight them when that black day arrives. But maybe there's something more we can do against the Cult other than meet Force with Force. Something to help even our odds, that is if you're willing to listen peacefully." She nodded towards the blazing red lightsaber.

The former cultist’s plasma blade retracted into his weapon and he stared at her for a moment in silence. He then placed the hilt back on his belt and walked towards the ramp, stopping when he was beside her once again but not looking her directly in the eye, “I have murdered men and women and that thought alone does not bother me as much as perhaps it should. What I do despise is when you stop feeling it and so you absolutely must find a way to feel again, Amare. Until then, I doubt any crystal will respond to you.”

He began to tread back up the ramp and into the ship but once again hung onto one of the mechanical arms, seemingly having a second thought, “If you want some kind of secret weapon against the cult, I don’t know what more I can add but we can talk again, as you say, peacefully. But perhaps you should ready yourself for your trip out to see these strange troopers. I will be most intrigued to find out what you have to tell me about the man I faced out there.”

"I'll gladly share what I learn when I return," Amare said as she turned to him. "I hope in exchange, you can teach me how to fight. I can think of no one more suited to guide me than you, but I will not feel slighted if you refuse."

She started up the ramp to begin preparation to leave with Bomoor and Reave, then she stopped, turned, and gazed down to Mentis once more. "You might not think much of us now, but I swear that the Sith will do better than the Cult. History has always painted my Order as the bad guys, and perhaps rightly so, but I will not stop until I learn how to tame the dark side. I can't speak for Thane, but that is my pledge. Once I am truly in control of myself and my powers, I'll prove to you and everyone that darkness does not have to be evil. Not always."

Amare disappeared back into the ship, leaving Mentis to linger for a moment in the hollow hangar. He muttered to himself, “Sith, Jedi… Dark, light…”

He perked up his head, seemingly finding some direction or train of thought, before marching back up into the ship himself to prepare for the Empire Day ahead.

 

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