Chapter 1: Flames Erupt
Darth Nox sat on her bed, releasing the pressure valves on her leg and shoulder armor, and dropping them to the steely ship floor of her chambers with a loud clanking. Ashara appeared in the doorway, looking worried. “Leave me” Darth Nox said. Ashara bowed and tread away. Nox continued to peel off her remaining armor, tossing it in a pile in the corner of her chambers. She then reclined on the bed in her underclothes, examining her injuries. Her mind was a swirl of anger, regret, and still caught up in the earlier battle on Ziost. Then the immense human suffering and terror reached out at her again, a force-filled flashback of the utter decimation. The Emperor, bearing no tangible form still wielded immense power, once again a planet destroyer. He had to be pursued and defeated. She languished on her failure, and it fueled her rage. But she was spent for the moment, and thoughts selfishly shifted to Lana, Lana’s voice “whatever I need?” There had been an immediate attraction between them upon first meeting. Through their time together they had stolen moments of intimacy, a few kisses but nothing more. She was stunned at Lana’s parting words earlier “my love”. These words echoed through her mind over and over. She forced these selfish thoughts away returning to her anger and brooding.
Unable to remove herself from these thoughts, she reached under her bed and released a sedative pack. Just as she began to inoculate herself, a figure appeared in her doorway.
The gravelly voice uttered, “We need to talk”.
“For fuck’s sake Andronikos, not now. I’ve just witnessed an entire planet snuffed of all life, I’m bleeding everywhere, what could you possibly have that cannot wait?”
He continued, “I’ve been waiting, for months. It can’t wait anymore.”
His serious tone was in stark contrast to his relaxed form, leaning against the doorway, arms crossed. She had always admired his usual casual manner, but it was difficult to detect his motives, and he was quick to anger. Nox never had a sense of his intentions. She was shocked months earlier when he asked her to marry him, seemingly out of the blue. Their casual sexual involvement was certainly not romantic or intimate, at least not to her. She had turned him down but lessened the blow by suggesting things simply stay as they were. Though honestly she had tired of their fling and was not interested in an entanglement, at least not with a man.
She relented, “Fine, what is it?”
Andronikos scratched his head just above his eye touching the circular tattoo’s raised edges. “Are we done?” he scowled.
“Yes” Nox answered in an equally flat manner.
He looked toward down the hull, shaking his head then turned to glare at her. “I knew it, how long has it been going on?”
Truly perplexed, Nox inquired “What in the galaxy are you talking about?”
He continued, “I get it, I’m no catch. But I can’t believe you would throw me over for a Republic Spy, a Jedi’s son.”
Nox tried to interrupt, but he was on a roll.
“I had suspicions, you’ve been distant since that mess with Arkous. Then you barely made time for me on Rishsi, a pirate’s haven. And you risked your life to save him. On Yavin IV we hardly spoke and again there’s that Republic spy. But it finally sunk in when you streaked across the galaxy to save that Sith Lord and his ass on Ziost. What, you needed a younger guy, someone smarter and more… well adjusted?”
She stopped him, “What the hell are talking about?”
“I’m talking about Theron Shan, don’t deny it.”
“I certainly will”, she quipped. “You are entirely off-course.”
“You must take me for a fool” he said moving closer with fists clenched.
“Stop now” she hissed.
She breathed deeply, closing her eyes and focusing to push aside her anger at the accusation.
“Andronikos, you misunderstand me. I am in no way involved with Theron Shan. I barely tolerate him. I’ve been distant because you asked me to marry you, and in that moment it became clear to me that we were in vastly different places in our entanglement.”
“So what, I’m not good enough for the mighty Darth Nox?” he added with contempt.
“No, I mean of course you are but it could never be that way between us.”
“Why, don’t you care for me?” he asked with surprising tenderness.
“I do Andro, truly. But as a deeply admired companion and friend.”
“A friend? So that stuff between us was nothing?”
Nox measured her response. “I had a need and you fulfilled it, and beyond that you are an ally and trusted advisor. But we could never be a couple.”
“I’m not man enough for you, is that it?” he asked, genuinely confused.
Nox sighed and rolled her eyes, “You’re not a woman” she said softly.
It took a few seconds to sink in. The silence was punctuated by only the whirring and mechanical sounds of the ship. Andronikos’ mouth dropped open slightly, he was stunned.
“A woman, what you mean you prefer women?”
“Entirely” Nox said flatly. “Well then why sleep with me at all?” he questioned.
“You were there Andro, we had a connection, and we were both lonely and driven by similar passions. I can have sex with men, just not romantic intimate relationships.”
“Hmm” he pondered, “well why not Ashara then, or I mean, is it Ashara, are you seeing her?” He quizzed with a mortified expression.
“Of course not! She’s my apprentice, and practically a child.”
“She’s not that young, and she’s pretty hot” said Andronikos.
“Well by all means, give it a go if you’re inclined”, said Nox jokingly in an attempt to lighten the mood. It didn’t help.
“That’s not what I meant” he snarled.
“Andronikos, you know me better than most others, I am a very private person. I should have shared this with you before now, and for that I apologize” said Nox.
Moments passed, Andronikos appeared to soften, “So you’re into women, like really into them.”
Nox could see where he was going with this, “you can go into fantasy land on your own time, right now I need to inoculate myself and get some rest. If we must revisit this later we can.”
An epiphany registered on his face, “Hold on, it’s that yellow-eyed Sith Lord isn’t it, the blonde, Lord Beniko. Nice one, Nox. The one with the big-“
Nox stood up suddenly to meet him, sparks radiating around her hands “Stop there Andronikos, I’m not entertaining this conversation with you.”
“Fine”, he backed down finally.
Nox seized the moment to assert her authority. “I need time alone to heal. Get the crew and take the shuttle off base somewhere fun, Nar Shadaa maybe. Take a million credits and drink yourselves into oblivion, gamble, find some Twilek with low standards and lose yourself for a night. And take Ashara and Talos with you. Khem and Xalek are already away on some horrid blood spree on Hoth.
“Not Talos, he’s such a drag” Andronikos challenged
. “Well then send him off on some fabricated relic hunt, blah blah, something old and powerful, ghosts and archaeology, fill in the blanks. Just get everyone off this ship for a night.”
“Fine” he said again gritting his teeth, “but before I go, you wanna maybe for one last time-“
“Absolutely not!” said Nox, “Leave now”.
She stood in the doorway yelling into the hull, “I don’t care where you go, if this ship isn’t empty in one hour I’m forcibly removing any left aboard.” Then she faced Andronikos and whispered “Do not breathe a word of this conversation to anyone.”
“Right” Andronikos mumbled and exited.
Nox fell to her bed again, injecting herself and fell into silent, oblivious sleep.
The three toned call of the holorecorder drew her back to alertness. The ship was silent and dark, thank the stars they were gone. She stumbled groggy to her feet, continued on to the med bay and located a stim pack. First though she should answer the call to see if it was worth full awakening. She pressed the holocom and illuminated in front of her was Lana Beniko who looked surprised. At this moment she was suddenly keenly aware of her unkemptness. Her long black hair was askew, Blood had crusted on her forehead coating the tattoos above her eyes. She was wearing only her bra and lounge pants, which she had been too tired to remove.
“Dark Lord, are you alright? I didn’t realized you had sustained such injuries earlier”, Lana inquired.
“I’m fine, truly I’m groggy from a sed pack.”
“I see”, Lana hesitated, “forgive me you should sleep.”
Nox dove the stim needle into her shoulder and was thusly revived.
“Now see, I’m perfectly awake for you now.”
Lana held her hands in front of her face, shaking her head she admonished, “No, you shouldn’t have done that. Now you’ll be awake for hours, you need rest.”
“Well then, you must make it worth my while, what is it you need Lord Beniko?”
“Very well, but I’m afraid this must be in person, can we meet in private, when you are up to it?” she asked in a somewhat cautious manner.”
Nox replied, “Of course, when?”
Lana replied, “When you are back on the base, I must remain here for some time in case I am needed to debrief the Ziost incident.” Nox realized Lana was unaware that she was still docked,
“I’m still here on the hanger in my ship. I thought you might call on me.”
“And so I did” Lana smiled.
Nox continued, “Its private here, though lacking in terms of aesthetics and atmosphere. If you’re not above meeting on an old Fury ship.”
“Not in the least” she replied.”
“I acted badly upon my return and exiled my crew to Nar Shadaa” Nox confessed.
“Nar Shadaa, how colorful.
”Nox stared intently, “Come now”, she said in an overly demanding tone.
“As you command, Dark Lord”, Lana acquiesced and the recorder went static.
Nox raced to the refresher grabbing a medpack on the way to ease her aching body. She showered quickly and dressed in her casual black robe and pants. The shuttle door opened with an exhaled hiss of air. Lana stepped in to face her.
“How are you, really” she asked with a worried expression.
It was a question Nox could not answer simply. “I’m still raging from the battle, a bit hung over from the sedative but newly imbibed by the stim pack, I’m full of regret and anger, overcome at moments by the destruction of life, and currently alit with anticipation and longing for you. Tell me Lana, what is it that you need?”
“This is what I need”, Lana stepped toward her and kissed her passionately and without hesitation. Nox returned the kiss and a battle for dominance ignited between them. Lana pushed Nox against the ship wall, then Nox pushed her harshly toward the adjacent wall. The encounter was a medley of passion and combat. Lana pushed Nox again, grasping her neck. Nox’s head swam a bit from the head injury she sustained earlier, and Lana pulled back realizing Nox’s weakened state. Nox ungloved Lana’s hands. She held her hands in her own, in moment of sweetness, and waves of force energy crackled between them, a sensation never felt before by either of them. Passion reignited. Nox peeled off Lana’s cape and top and Lana did the same as they staggered past the C2-N2. The droid awoke and began to speak, but Nox casually raised her left hand shooting white sparks and promptly disabling him.
Lana laughed, “not going to introduce me first?”
Nox led her by the hand to the bridge and stood over the galaxy map and console setting a course to orbit the fleet.
“So no one can possibly disturb us” she said. She raised her head to look at Lana pale and illuminated by the map’s hologram. Lana’s expression changed just as Nox felt the warm sensation of blood dripping from her forehead.
“Easy” said Lana lowering Nox into the captain’s navigational chair. “That’s quite cut on your head.”
“It’s nothing” said Nox pulling Lana into her lap.
The Miralian wiped the blood from her forehead with a single finger and touched it to Lana’s forehead, drawing markings that resembled her own tattoos. The exchange was alarming to Lana but surprisingly sensual and evoked immense desire within her. Lana was straddling Nox now, in the chair. Nox leaned forward and held Lana’s breasts in her hands. She kissed and bit one nipple while cupping the other breast and pinching its nipple. It was pain and pleasure at once. Lana threw her head back, blonde hair tousling, and her heartbeat was a visible pounding in her neck. Nox kissed her neck and throat, biting the side and sucking blood to just below the surface.
Lana cried out, and breathlessly whispered “just like that my love”.
Nox continued to caress and stimulate Lana’s breasts while biting and kissing her neck with increased voracity. Lana was now thrusting into her lap. Nox dropped a hand to the narrow gap between her abdomen and Lana’s pubis. She touched between Lana’s legs feeling the wetness of her through her pants as Lana thrust against her hand.
“We should move to the bedroom”, Nox panted.
Lana protested, “No I’m almost there, finish me here like this.”
Nox rotated the captain’s chair and Lana stared out through the glass into the stars and black space surrounding them. Again she cried out repeatedly in time with her climactic final thrusts, leaning forward and firmly gripping a lock of Nox’s jet black hair. She rested there for a moment. Nox gazed upon her and found her eyes aflame, a deeper shade of yellow nearly orange. Lana stood and pulled Nox by the waistcord from the chair.
“Now show me to your bed.”
Nox led her there. Once inside Lana pushed Nox to the bed with a nearly frightening intensity. She pulled off her own and Nox’s pants. Lana positioned herself above her, straddling her again. She took a moment to admire the beauty of her lover’s body.
“You’ve muscles in places I didn’t know were possible.” Nox looked up at her quizzically. Lana added, “You’re exceedingly powerful and exquisitely feminine; you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Lana traced her hands over Nox’s chiseled stomach and then the poignant curves of her hips. Nox shivered at the gentleness of her touch. What was this emotion? Vulnerability perhaps. Then Lana repositioned herself straddling her above her chest. She leaned back, extending an arm behind herself and began to circle Nox’s swelled and throbbing clit. The sensation was a flame that rushed through Nox’s chest and warmth spread to fingertips and toes. Lana arched her back, bringing her within Nox’s reach, and Nox grasped her buttocks pulling her to her mouth. Lana continued to finger Nox’s clit as Nox dove into Lana’s wetness. Sparse and short blonde hairs tickled her nose. They continued writhing and rocking rhythmically at a steadily quicker pace. Breaths shortened, quickened. Sweat rose silky and dew-like coating their bodies, and the room took on a sweet and salty pheromone aroma. All sense of time ceased, their lovemaking reached a hypnotic state. Possessed, they continued at this pace. Lana slid strong and expert fingers into the Mirilian, and the pleasure was so profound that at first Nox struggled to attend to her own focused task. Again though they found their rhythm, Nox’s face buried in Lana’s wetness and Lana plunging inside her. Then both shuddered and cried out. Lana’s chest flushed and she bucked sharply into Nox’s face, Nox instinctively grabbed Lana’s hand and pressed it firmly inside her as her muscles contracted in orgasm. Lana collapsed onto the bed beside her panting, and a cool wave rushed over them.
Chapter 2: What is Fun?
Ashara and Andronikos have fun on Nar Shadaa and Taris. Andronikos discovers that there is more to Ashara than he thought.
Andronikos leaned upon a blue metal stool, feeding the slot machine carelessly and downing shots of Trandoshan Fire. Ashara sat in meditation in the far corner of the Star Cluster Casino. She was a stark contrast to the other patrons. Behind her, Twileks gyrated on a stage while a group of humans and Rodians encouraged them, flinging credits toward them. Ashara was oblivious, facing the corner focused on her breath and the force. Then Andronikos’ voice catapulted her back to the profane reality.
“I’m done, no such thing as bounty hunter’s luck, plus you’re not even trying to have fun.”
“You call this fun?” Ashara asked pointing at a particularly foul looking Borneck who was vomiting on another patron.
“Wow, they’re not usually like that.”
Ashara rolled her eyes, “You are such a troglodyte.”
Drunk Andronikos was even more blunt that sober Andronikos, “I don’t even know what that is. See that’s your problem Ashara, you don’t know how to have fun. You think you are so far above everyone else. It’s your pride that landed you with the Sith and me to begin with. And after all that, you still can’t have a good time for fear of tripping over your own robes.”
Ashara glared at him.
“Fine then”, he continued, “What is fun, for you I mean?”
Ashara did not reply. As much as she despised Andronikos, she envied his instinctive ability to perceive others hidden aspects, and she admired his honesty, though in this moment it was infuriating her.
“You don’t have a clue, do you?” he persisted.
“We cannot return to the ship yet, master’s orders”, she said dryly.
Andronikos argued, “Forget that, she’s long been out by now. She shot herself up with enough sedative to knock out an Icetromper. She won’t have a clue what time we got in.”
Ashara just glared up at him. He swayed on his feet, “Fine then, I’m too drunk to make decisions so it’s your call, what should we do now?”
“Follow me” she said, “I have an idea.
They taxi’d away from the Red Light Sector, into Shadow Town.
“What are we doing in this dump?”
Ashara leapt from the taxi, “I know a place but we have to walk from here.”
They strode through the slums into what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse.
“Did you drag me out here to kill me and dispose of the body?”, Andronikos asked only slightly joking.
“No silly”, laughed Ashara “at least not yet.
” Ashara secretly loved his dry sense of humor.
Andronikos felt the lighter mood, “Alright sweetheart, whatever you say.”
The humor evaporated as Ashara exclaimed “Do not call me that! It’s rude and disrespectful.”
“How so? It’s an endearing term, what is rude about that?”
Andronikos was genuinely puzzled. His simple retort again left Ashara with no fathomable reply. She knew his intent was kind, and she couldn’t put into words why it struck her as disrespectful. Actually, she thought, it was really sweet when she paused to reflect on it. But she couldn’t back off now.
“You wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it to you” she said, immediately regretting the harshness of her words. Talking with him was maddening. Thankfully they had reached their destination.
Ashara tapped a code into a security panel. The large warehouse door sprung open to reveal a dimly lit main hallway with a series of smaller doors. Green lights indicated an unoccupied room. She entered another code and gained access, Andronikos staggered in behind her. The room was large and empty save for a massive terminal on the far end, plush chairs and an auto bar to the left, and medpacks and various weapons lining the right wall. Above them was a ceiling covering lightsource, perhaps a holo.
“What is this place?” Andronikos asked. It looks like some sort of torture chamber for voyeurism.”
“That’s quite astute” said Ashara, “it is kind of. It’s a holo-combat trainer. Have you never seen one?”
“No”, Andronikos uttered, voice full of wonder. “How does it work?”
Ashara explained, “I trained on one as a padawan. It was forbidden but I was compelled to improve my combat style. So I made several trips here. The terminal contains uploads of millions of people, mostly Jedi and Sith, but also famed creatures, Mandalorians, smugglers, hunters, pretty much any famous or infamous dead combatant. You choose who you wish to battle and their holoimage is projected. The system simulates their fighting style based on known battles. This”, she held up a small circular node, “attaches to your forehead and simulates the actual pain and effects of your enemy’s attacks.”
“So you can fight anyone?” Andronikos inquired.
“Pretty much, as long as they are dead. Holo-combat prohibits uploads of living beings, you know so people don’t just practice to slaughter someone.”
“So I could kill Sylas Wilkes over and over, whenever I want?”, Andronikos beamed.
“Yep, and you can kill him so many different ways, blasters, sabers, vibrosword, knives, spikes, Electrowhip, so many options.” Ashara’s enthusiasm revealed her darker side. “Want to give it a try?”
“I’d love to, but I am still so drunk.”
“Suit yourself” she said.
She approached the terminal and tapped away, placed the node on her forehead and the projector sprung to life Sylas Wilkes. Ashara let him make the first move, pulling a blaster from his hip and firing. She easily and acrobatically flipped through the air avoiding every shot, landing behind him and before he could even turn to face her, decapitated him with a single thrust of her lightsaber. His life indicator dropped to red and he dissipated.
Andronikos stood mouth agape, clearly impressed, “That was incredible”.
Ashara then let Andronikos call out several creatures for her to battle, a shaclaw, a group of rakghouls among others. She dismantled them all efficiently. Ashara selected the Jedi Meetra Surik, and this was her first taste of defeat. She lasted longer than Andronikos had expected though.
She approached the terminal again and said, “I wonder”.
She typed in a name “Mazu Rigveda”. The holoprojecter hummed and Ashara looked shocked. Projected in front of them was Darth Nox, but younger with the same shorter black hair, and simple robes of an acolyte.
“What the? I thought it wouldn’t allow access to living being.” said Andronikos.
“It thinks she’s dead. Darth Thanaton killed her just after she ascended to Sith Lord status. At the time, many thought she didn’t deserve the title and disputed it. She was a slave and that name, her real name was known only as the slave name of an unknown slain Sith acolyte. She abandoned that name and as far as I know, no one else living knows it. She uploaded it herself after becoming a Sith Lord and battled herself to better understand her own weaknesses. I overheard her speaking of this with Lord Zash’s presence in Khem Val.”
The countdown began and Ashara raised her saber. She took the offense, leaping toward her young master. Nox knocked her back immediately with a shockwave of force energy. Ashara was thrown against the wall. As Ashara regained her composure Nox applied a spherical barrier blocking out all attacks, and then violet bolts of lightning rained down on Ashara. She managed to block some but not all the damage. A second later she was overcome by the sensation that her brain was being crushed inside her head, this was followed by an all-encompassing feeling of dread and terror, in agony she collapsed to the floor and her master stood over her, driving her lightsaber through the center of her chest. Ashara’s life indicator dropped to zero, and the hologram clicked off as the node fell from Ashara’s forehead. The negative effects were wiped away immediately, and Ashara stood up.
Andronikos broke the silence, “even then, she was unstoppable.”
Not to be outdone, Ashara battled her master 3, 4, 5, 6 times, losing each round but improving her tactics. Andronikos looked on in awe of her determination and will. He sipped a cocktail offered up by the autobar. After the 8th round her stamina waned, and Ashara took a knee, panting. “I’m spent”.
Andronikos clapped, “You’re persistent, I’d let you have my back any day. I’m impressed.”
“I have another idea”, Ashara said, “but this one is off-world, are you game?”
Sometime later they departed the shuttle on Taris.
“Man, you hang out is some shady places” said Andronikos.
“Taris wasn’t always like this, it was once a lush and vibrant planet. The republic hides away the few areas of beauty that remain here.”
They rented a speeder and rode away from the Brell sediment. “
Are we even on a path anymore?”, Andronikos asked.
“We’re nearly there, I can feel it, trust me” said Ashara.
The speeder stopped and Ashara led Andronikos through a think overgrowth. The ground softened with lush grass and sounds of wildlife he’s never heard before. There was a clearing and three pools of rock-lined teal water glistened beneath the light of the moons. Ashara reached out searchingly with her hand and located a torch, touched it and it ignited.
“These are healing pools, the only three remaining on the planet.” “
So what, we just get in?” Andronikos seemed apprehensive. ”
“Yes” Ashara continued, “but we have to take our clothes off to really experience the full effect.”
Andronikos smiled, “Is this some weird sex thing?”
“Absolutely not”, Ashara said in a lighthearted manner, “Now turn around while I get in.”
He did, and Ashara disrobed sliding into the warm teal water. Andronikos followed suit, and felt surprisingly modest, jumping quickly in. The water seemed lit from below. His drunkenness evaporated, and his body felt suddenly stronger and entirely relaxed. He tried with all his might to not stare at Ashara’s illuminated naked body. Then he noticed the hundreds of small translucent blue spheres hanging in the air. They hovered everywhere above the pool, flashing faint white light in the centers.
He inquired, “What are these?”
“They are terrafaun. They form in the pools and then sink into the ground to gather healing nutrients from the soil, then they burst free from the ground, return to the pool and hover this way until they are harvested. When not harvested they return to the pool, replenishing it with the soil’s nutrients.”
“So”, Andronikos summarized, “they’re magic bubbles that shoot up from the ground and feed the water?”
“Pretty much”, Ashara laughed and added, “they also have psychoactive properties. They heighten the senses and give one a euphoric feeling, so I’m told. Jedi are forbidden from consuming them.”
Andronikos looked slightly disgusted, “So people eat them?”.
Ashara clarified, “not exactly, you harvest by squeezing the liquid out and drinking it, I’m told it has a pleasant taste.”
“So, magic bubbles that make you high?”
“Precisely” said Ashara.
“I’ll have one if you will” challenged Andronikos.
“It’s forbid- wait, I guess I can have one, I’m not Jedi anymore.”
Andronikos stammered, “You go first”, that way I know you aren’t trying to poison me”.
Ashara shook her head, “What is it with this notion that I want to kill you? Fine.”
She gently scooped a terrafaun in her hand, whispering something to it and held it above her mouth gently squeezing it until the blue liquid streamed out. As she unclenched her hand, the white flash of light remained for a second, and dove into the water.
Andronikos studied her, “So how does it feel?”
“Well it takes a while to reach the bloodstream” she replied.
He stared at her, waiting.
“What are you waiting to see if I drop dead or something? That’s so funny, you’re such a softie” Ashara teased him.
He couldn’t take it. He grabbed the closest terrafaun, snatched from the air and squeezed it’s glimmering blue juice forcefully into his mouth. For Andronikos the effect was immediate. It was as if his throat gained senses of sight, smell, and he could hear the liquid as it moved into his stomach. His sense of self dissipated.
“I feel like I’m the water, like I’m the grass and the darkness around us, like it’s part of me. I can feel you, your senses, your sensations, like you are also part of me, it’s like I’m everywhere and nowhere, like I’m not a separate thing. Do you feel that?”
Ashara replied, “I always feel that, it’s the feeling of the force.”
Andronikos queried, “Do you feel anything different than usual?”
Ashara smiled, “Absolutely, I feel free of my worries, my senses are heightened, and I feel bliss and a bit amorous.”
“Horny? Yeah I definitely feel that too,” Andronikos said, “but like really drawn to you, just you.”
“Oh that’s sweet and kind of gross at the same time” said Ashara laughingly. She continued, “But that’s not a new feeling for me. As much as you frustrate me, I’ve been drawn to you for some time now.”
Ashara realized that another effect of the terrafaun was the inability to filter her words, her guard was down almost completely. What was she saying? She tried to refocus herself.
“I’m sorry, that was irresponsible of me. I know you and master are-“
“We’re done” Said Andronikos. “Or maybe we never were.”
“Since when?” she asked.
“Since today, but it’s been a long time coming. I’m not… her type” he scowled.
“It sounds like there is more to that story. But maybe it’s just a rough patch.”
“Trust me, this isn’t something we can work through. She actually told me I should pursue you”
“Really? This surprises me, what did she say exactly?” she asked.
“She said “by all means give it a go if you’re inclined”.
“That does sound like her. So what you were telling her, that you were interested in me?”
“Not exactly, She told me-“ Andronikos realized that he too was a bit uncontrolled with his words. “She had a revelation is all I can say, and I told her I thought you were… hot”.
“So she said it in anger?”
“Not the way you’re thinking, she’s seeing someone. I can’t say who, and she was encouraging me to move on.”
“You think I’m… hot.” She said the word as if it were an insult.
“Well yeah but, I mean you’re also smart and wise and caring, and really beautiful.”
“But this just occurred to you today, when you guys were breaking up?”
“Well, yes and no. I mean I’ve been you know committed to her. I’m a lot things, a scoundrel, a pirate, a soldier, but I’m definitely a one woman kind of man.” He said.
“So this morning you loved her, and now you want to be with me”.
“Yes, I mean, no. I mean man it’s really hard to talk about this when I’m completely high.”
Ashara cackled with laughter. “It really is”.
“Can you imagine having sex on this stuff? I bet it would be incredible.” Andronikos said.
Ashara could not imagine this. She had never even kissed anyone. “No, I really can’t”.
“Want to give it ago?” He asked winking suggestively.
She did want to, so badly. Her life had been a series of holding back, holding back thoughts, emotions, passions, strength, words, everything. But she thought of her master and how this might impact their relationship. She knew the right action would be to seek her guidance, and to give Andronikos time to heal.
“I do, I really, really do, but not now. I need time and so do you, let’s see where things go, how things feel when we aren’t… under the influence.”
“Of course” he said. “Whatever you need, sweetheart”.
She grinned at him and laid back in the pool, floating weightlessly. She reached out to take his hand. “Can I kiss you at least?”
He turned to move toward her face slowly and she was on top of him, breasts against his chest, legs wrapped around his back. Her mouth was an inch from his, panting. She steadied herself, her emotions, as did he. He kissed her slowly and gently, lips barely parting. He stroked her Lekku and she moaned and caught her breath.
“Those are really sensitive, and reserved for the most intimate encounters” she breathed out the words longingly.
“Sorry, I didn’t know.” He pulled his had away and instead held her chin. “They’re beautiful.”
A rustling from the overgrowth interrupted the moment. Ashara sprung up, naked from the pool. “Just the wind” she said. Andronikos beheld her naked form, her body’s orange tint, glistening wet, her perfectly round breasts and svelte curves. She was like a painting of carefully chosen hues and patterns.
“If I get back in there, I might do something I will regret later. It must be close to morning by now, surely we can return to the ship without facing the wrath.”
“Yes ma’am”. Andronikos replied raising himself from the pool on one strong arm. The other held over his cock shyly. “You probably need to turn around while I get dressed.”
The terrafaun still swirling in her bloodstream Ashara said, “You saw all of me, return the favor.”
Andronikos dropped his arms to his sides. His thick cock stood straight upwards only a shade darker than his copper complexion. He was lean, but muscular and angular with a surprisingly round ass. Ashara moved toward him, raking both hands down his chest. Tiny rivers of teal water trickled down his abdomen toward his groin. She kissed him softly, pressing her stomach against his silken cock. He exhaled.
“If this is your idea of fun, I’m all in.” He said.
Ashara smiled and peeled away from him, lightly tapping his chest with a clenched fist indicating her inner turmoil. They dressed and speeded back to catch the shuttle back to the republic base.
Chapter 3: Awakenings
More backstory on Nox, her Mirialan family history/ culture. Also insight into her father/ daughter like relationship with Darth Marr. Hints at things to come in KOTFE. No sex in this one, sorry! Next Chapter, I promise.
Nox shot up from the bed landing on steady feet. White sparks crackling from fingertips of both hands. Lana sprang up at nearly the same instant, standing on the bed arm outreached. Her saber flew into her hand humming loudly as the red blade illuminated the bedroom. She spoke first.
“What did you see?”
Nox was frozen, eyes wide open, still sparking at her fingers.
“I was on Ziost, no, a planet like Ziost. It was night, a hazy atmosphere, gray cliffs and crags, everything was dead. My crew was there, Lord Zash, . They attacked me, I killed them all” she said mortified.
Lana added, “I dreamed the same. There was a voice, urging you on, influencing you.”
“Yes. It was the Emperor. He had a different voice, but it was him. Lana have ever heard of a shared dream?”
“I have not. A vision perhaps, meant to lead us down a particular path. Perhaps on Ziost, the Emperor left something in our minds. We were not possessed but he may have been able to enter our minds subconsciously.” Lana speculated.
Nox relaxed her hands and sparks subsided. She fainted to the floor in a crumpled pile. Hours later she roused. She laid atop a med bay bed. Still in the ship she realized. Lana stood above her, holding her hand and stroking the top of.
“I think your cocktail of sed, stim, and sex got the better of you.”
“You’re still here?” She asked.
“I can stay with you for a bit longer, I’ve let intelligence know that I will report later in the day, still tending to my injuries.”
“That’s quite a nasty mark on your neck from the battle, and someone has painted you with blood” Nox quipped.
“I forgot about that, I must look ridiculous now” Lana laughed.
“You look perfectly respectable.”
Nox rose from the bay. Lana had managed to dress Nox in a casual tunic and short pants, and she had borrowed a set for herself. The top hung loosely as Nox was quite taller than Lana.
“Let’s shower, together.” Nox said, “I might need your help, in case I faint again.”
“Alright, but no funny business, you must recuperate.”
“On my master’s honor”.
“Your master has no honor, and you killed her.” Lana laughed.
Lana and Nox removed their clothes and stepped into the refresher. Lana selected a spicy aromatic to enhance their bath.
“What is that scent?”
“It’s Nagawood. Do you like it?”
“I like everything that involves you naked.” Said Nox, gliding into Lana’s back and wrapping her arms around her. Lana faced the stream of steamy water closing her eyes.
“Mmm. This is nice”, she said.
Dried blood moistened on their foreheads and Nox’s injuries, it streamed in pink circles at their feet.
“That scent, it seems familiar” said Nox.
“Nagawood is one of the only species of trees from your native planet, but I’m sure you know that.”
“No, I didn’t.” I was taken from there when still a child. My parents were tribal people. There was a Jedi from our tribe, Mehadi Vesta. She came to the tribe seeking another Mirialan force-sensitive apprentice.”
“I thought all Mirialans were force-sensitive.”
“Yes, that’s true in a general way, but some more than others. The force is called Oneness by my people, and most are strongly compelled to be with their people and gain insight through the shared experience of the tribe. But my father was a sojourner, a tribesman who ventured out from the tribe to travel the galaxy. His focus was to spread the understanding of our culture beyond Mirial and improve relations with outsiders. Some referred to him as ambassador. His work brought many outsiders to visit our tribe. As you can imagine, some welcomed this and others were wary of this. My mother was very force sensitive, her connection to the Oneness manifested in healing abilities. She was highly regarded among our people because of her gifts. It was assumed that I would follow this healing path but my connection was different. I was attuned to the weakness and fear in others. As such I sensed my parents fear that my connection would lead down a dark path.”
“And they were correct, luckily for me”, Lana said wrapping her arms across Nox’s embrace.
“They were. The Jedi, Mehadi sensed this in me too. She feared me. I sensed it from the moment we met, and she feared that she would not be able to keep me in the light. She took me as her Padawan, but she lacked honesty. When I shared with her my intuitions about her she denied them. She had me practice meditating on the light, the connections and peace of the Oneness, but this was against my nature. The fear, insecurities, ulterior motives of others screamed out at me breaking through my focus. It was maddening. She frequently accused me of intentionally prying into the minds of others seeking their weaknesses, but these things simply revealed themselves to me despite my best efforts. She took me to Coruscant seeking guidance from the Jedi Counsel. It was there that I met a Sith Lord for the first time.”
Lana turned to face Nox holding a soft cloth and gently patting the injury on her forehead. She washed Nox’s chest and back sensually as Nox continued.
“The assault on Coruscant, I was there when it happened. Darth Lachris executed my Master but spared me sensing my connection to the dark side. From there I was taken to Drummond Kaas as a slave. I served her for seven years, often joining her during meetings with other Sith. As Lachris climbed the ranks, frequently she assisted Darth Marr. She encouraged my perceptive abilities and exploited me for insight on her colleagues and potential betrayers. But Marr valued my insights and spoke to me with as an equal, a quality I admired, I believe he considered me an oddity at first, but as I grew older an advisor and companion. Lachris despised this. Darth Marr requested my presence in a meeting with Lord Fortunus regarding the exchange of an Ingbassian relic that once belonged to Marr’s ancestors. I sensed Fortunus plot to infiltrate his mind in a ritual bound to the relic, and noted his unwillingness to touch the relic as he offered it to Marr. Quite out of my place, I sprang between Marr and the relic, telling him what I sensed. Of course Fortunus denied this and in a rage he lifted me from the ground choking me and slinging me across the room. Marr intervened and challenged Fortunus to unwrap the relic and hand it to him, but of course he could not for fear of binding himself. They fought and Fortunus was slain. During the brief battle I held one of Fortunus’ guards at bay, crushing his mind by summoning up his fears and past losses. I’d never used the force in this way but it came quite naturally to me. Suddenly aware of the extent of my power, Marr conferred me to the academy to train as an acolyte. Lachris was displeased as I had been a useful tool for many years aiding her own promotion.”
Nox took the cloth from Lana and began to wash her, careful to blot away the remaining blood symbols on her face. “That was probably more information than you wanted. I am not used to talking about myself.”
“Not at all, I’ve wondered how you became Sith for some time. Thank you for sharing it with me. I’d no idea you’d known Marr before being on the Council.”
“He has intervened on my behalf many times, and he guided me throughout my youth, my time as an acolyte and beyond. Throughout my trials he encouraged Zash to choose me because of my perceptive abilities and connection to relics. Ultimately though I was her downfall.”
“Marr is an enigma. Perhaps that was also a part of his plan.”
“You may be right. Marr is unique in that he holds the interest of the Empire and those he is close with above his own desire for power, it is a rare trait among Sith. You also have this trait, and I admire it.”
The Sith finished their shower and stepped through the evaporator dry and refreshed. Dressing back into their casual brown tunics and short blank pants.
“I must check my datapad and report to Intelligence, but I can return or you may join me if you wish. I would welcome your company. Also, I expect your presence would be beneficial as I respond to inquiries about Ziost.”
“I’ll set a course back to the base then. Hopefully my crew isn’t wandering aimlessly in the cantina awaiting our return.”
Nox strode to the bridge and set course. The holocom rang out.
“Now what?” Nox hissed.
“I’ll wait here” said Lana from the bed chambers.”
Darth Marr’s holo flashed before Nox.
“You have returned from Ziost. The Emperor grows in his power. He seeks a host if he does not already have one.”
“Yes, I failed.” Nox said, lowering her head.
“The failure was not yours. Many lives were saved by your actions, and many more may have been saved if not for the meddling of Saresh. Her desire to engage the Empire made her blind to the larger plot, and those lives rest on her conscience. We must now focus on identifying Vitiate’s host.”
“I dreamt of him last night.” Nox revealed.
“I know, as did I” said Marr.
“Lana also shared this sleeping vision.”
Nox shared with Marr their visions. Marr replied, “In my vision the Empire had fallen. I was dead and my ghost watched you from afar. Vitiate was inside you, but unable to take hold of your will.”
“Do you believe he resides in me now?” Nox asked.
“No. You would sense this through your force perception abilities I have no doubt, as would I. Our link defies the dark properties of even Vitiate, my chosen daughter.” He paused. “Lana is there with you now.” Marr stated rather than questioning. “She need not hide her presence from me.”
Lana stepped out from the bed chamber to stand beside Nox. “My Lord, I meant only to give you privacy. I came to see Darth Nox last night.”
“You were concerned for her well-being, I am grateful for this.” Marr stated.
“I did, and I… I wanted to be with her.” Lana added cautiously.
“You found her, in need of your assistance.” Marr hissed. “She appears well enough now, yet you remain.”
“I, we… are… we are… together my Lord.” Lana stammered.
Marr cackled, a terrifying sound Lana had never heard before.
“This pleases me” he added. Turning to Nox, “You have found your match in Lord Beniko.”
Lana struggled to maintain her composure as Nox raised one corner of her mouth in a smirk.
He addressed Lana again in a crisp booming tone, “Before you remains the last fragment of my human heart, bear this in mind.”
“I will my Lord.”
“I will seek your counsel soon Nox, and we should speak of any dreams involving Vitiate. But there is a more pressing matter. Are you aware that Mazu still resides in Nar Shadaa?”
“I am, but she is unknown to anyone else.” Nox stood silent for a moment, as the two Darths shared thoughts through their connection. “I see, I shall depart at once and destroy her.”
“Very well. Take Lana with you, you are not yet fully restored. I will speak on your behalfs should the Council or Intelligence have inquiries as to the happenings on Ziost. Lana, this is a pressing matter fitting for Intelligence, which requires your full attention. I will advise them that you depart on my orders.”
With that Marr’s holo went dark.
“Well, that’s a relief.” Said Lana. “Now I’ve nothing to attend to it seems, aside from you.”
“I’m sorry, we’ve interfered in your duties and I know that may not sit well with you.” Nox said.
“In this instance I assure you, I am relieved. I sense there is secrecy in this mission to Nar Shadaa, I will follow your lead. and avoid further inquiry.”
“Marr is overreacting, it should be a simple task. We will take the shuttle to Nar Shadaa so my crew can return. They are likely to need a day or two away from me after my display.”
“I can make arrangements for us there.” Lana offered.
“Don’t bother, I have an apartment on Nar Shadda.”
“You’re full of surprises, but I had something special in mind, if we have time”.
“Well then”, said Nox placing a hand on Lana’s cheek, ”by all means.”
Chapter 4: Indulgences
Nox and Lana share virtual fantasies on Nar Shadaa. Lana shares a bit of her history. We learn that Harkun is even more disgusting than we imagined.
To Lana’s relief their target on Nar Shadaa was not a living person but a computer program as Nox had explained. Lana was familiar with the holo-combat system. Nox sliced into the terminal easily and located her download, her finger hovered over the delete option.
“I want to show you something. “ She said, pressing upload rather than delete. A younger version of herself dressed in typical acolyte gear set the room aglow.
“How is this possible?” Lana inquired.
“I downloaded the program myself after Thanaton thought he killed me. I used it to train against my own weaknesses. I exploited a vulnerability in the system by loading under my given name. In my demise, I presumed the Council would reject my title and categorize my death under my slave name and I was correct.”
“That’s ingenious.” Lana took a crack at pronouncing her name (Maazu) “May-zoo” is that correct?”
“It is. Well done.” Nox said.
“Who else knows of this?”
“I thought only Marr and Zash, though the program reveals it was recently accessed by my apprentice. I suspect Ashara overheard me discussing this at some point and accessed the program last night while here with Andronikus. Marr thought it was irresponsible of me to create it and he inserted an alert in the program to notify him if another user accessed it. As I have progressed far beyond it's capabilities, it is of no use to me now. Since it worries Marr so much I will destroy it.”
“Marr is protective of you, he clearly cares for you a great deal.” Lana said with a searching tone. “He thinks of you as his daughter, and he is connected to your thoughts.”
“Yes. As I progressed through the Sith ranks we found it harder to keep in touch. I researched a Mirialan bonding ceremony that allowed us to share our stream of consciousness by merely focusing on the other. He was moved by this gesture, and it allowed him to trust me in ways he had never trusted another person.” Nox explained.
“That’s beautiful” said Lana feeling slightly jealous. “I can’t imagine ever being willing to allow someone that freely into my mind.”
“It’s different for me, I sense the hidden intentions of others through the force. With Marr I was aware there was no risk. I would gladly bond with you in this way, though you would not be open to it.” Nox stated plainly. Though not intended to be harsh, it cut Lana to her core.
Lana frowned. Nox was right. Her extreme privacy and inability to share herself had led to the end of the few close intimate relationships she had had. Would this be their undoing? She forced the thoughts and fear from her mind, but not before Nox fed on them.
“You should know, I want you as you are. I do not need you to be anyone else.” Nox said.
Lana smiled slightly but she had heard this before and as time went on it never held out to be true.
“Care to have a go at me before I destroy it?” Nox teased, lightening the mood.
“Absolutely not, that would be horrifying.” Lana glared.
Their task completed, the Sith proceeded to the Pleasure Palace. Heavily synthed music blared and the overly oxygenated air of the casino enlivened them. Lights flashed, voices laughed and cavorted in several languages.
“What deplorable activity have you chosen for us, gambling or a sex show?” Nox joked.
“A bit of both actually” Lana replied looking sly. Nox’s eyes widened and she appeared a bit worried. “Up there” Lana pointed to the second floor and led Nox through meandering golden hallways with heavily plush carpeting. “Here” she finally said flicking a passcard at the door plate and they entered the room.
The room was small and sparse. A simple bronzian table sat in the center without chairs. Two glasses with of water and four gelatin tablets laid beside them two green and two blue. An odd pair of elbow length gloves, heavily wired from fingertip to end were placed lengthwise across from each other along with two matching metallic headpieces.
“I’m intrigued, a drinking game?” Nox quipped with a raised eyebrow.
“A bit, yes. We are to embark on a virtual shared fantasy, if you are willing that is. The headpiece will simulate the virtual world and communicate sensations to the corresponding areas of our bodies. The gloves will specifically target the tactile sense of our hands. This leaves us with the aspect of the game. Consume the green pill and you may choose they fantasy you wish to experience, consume the blue pill and the program will uncover your most private and personal fantasy, sparing no detail.”
Nox instinctively snatched the blue pill but Lana placed her hand over hers.
“First, I should provide a cautionary tale. I colleague of mine embarked on the blue tablet fantasy with her lover and it was the end of them.”
“What happened?” asked Nox with a mortified tone.
“She found herself a bystander to his bestial affair with a K’lor’slug.” Lana said deadpan.
“That’s disgusting, I assure there is nothing like that lurking in the depths of my mind.” Nox said and promptly popped the blue tablet in her mouth chasing it with the glass of water and rapping the glass purposefully on the table.
Lana gripped the green tablet aiming to play it a bit safer. She paused, rolled it between her fingers and set it down. The took the blue pill between her thumb and index finger and placed it in her mouth.
“Don’t say I didn’t forewarn you” she offered.
Lana slid the gloves and headpiece onto Nox lovingly, and Nox returned the favor. Lana held her finger over a sensor on the headpiece.
“Who goes first?” Nox asked.
Lana grinned anxiously, “We both press at once, since you chose first your fantasy will be the first to load.”
“Off we go.” said Nox and both pressed their sensors.
Lana blinked into focus. Before her, an arena of spectators mostly Mirialan but others from the corners of the galaxy, hundreds of them. She appeared to be the feature performer. Was this her lover’s deepest fantasy? Her putting on some sort of solo performance? She stood on a cylindrical glass stage with a translucent wall slightly higher than her waist. A clanging sound behind her, she spun around to see Nox arms bound over her head in chains attached to a hovering droid. “Thank the stars” Lana thought, at least she wasn’t alone in this. Nox was breathtaking, covered in thick black Mirilian-like markings that circled her breasts and buttocks, accentuating her curves. Nox was naked save a strip of iridescent fabric draping her waist and settling between her legs at knee length. At Nox’s feet a pair of light blue Twi’lek females embraced and groped each other. To the right a Cathar male performed oral sex on a Chiss male, kneeling before him. Lana approached her mate whose back was turned toward her.
“You wish for them to join us?” Lana asked reluctantly.
“Not in the least” she reassured her, “they are for our entertainment, and inspiration.”
Lana was pleased to not share her lover. A leathery lack triangular cushion rested on the glass floor in front of Nox. Nox turned to face her.
“What shall I-“ Lana started to ask.
Nox’s chains gave slack and the fell to the floor on her knees between Lana’s legs. Lana looked down suddenly aware that she was wearing a harness with a steely attachment, a gleaming dildo was affixed to the harness, but she could feel it pulsing as if it was her own cock. Nox took it hungrily into her mouth. The sensation sent Lana reeling. Lana moved her hips thrusting slowly into Nox’s waiting lips. Nox tongued the side and length of the member. Lana groaned. Nox gripped Lana’s hips and took the rod deep into her throat. Lana thrust into her mouth with intensity. The onlookers cheered them on. A raised balcony in the arena held several Dark Council members, they stood and clapped giving them an ovation. The Twi’lek females laid in a twisted mass kissing and fingering each other. The Cathar male, ferocious and rust colored mounted his diminutive Chiss lover and fucked him from behind digging claws deeply into his ceramic blue colored skin. He growled a throaty sound as the Chiss’s eyes burned wide and red mouth agape but silent. Lana gripped the back of Nox’s head and plunged deeper into her mouth. Nox’s tongue swirled and flicked at her virtual cock. Lana longed to come but was instead held at a feverish peak of sensation that was unending. The crowed reached a fever pitch. Lana looked out to see the hundreds of voyeurs embroiled in an orgy. Eyes all focused on Lana and Nox as they engaged in all manner of copulation. They chanted something indiscernible.
Nox pulled away from Lana’s cock and bent lowly over the black cushion, exposing her inviting ass and pussy. Lana entered her pussy, slick and tight throbbing around her. The sensation enlivened every inch of her new organ. Lana rode Nox, gasping and pawing at her back. She reached under her and gripped her left breast.
“Complete the rite” an observer yelled. Then others erupted in the chant.
“Please, I want to be filled with you.” Nox begged breathlessly.
A wave of orgasm rocked from Lana’s stomach flowing down to her groin and exploding in a jet of hot liquid from her cock. It shot in waves again and again spilling in a glimmering clear stream that dripped from Nox’s quivering pussy. Nox screamed a high-pitched scream of ecstasy. The crowd wailed at a deafening tone that shook the stage. All went black.
Nox similarly blinked into focus. A lush green field surrounded her. Familiar scents of grasses and florals revealed the familiar Rishi landscape. Lana had once remarked she would love to settle here among the bird people. Several huts dotted the landscape. Nox beheld her simple brown and maroon robes and her hands bore small wrinkles beyond her current age. A fire burned and crackled in one of the huts, and Nox strode toward it. She bent to cross the entry way and found a simple two room structure adorned with memory pads, images of her life with Lana. In one, a several second loop of them in traditional Mirialan wedding clothes surrounded by Theron, Jakarro, Ashara, and others. Another bore an intimate moment between Lana, Nox, and a human/ Mirilian female child embracing. Nox picked the pad up to study it catching her reflection of her own graying hair.
“Come to me, my love.” Lana beckoned from behind her in the adjoining room.
She turned and walked toward Lana, beholding her lover to be about 50 years of age lying on the hut floor in front of a crackling fire wrapped in brown furs. Lana’s hair was still perfectly blonde and eyes a lighter shade of yellow to match it.
“Look how lovely you are”, Lana said.
Lightsabers hung dusty and cast with spindlewebs on a nail above the hearth.
“I need you beside me.” Lana said longingly.
Nox dropped her robe and belt, sliding into warm tan and black stripped fur blankets. Above them an opening in the roof revealed darkening skies a vibrant deep purple dotted with stars and three moons. Lana climbed atop her pressing her breasts into Nox’s chest. Nox playfully flipped her onto her back alternating their position. Lana reached up to gather a black and gray strand of Nox’s hair and tuck it behind her ear. Nox kissed Lana lovingly and began to grind slowly against her. She kissed her again and again. Nox began to direct her kisses lower to Lana’s breasts, then lower again trailing down her stomach. But Lana pulled her chin up to gaze into her eyes.
“Stay up here, with me.” Lana asked.
Nox pulled herself back up face to face with Lana and continued to kiss her.Lana took Nox's hand leading it to her clit. Nox slid her fingers between Lana's lips and stroked upward and down alternating between stroking her clit with her thumb and barely penetrating her with fingertips curled upward. Lana’s breath quickened and she bit her lip. Nox watched her closely their eyes locked on one another, lips almost touching. It felt as if they were the only beings in the world.
“Stay with me, in this life and after. Always.” Nox uttered the words, but they did not come from within her. This was Lana’s greatest desire, to fully possess her.
“It will be my pleasure, you are my one devotion” Lana replied. Nox continued to make love to her. The fire hissed and cracked and the fur beneath them dampened from sweat and wetness.
“I love you” Nox said very much in control of the words. “There is only you.”
Lana climaxed and Nox buried her in a deep kiss as she came. Lana cried out, her breathy moan filling Nox’s mouth.
All went black.
Nox and Lana found themselves again in the stark room standing at the table as if not a second had passed. They removed their gloves and headpieces.
“I’m told this is the awkward part.” Said Lana stating the obvious. “We don’t have to talk about it.”
“I want to talk about it, all of it. Are you embarrassed?” Nox asked a bit defensively.
“No, I am not. It’s just well mine was a bit more personal I think.” Lana explained. She was mortified that her fantasy was a disappointment to Nox
“What could be more personal than a conjugal marriage rite before my tribe and half of the galaxy?” Nox argued.
“Is that what that was? I had no idea.” Lana laughed.
“Well, clearly my mind warped it a bit into something more profane. But yes. When Mirialans marry they perform a rite of lovemaking before the tribe and the tribe joins them through observation connected by the force. It is quite… unusual.” Nox expanded.
Nox’s holocom chirped. “Damn it." she clicked it on. "What is it?” she asked clearly annoyed.
Ashara’s image appeared. “Master, are you ok? We returned to the ship and things seem out of order, in your chambers I mean.”
“I am fine Ashara. I am on Nar Shadaa presently taking care of unfinished business.”
Ashara hesitated, she sensed her Master was aware of her actions the previous night.
“I see. I seek your counsel upon your return. We have much to discuss.” Said Ashara.
“We will return tomorrow, we can speak then.”
“Yes Master, you have a traveling companion?” Ashara added clearly interested.
“I do” said Nox and closed the holocom briskly.
Lana and Nox burst into laughter.
Being too late to shuttle back to the fleet Lana and Nox retired for the evening at Nox’s apartment on Nar Shadaa. They shared light snacks prepared by a service droid in Nox’s lounge. The lounge was sizable, with a spacious bar and seating. Holostatues of Ashara, Revan, and unknown others stood as silent observers. Nox showed off her collection of wine and spirits, mixing drinks Lana had never heard of to sample. Giddy and slightly drunk they chatted on lighter topics avoiding a return to conversation of their earlier fantasies. Instead they gossiped about Dark Council members and the prospects of the open seat. The conversation turned to their time at the Academy on Korriban as acolytes. Nox told of Harken’s attempts to sabotage her ascension to apprenticeship. Lana shared a similar story.
“He is truly deplorable. Aside from his meddling into the outcomes of the trials, his sexual advances on female acolytes is what I found most disturbing.” Said Lana.
“What?” Nox said.
“He never tried with you?” Lana inquired. “He must have sensed your power even then and instead sought to take you out of the running. But I think it is well known including among Dark Council members. Rumors are that he acts without worry of any redress.”
“Did he assault you Lana?” Nox asked with genuine concern.
“He did, well he tried to. I was only 14 and he called me to his private chambers. He offered to provide a clue to the next trial and he started touching my hair. I told him I wanted to go through the trials on my own merit and tried to back out of the room. He was on me before I could do anything, groping at me and shoving his tongue down my throat. Most unlike me, I was frozen in fear.”
A fury caught fire in Nox’s chest. Lana sensing her rage continued.
“Another overseer heard the commotion and intervened. I was able to get away. I made certain to never be alone with him again. But I suspect there may be others who were not so lucky.” Lana said.
“I’m sorry that happened to you Lana. The Dark Council should take action to remove him permanently.” Nox seethed.
“You know as well as I that won’t happen. He has trained hundreds of Sith Lords and though he holds a lower station, he has many allies, particularly his chosen pets which he personally assisted to their ascension.” Lana stated.
“Perhaps a more informal approach is necessary.” Nox said.
Lana, knowing her intent pleaded, “You cannot take this into your own hands. Promise me that you will not harm him based on what I have told you.”
“Very well, I will not harm him based on what you have told me, I promise.”Nox said, taking Lana’s hand in hers.
But in her mind a plan was set in motion.
They retired to Nox’s Nar Shadaa chambers. A holoimage of Darth Marr stood at the entry way to the bed chambers standing guard. The door swooshed open to an immaculate room. A Rishi sculpture stood in the center of the room rocky and adorned by two torching platters. A fountain spanning the height of one wall faced a lush bed with black silken sheets and blankets. Another wall consisted of windows looking over the vibrant and colorful cityscape of Nar Shadaa. Standing in front of the Windows looking out over the city was a holoimage of Lana. Lana felt moved by this sentimentality.
“So you are always with me.” Nox said climbing into bed.
“Did you make it? I mean all of the ones here?” Lana asked.
“I did. It’s one of my hobbies I guess you could say. I’m fairly adept at slicing and most forms of technology. But I am not as gifted in decision making or pragmatism. I look to it when I need advice and you are not available. Sometimes I meditate and focus on your energy and way of being, sort of a “what would Lana do?” You must think me ridiculous.”
“Not at all, I think you are very wise and very thoughtful.” Lana said easing into the bed.
They fell asleep almost immediately.
Chapter 5: All Work and No Play
Nox attend to politics, Andronikos searches, Ashara gets freaky.
Upon returning to the fleet Lana was sent to Korriban to deal with an uprising of failed acolytes. She would be away for at least a week. Nox rejoined her crew save for Talos. They flew to Drummond Kaas for Nox to attend several seemingly endless days of Dark Council sessions. On her first day in session, sitting in judgement before the Council was a captured human Jedi and his Chiss Padawan. The Jedi was sentenced to death for slaying a Sith Lord but his Padawan Vishaar was saved the same fate. Nox perceived he might be turned to the darkness and pleaded with council members to accept him as an apprentice. Vishaar, having witnessed his master’s savage execution was eager to make a good impression. Darth Vowrawn offered to mentor the turned apprentice. This seemed a good fit to Nox given Vowrawn’s unusually even tempered and charming nature. Nox oriented the new apprentice to Kaas City and dined with him in the cantina. She offered her advice on adjusting to his new environment, especially cautioning him against trusting other apprentices who may harbor jealousy and contempt at his initiation without having undergone the traditional trials. Nox urged him to fabricate a backstory in which he joined the Jedi while harboring a secret plot to overthrow his master and turn Sith. The young Chiss was eager and intelligent. Vishar shared many commonalities with Nox: an insight to the fear and weakness of others, and a fierce combat style. Like Nox, he had never embraced the light fully. He also reminded Nox of Ashara and invited him to dine with them both and seek her counsel later in the week.
Aside from this task, the council days were long and monotonous. As usual the Council was full of disagreement and paltry in-fighting. Due to the death of Karrid a vacant seat on the council was to be filled, and each Council member had selfish motives in who would fill it. Nox could not care less though Marr stressed to her the importance of advocating for the least offensive candidate. As the Council let out on their fifth day of 10 hour sessions Marr lectured her on the prospective candidates.
“Fine, just tell me who you support and I will throw my weight behind them.” She quipped.
“It isn’t that simple. I will not always be here to guide you, you must take this seriously and learn to rely on knowledge rather than your instincts or my advice.” Marr boomed at her.
“Of course you will be with me. I really don’t care about this.” Nox said in a defeated tone.
“Take this with you and review the candidates. Tomorrow I expect you to have an opinion.” Marr challenged and shoved a datapad into hands.”
“Great, more light reading for my downtime.”
“You are insufferable, my child.” Marr said.
Nox placed a hand at the back of his head and lowered it to hers touching his masked forehead to hers. “If it means that much to you, I will.”
She returned to her Kaas city apartment exhausted. Ashara lurked just outside the elevator inside.
“Master I still seek your counsel.” She stated.
“You’re in luck, I also seek yours. Get dressed we are dining out.”
“Some place fancy?” Andronikos asked.
“Yes, but you are not coming. I need you to locate and contact Talos. We’ve not seen or heard from him in over a week, I’m worried about him.”
Andronikos cursed and muttered throwing up his hands and reeling away.
“Besides, we need to have some girl-talk don’t we?” She teased Ashara.
Nox and Ashara settled into a comfortable booth in the exclusive Hardassian restaurant, specializing in exotic Galactic cuisine in Kaas City. On elegantly carved walls hung portraits of the fine chefs from across the galaxy who prepared specialties of their native worlds each night. One portrait pictured a glossy-eyed Rodian presenting a bizarre selection of hors d'oeuvres.
“No way I’m eating anything made by that guy” Ashara remarked.
“That is not a guy.” Nox said raising an eyebrow.
Nox looked exquisite with her hair pulled up tightly. She wore ornate floor-length gray robes. She wished Lana was there with her to remark on her appearance. Ashara wore a more traditional black robe that was slightly more revealing than her usual apprentice dress. The two conversed while awaiting their guest.
“Tell me about your time on Nar Shadaa. What did you get into, you and Andronikos?” Nox asked as if she already knew the answer.
Ashara paused before answering, how much did she know, and how should she respond?
“It’s what I wanted to speak with you about. I will try to speak plainly. I know that you and Andronikos were involved romantically. I understand that this connection has been severed. I am interested in pursuing a romance with him, but I don’t want this to cause friction between us”.
Nox was not surprised by the revelation, having anticipated that Ashara would return Andronikos’ attraction. Ashara seemed to outwardly despise him, yet she was always talking with him and hanging out with him on the ship. Since Nar Shadaa though, Nox had noticed Ashara withdrawing from him and spending more time in solitary meditation.
Ashara continued, “Is it true that your relationship has come to an end? Forgive my prying, I’m not sure how to address this Master.”
“We never had a relationship, or a romance. I should say… it was not like that for me at least. I needed sex and he was conveniently located.” Nox clarified bluntly.
“So then, you do not foresee this need arising again?” Ashara asked a bit fearfully.
“Definitely not” Nox said.
A perplexed look settled on Ashara’s face.
Nox sighed. “Listen, ask anything you want. I realize you may have lots of questions about sex and relationships, about me. I may not be able to answer them all, but I will try, and I will not be offended.” Nox reassured her.
“Thank you Master. “Well, why don’t you want to be with him? He is rude and rough around the edges, but he really cares about you. He seemed to be focused on your happiness and he’s insightful and led an interesting life. Was he… bad at sex?”
“Not at all! And all of those things you said are true about him. He just isn’t my type, plain and simple.” Nox could tell from Ashara’s expression that she was still not getting the point. “Let me be clear: Men are not my type. I am attracted to women, and he is not one.” Nox said.
“Really? I am surprised by that Master. I have seen you flirt with so many men during our travels.”
Nox laughed. “Yes, but to influence them. It is easy to manipulate many of them in that way. It was not my intention to use Andronikos though. I thought it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. I honestly did not expect him to develop real feelings. I’m not convinced that he really did love me though, I believe Andronikos saw me as his first opportunity to settle down, make some roots.”
“What you say makes sense. He has spent a lifetime running and chasing. The longest he’s spent anywhere is on your ship. I still don’t understand why you didn’t just date a woman instead though. When did you know that you were gay?” Ashara asked.
“Always, or as far back as I can recall at least.”
“Wait, so why didn’t you ever flirt with me?”
“You sound just like Andronikos, he asked me the same thing. Perhaps you two have more in common than I thought. When I came to Dromund Kaas as a slave, you know that I served Darth Lachris for several years. Eventually that servitude included… well, sexual aspects. Being her slave meant she frequently punished me and controlled all aspects of my life. It was extremely degrading and confusing to be in these dual roles, with someone who had known me since I was a child. I vowed to never engage someone in that kind of relationship; if it can even be called a relationship. I could never think of you in that way.”
"I'm sorry that happened to you Master." Ashara said. They observed a lengthy silence.
"So, you want my advice about Andronikos. What are your past experiences with sex or relationships, Ashara? Do you have any?"
"No, not with sex or relationships. I have kissed though, once." Ashara said.
"And that was with Andronikos, last week." Nox said. Ashara nodded.
"He's at least ten years older than you, you know." Nox lectured.
"I know, but that doesn't matter to me." Ashara pleaded her case.
"It doesn't now, but it might in five or ten years. It also comes with a lot of life experience that you haven't had. Andronikos is ready to settle down and he's quite a jealous type. If you settle for him now, you may resent him later for not having been open to other experiences.”
Ashara looked forlorn.
“I'm saying you should have some fun, live a little. Have a fling, have five or ten of them. Get to know your body, your passions and desires, what you really want in a mate."
"That sounds like good advice Master. Have you found what you really wanted?"
"I believe I have." Nox said smiling, as if she was admitting this to herself at the same time as to Ashara.
"I am happy for you. It is Lord Beniko isn’t it? I can totally see that now.” Ashara extended her hand to touch Nox’s arm. “Like you, she is a very unusual Sith.”
At that moment Vishaar made his entrance, underdressed but sharp and tidy in his appearance. He was an eye-catching specimen. His light blue skin had a fluorescence to it and he towered above them standing nearly seven feet tall. "Good evening Darth Nox, and..."
"Ashara" the Togruta introduced herself.
"My Lord Ashara then" he bowed.
"Just Ashara, I'm an apprentice like you."
"My lady then, I am honored Lady Ashara."
The two stood transfixed with each other.
"Forgive me, my lady. I am star struck. I've met only two male Togruta in my life, never a female. You are stunning to behold."
"I've met only a few Chiss myself, on Hoth. But they did not look like you." Ashara said awkwardly.
"I hope they were good representatives of my people". He said.
Nox moved the conversation forward. “I wanted you to meet as you have much in common, like you and I, Vishaar started out as a Jedi Padawan."
These were practically the last words she would speak for the next two hours. Vishaar and Ashara talked with ease, sharing their childhood experiences, culture, and their pull toward the dark side. Then they moved on to other topics, their keen affinity for combat and shared love of nature.
Ashara asked, "Have you ventured outside of Kaas city yet to the waterfall just past the gates? It's a wonderful place for meditation."
"I have not, my lady. Perhaps you would show me. It would be enhanced by your presence I'm certain."
Ashara looked to Nox. Who seized the chance for an exit.
"I think you two should take an evening stroll, then. Marr has tasked me with riveting literature I must review by morning. I will retire and leave Ashara in your stead. May the force bend to your will as you embark on your training." Nox rose from her seat.
Vishaar bowed. "It is always my pleasure, my Lord."
"Good evening Vishaar. Ashara, have fun". She said, winking at her apprentice.
Back at the apartment, Andronikos stood at the communication terminal, studying illuminated maps and zoomed in on a radar ping. "Dammit, another dead end."
"No luck?" Said Nox walking in.
"I got his trail but it's like he just vanished two days ago. It's not like him at all to abandon his tracker. Also his holocom is just dead, can't even ping it."
"Last location?" Nox asked.
"Near Voss, he pinged the ship’s com two days ago while orbiting Voss. When you asked us to clear out he was already preparing to leave. He was going there to look for a map."
"Looking for a map? That’s counterintuitive. A map to what?" Nox asked.
"Some kinda graveyard or tombstone or something. Honestly I just tuned out as soon as I knew he was leaving. Man you look great, where's your sidekick?"
"Out". Nox said.
"Hmm, I'll keep looking. It's a shame your Sith girlfriend isn't here to see you like this, she's missing out." Andronikos said.
Nox cut her eyes at him, "I agree".
"Wanna fool around?" He asked
Nox rolled her eyes and turned from him, heading to her chambers.
"I'm just joking" he yelled after her, "besides I think Ashara is interested." Nox stifled a laugh. She settled in to her bed and struggled to force out thoughts of Lana while reviewing the datapad of Dark Council candidates. It had been over a week since she'd heard from her. For a moment she considered giving in to the brief pleasure of Andronikos' proposition. It would be a welcome distraction. No, she couldn't do that. She felt something more for Lana than she was accustomed to feeling. She ached for her.
Outside Kaas city Ashara and Vishaar walked arm in arm.
"You are not at all like what I expected Chiss to be. I thought you were all serious and detached." Ashara said.
"Mostly a true appraisal. Force sensitivity is uncommon among Chiss and highly undesirable. As such, I was exiled from my planet. I found a different way of being, more natural to me".
"Chiss reject passion generally, do they not?" Ashara asked.
"They do. But I do not. Again this separated me from my kind, and from the Jedi. I embrace passion and pleasure. Do you?"
"I have never allowed myself to experience much of either." Ashara said solemnly.
The sound of rushing water approached as they neared the falls. They cut a path to the water's edge and Ashara led him across a mossy, jagged rock. They sat down behind the falls, a moving curtain of roaring water hid them from the landscape.
"It's like a secret room." Vishaar delighted.
He was so tall and alien looking. In the night his eyes glowed red, and he observed Ashara longingly.
"You are so vivid, even in the darkness. I am compelled to kiss you." He said. "I will begin training tomorrow with Vowrawn for several weeks."
"Then we should embrace our passions now, in case we do not meet again." Ashara said.
"Vishaar kissed her gently. A fire lit inside her and she eagerly returned the kiss. Her tongue explored his mouth. Ashara dropped her robe on the damp, moss-covered boulder beneath them. Vishaar towered over her bending down to kiss her shoulders and neck. Ashara fumbled with his waist cord, untying his robe to expose his bare blue chest and groin. He was already hard. His cock was long and lean, not thick like Andronikos. He lifted her off her feet and she wrapped her legs around him. He held her at his waist dragging his cock up and down her stomach. “
I’ve never done this. I want to know how it feels, all of it.” Ashara admitted.
"Let me please you first, my lady" he said.
He laid her down slowly and began kissing her thighs. Slick wetness met his tongue between her legs. He probed his tongue inside her and stroked her clit with his thumb. Ashara gave breath-filled cries of pleasure. With his free had he grasped and stroked the length of her Lekku continuing to stimulate her clit. and she pivoted on the edge of orgasm. Then he entered her briskly and deeply. She whimpered slightly.
“I will be more gentle” he said.
Her tightness was exquisite, and he had to slow his pace. He continued massaging her clit while gently fucking her as her body adjusted to the new feeling. After a few moments of pain, lust overtook her and she began to writhe and buck underneath him. He responded by fucking her more quickly, then more deeply. He was also fingering her clit at a frenzied pace. Ashara’s head rose as she called out. She came underneath him as he continued to plunge inside her. He pulled his cock out, she slid it back inside. She moved side to side slowly, somewhat spent and aching from his fucking, but wanting to please him. He pulled out again and she moved on top of him. She held him with both hands and took him in her mouth. She focused her attention on the tip. Sucking and biting gently.
“Ah, that is wonderful”. he said
She licked his shaft and sucked the underneath of it.
“Like this?” she sought guidance.
“Yes, just like that”. She continued using her hand to thrust him as she kissed and tongued his shaft.
“I’m almost there.” He announced.
“I want to feel it inside me.” She said.
“As you wish” he said gripping his cock tightly at the base to stall the building orgasm.
Then she mounted him from the top, bouncing slowly up and down. He held her Lekku, one in each hand and stroked them at the same pace as her thrusting. She thought she might come again and gave quick moans of pleasure. This sent him over the edge and he came in gushes rocketing inside her. She relaxed on top of him, stroking his onyx black hair. They giggled and the spray of the waterfall cooled their burning bodies. They stayed like this for another hour. As the sun began to rise through the hazy Dromund sky Ashara kissed him and stood up. She bathed in the falls as he watched her, taking in her beauty. He joined her, cleansing their passion from his body. They dressed and took up the path to Kaas City.
“I have enjoyed you immensely my lady. I hope to see you again when I return from my training, if it is your wish. I will think of you, and our passion will energize me.” Ashara smiled at him and kissed him once more, holding his hand for a moment before departing back to the apartment. Thankfully Andronikos was asleep. But Nox had risen early and was making notes for her Council meeting and drinking tea.
“How was it?” she asked glancing up at Ashara.
“It was amazing.” Ashara said. The two smiled and Ashara retired to her quarters.
Chapter 6: Vengeance
Harkun loses his heart, Nox shows her.
Nox’s holocom chirped and she answered it. Lana, finally.
“My Lord, I am finally free for a moment to speak with you. But I haven’t long.”
“Where are you?” Nox asked.
“On Korriban. There is a situation that demands your attention. Can you join me here?”
“I can depart this afternoon, at the Council’s closing.”
“I will be free late in the evening”, Lana said between blaster fire. “If I’m not dead.”
“What the hell is going on?”
“An uprising of failed acolytes. They are holding a tomb here as their basis of operation. We are seeking to regain it. It’s a minor inconvenience, but it is humiliating to the Empire for such an uprising to occur at the edge of our Academy. We must deal with this swiftly. But this is not what I need you for. We will speak of it on your arrival. Talos is missing, correct?”
“He is. I sense his fear in the force.” Nox said.
Lana leaped over blaster fire and shot flickering bolts of electricity from her extended arm.
“I think you need to go” said Nox.
“Yes. Wait for me in the cantina this evening.” Then she was gone.
Xalex and Khem Val arrived to the apartment as Nox was leaving.
“How was your killing spree?”
“It was most satisfying master” said Xalek.
“Excellent, you have until midday, then we depart to Korriban. Be on the ship ready to go and advise Ashara and Andronikos when they rise.”
Nox left for the Council.
Marr met her at the Council doors.
“Give me counsel before we enter” he said. They strode to his office.
“What are your thoughts?” He asked.
“I am prepared to support Lord Acina.” Said Nox.
“This is an intriguing choice, tell me why.”
“She is progressive and follows her own path. She is somewhat unyielding but also pragmatic, and her ascension through the ranks demonstrates combat proficiency and diplomatic prowess. Also I think she will shake some of these old fools up a bit. I should add that she is easy for me to read, so should she become a threat I will sense it. Who were you thinking of?”
“To be frank, I had not decided. Your reasoning is sound though, and Vowrawn will agree. The Hands lack power in our proceedings given the Emperor’s recent full desertion of them. They will support the Councilors majority choice. We likely need to only win over two others. As her predecessor Darth Karrid would likely have supported Acina, some may align with her to honor her legacy. Darth Mortis will also align with Acina.”
“Then our task is at hand. Let’s do this quickly, I must leave this afternoon.” Nox said.
To their pleasant surprise the Council quickly came to their decision and Acina was chosen as the Head of the Sphere of Technology. Nox congratulated Acina. Acina took Nox’s hand in both of hers. Acina was an attractive but slightly harsh looking woman. Her brown eyes held an orange glow. Nox was suddenly unpredictably captivated by her.
“I’m told I have you to thank for bringing the others to my side.” Acina said.
“I merely helped them come to their senses.”
“How ever can I thank you?” Acina asked suggestively.
“I’m sure you will find a way.” Nox said giving a half smile and stepping in closer to her. What was she doing? She had no interest in this woman, striking as she was. Nox focused to read Acina’s intentions and beheld Acina to have a strong force persuasion ability, which she was currently using to seduce her. Nox slipped from her grip and turned away from her.
“I’m afraid I must depart urgently, another time perhaps.” She said.
“Another time indeed.” Acina called after her.
She departed to Korriban. They would arrive sooner than she had anticipated, giving her time to take care of some personal business.
By late afternoon Nox tread the familiar halls of the academy. All whom she passed knelt before the Darth. She exchanged bows respectfully eventually reaching Harkun's office. There he stood admonishing a weary group of acolytes, six remaining.
"My Lord, are you seeking a new apprentice? Did bone-face fail to meet your standards as I suggested?"
"Yes, I should have listened to you Harkun, he was disappointing. I killed him. Now I seek a replacement. Tell me, which of these scum is most competent?" Nox asked.
"Marsallet is the clear standout among this pile of filth." Harken said with a vile tone. "He's finished first in all the trials."
Marsallet was (unsurprisingly) a pure blood Sith red as fresh blood and rippling with muscles. He stood proudly above the other acolytes.
The others stood silent, but one female acolyte, a Mirialan rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.
"What about her?" Nox inquired.
"As usual, your instincts defy you. This waste of flesh and bones has no chance of completing the final trial." He vented.
"Well then, go ahead and tell them of this final trial." Nox ordered.
Harkun detailed the last trial in his typical dramatic and disparaging manner. He went on and on. Nox yawned, stretched loudly and interrupted, "Yes yes, go kill the scary thing, bring back the important thing, and try not to die. Off you go".
Harkun fumed but said nothing. The acolytes turned to leave.
"But first" she said.” I'm here to investigate some rumors about your beloved overseer. I require your assistance, acolytes."
"What rumors?" Harkun seethed.
Nox directed her comments to the acolytes. "There are reports, many reports, that Harkun has been taking advantage of female initiates, against their will. I ask you ladies, is this true?"
"Lies, absolute lies" uttered the Sith Marsallet.
Nox stepped toward him, saber in hand. "I'm sorry, I am addressing the female acolytes. Are you one of them? I know Sith can be unattractive, but you really would be hideous for a woman."
Harkun intervened on his behalf. "He is right, these are filthy lies spread by pathetic worms." He said gesturing wildly.
Nox spun on him and threw her ignited saber at his outstretched hand, severing it from his arm. He cried out in pain as the saber returned to her grip and blinked off.
"I can see that civility is not a tactic you value. I'll ask again before removing another limb. Is this true?" Her voice marked by festering rage. All remained silent. "Shall I kill you all?" She readdressed the acolytes.
The Mirialan spoke up. "It's true. He tried to force himself on me. And he raped another acolyte, Serrano.” A human acolyte in the back lowered her head and nodded.
“I see. Thank you for your honesty.” Nox said.
Harkun’s eyes bulged and he spoke with fit-like expediency. "So I indulge myself at times, these vermin beg for it. They throw themselves at my feet seeking an advantage over their peers" he added whimpering. "Darth Karal has given me free reign to oversee as I desire, whatever I desire."
Nox stepped to him holding her unignited saber to his abdomen. “It may have escaped your notice, but Darth Karal is not here, I am.” She leaned into his ear whispering “And did Darth Karal give you permission to touch Lord Beniko, when she was only 14?"
"Her? That was years ago. She was weak, she begged for my guidance, offered herself to me, even then she barely passed the trials. A Sith who sought no title for over a decade. She remains as she was, nothing more than a tease with no talent".
At these words Nox's saber sprang to life, impaling him. She gashed upward from abdomen to chest tearing through ribs and breastbone, he fell toward her gurgling. She withdrew her saber hitched it to her robe and plunged into his chest cavity with her bare hand wrapping green fingers around his pounding heart. Holding tightly to his heart she flung him with telekinetic force, flailing across the room. She stood there holding his still beating, disembodied heart in her hand. The acolytes stood motionless.
"Let this be a lesson to you all. Such depravity against female acolytes will not be tolerated. Now you may go, kill the thing, bring the important thing back, try not to die. Except you, Marsallet."
Nox twisted her hand violently toward him and his neck snapped. He dropped to the floor dead.
"That should level the playing field", she said sarcastically.
She tossed Harkun's heart into a waste receptacle and strode casually from the office. The Mirialan acolyte smiled at her as she exited.
Nox passed Overseer Emmoridg as she headed to the cantina.
“Good evening Overseer. Are you currently training?”
“I am not, my Lord. My group has recently completed and I am on holiday for a week. How may I serve you?” he asked.
“Can you attend to Harkun’s acolytes? I have just sent them on their final trial. I have relieved Harkun of his duties and his miserable life due to his repeated sexual assaults on female acoyltes.” Nox explained.
“That is disturbing, even for him. I had no knowledge of this. I am glad to complete their training.”
“Find someone to clean up the mess of his corpse. Preferably a likeminded individual to let the point set in. Tell the other overseers that this behavior will not be tolerated.”
“Of course, my lord.” He said with a surprised expression. “You were justified in your wrath, you set a worthy example. Overseers should guide and develop acolytes, not disparage and exploit them”.
“Emmoridg, the light in you is not hidden from me. Though I do not detest it, others will, and they will sense it. You would be wise to refrain from words that might be mistaken for empathy or kindness.” Nox warned him.
“Yes my Lord.
Nox stepped into the cantina. It was filled with a sad mix of young acolytes and aging Sith who had not progressed up the ranks. Korriban held no sentimentality for her, Nox hated being here. All eyes were upon her as she sat down in a corner table, and she was suddenly aware of Harkun’s blood and guts still smattered up her arm and hand. Through whispers she knew that her actions were already the talk of the cantina. Damn, she thought, I must get cleaned up before Lana arrives. But at that moment, she felt her presence. Their eyes locked and Nox rose to her feet. Lana stood before her looking stunning in gold and black robes. She had clearly taken time to prepare for their reunion. Nox felt self-conscious and was dreading the explanation. Seeing Nox’s disheveled appearance took Lana aback.
“It looks like you were the one engaged in battle. What happened?” she asked.
“My Lord” a human voice interrupted. “If I may be so bold, I want to thank you for what you did earlier. We want to thank you.” Eight acolytes stood before her and bowed. “Harkun deserved his fate, and there are many who are grateful to you. If we may ever be of service, we are your servants.”
“Ripped his heart out, she did. Then tossed it in the trash!” A voice at the bar chirped as others laughed. Several drinks arrived at her table at the same time, and as they did, the bar erupted in cheers and clapping.
“So, you killed him? You promised you would not.” Lana hissed shaking her head.
“I did not. I said I would not harm him based on what you told me. I came here to inquire if he had done the same to others. As you see, he had. His death is of his own making.” And with that she raised a glass to the patrons and they cheered again.
“You are really something” said Lana still annoyed. “But I can’t possibly be mad at you in front of all your fans..” They kissed and the cantina patrons gave excited jubilations.
“It’s been a hellish week. Let’s drink” said Nox.
The two Sith downed drinks laughing and flirting. Periodically Lana clutched her side wincing.
“Are you injured?”Nox inquired.
“It’s nothing. We were surprisingly out-numbered by the resistance here and they were well organized and armed. It took days longer than I had expected. I suppose I should go ahead and tell you why I called you here. There appears to be a connection between what went on here and your archaeologist. Tell me what you know about Talos' expedition." Lana said.
"Very little I'm afraid. He left the day I returned from Ziost and we did not speak. Andronikos talked with him but remembers very little. Talos is both longwinded and boring so sometimes it's best to just tune him out. Andronikos said he had received a tip about a map to a tombstone or graveyard of some significance. So he was going to Taris to look for this map, that's all I know. Does it mean anything to you?" Nox asked.
"Yes. The Emperor is also looking for this map. Intelligence chatter is that the map leads to an ancient weapon of some kind that is very powerful, and the emperor intends to possess it." Lana explained.
"So a weapon in a graveyard? It's all very vague."
"If that's the correct interpretation, I'm not convinced it is. I’ve spent the evenings poring through data trying to get something more."
"I initially thought Talos had been captured but I sense something different now. I believe Talos was pursued and may be off the grid intentionally. He would also be monitoring channels to thwart any interference with his mission. He left one breadcrumb for me though. He pinged my holocom two days ago, near Voss."
"Voss? I've never been there. It is rather undeveloped is it not?" Lana asked.
"It is an ancient planet and its inhabitants are private, secretive, and rejecting of outsiders. They maintain the ancient ways, mostly. It is quite beautiful, and rich with artifacts. It would be an ideal environment to hide something. There are two warring native peoples, the Voss and the Gormak. But they are really the same species. One was corrupted by the force altering their appearance. Although they are not aware of this."
"You know a lot about this planet. Did you spend much time there?"
"I did. I went to Voss to learn a ritual that would aid me in defeating Thanaton. But I became very interested in their mysticism and embraced their culture. I performed several tasks to aid the Voss military and the mystics. I eventually completed a number of trials and became a Voss mystic myself, a role forbidden to outsiders." Nox added.
"Did you leave them on good terms?"
"We haven’t much to go on” Lana said. ”Any idea where to find a hidden map, or who could help us?"
"Yes, the mystics reside in the Shrine of Healing and they maintain the records of Voss history. They are knowledgeable of past visitors, even those from ancient times are recorded. If someone brought a map to Voss, the mystics will know. I would be welcomed there. Voss people will not be influenced by threats of violence from outsiders who seek information, not even by the Emperor. They are only responsive to those who assist their cause in some way. Talos, even with his good manners will find it difficult to gain their trust. I have it already."
"We should start there then." Lana said. "There's more though. The uprising here, the failed acolytes were calling themselves servants of the eternal empire. This is language I've not heard before. They were aided by others, well-trained soldiers. Their numbers here and Intelligence chatter suggests a plan to abandon the Galactic Empire had been in motion for some time. The Emperor may have long been working to organize a new faction. He may be inhabiting an unknown planet or base operation where followers are being trained and sent out to recruit other servants."
"This fits what I've sensed in the force. A tear or split. Not light or dark, but a consuming force. I've been unable to explain it, but this would." Nox said. "Well so much for getting drunk and letting off stress."
"We should leave tomorrow. Is your crew back at full capacity?" Lana asked
"They are. We can depart in the morning. You will come with me?" Nox said curling her lip into a half-smile.
"Of course, it's my duty as head of Intelligence."
"Well then, duty calls." Nox said as she leaned across the table to kiss Lana.
"I wish there was somewhere private we could go. I have needs." Nox whispered.
"We can go back to your ship" Lana said, "I'm not particular as long as I can have my way with you."
"There's just no privacy there." Nox countered.
"You're the exhibitionist, as I recall. Besides we're all adults." Lana added, half teasing.
"They will need to get used to you being around anyway" said Nox.
Andronikos called out to Ashara from the engine room. "Can I get a hand up here?" She stood from her meditation to assist him.
"How did you even get up there?" She called out.
"It wasn't easy. Toss me those capacitors?"
Ashara floated them easily to him. They levitated at his shoulder as one by one he put them in place.
"Man, you're handy. Haven't seen much of you the past couple of days. Did I scare you off?"
"No, I've just been preoccupied, thinking."
"Well that can't be good." He said winking at her.
Ashara smiled, he was so sexy. Even though she had no commitment to him she felt guilt keeping her tryst a secret. The ship door hissed open and Andronikos called out.
"Hey you, what time we leavin?" Andronikos shouted from the engine room, "getting her all tuned up." He leapt down from the upper engine with a metallic thud as Nox and Lana came into view. "Oh, you brought company I see." His eyes narrowed at Lana.
"She's coming with us, we leave in the morning for Voss." Said Nox.
"Well then, moving on." Andronikos stomped down the hall toward the bunk he shared with Xalek. He slung off his shoes and slumped on his bunk. Ashara greeted them and followed after him.
"Were you...involved with him?" Lana asked afraid of the answer.
"Unfortunately yes. But it was nothing serious, and I broke it off months ago. I had to reiterate this recently and he is still pouting." Said Nox.
"Well clearly he knows about us. It would've been nice to know about him before I got here." Lana said disappointed.
"You're right, I'm sorry. It honestly slipped my mind, and I realize that makes it worse."
"It's alright. His reaction is out of your control. But the next time we are going to be around someone you've been with, I would like to know ahead of time. On that point, I should tell you something as well. Your new Council member Acina, we were lovers. It was several years ago, and only briefly. But I don't want you to hear it from someone else."
"Really? It sounds scandalous." Nox teased her.
"Hardly. We were very much alike, and I found her a bit boring and snobbish. We were not compatible in other ways." Lana implied.
"So she was a bad lay, how disappointing." Nox quipped.
"Something like that", said Lana chuckling. "But you on the other hand". Lana pressed Nox against the wall and put her hand between her legs. She kissed Nox up and down her neck.
"She’s quite persuasive.” Nox said seductively.
“Yes, its one of her talents, I hope you were not persuaded.” Lana said jealously.
“I was not, how could I be when I have you?” Nox pulled away. “Get in my bed, I'll join you in a few minutes."
Lana stepped to the bedroom, slipped off her robes and slid into Nox's bed naked. She bit her cheeks to stifle a cry of pain as she laid down. Her blaster wound was throbbing and hot, she feared it was becoming infected. There was no way of hiding her injury from Nox now as much as she wanted to. Nox ventured to rinse off what remained of her earlier assassination. She dried off and grabbed two plush robes for herself and Lana to slip into if needed. She donned one and brushed her long silky black hair. Two dimly lit torches burned in her chambers. Lana leaned up to watch Nox drop her robe. She could never tire of the sight of Nox's body. "You are so lovely" Lana said wincing.
"You're really hurt. Why didn't you tell me? Let me see." Nox said
"I didn't want to spoil our reunion."
Nox upturned an edge of the bandage to examined the injury, a through and out blaster wound in Lana's upper left abdomen.
"That looks painful."
"Ah, it really is" Lana said holding her side.
Nox carefully removed the bandage and placed both hands on the injury. She closed her eyes and focused on the rejuvenation aspects of the force: life, growth, cleansing water, warmth, the passage of time, the binding of blood into scab and torn muscle into healed tissue. Lana' pain went from a hot throbbing to a dull soreness. Her body glowed with green light at Nox's fingertips. Nox stood over her in a trance for several minutes. The light faded and Nox opened her eyes, nearly falling off balance. Lana observed that the entrance and exit of her wound were completely closed, bruised and scarred but much improved.
"Thank you, I thought you didn't have healing powers." said Lana.
"Just not my strong suit. It requires a lot of effort and concentration" said Nox. "I'm not useful in the field, but on the rare occasion, with time to meditate and focus on an injury I can make do. My mother could heal many people at once, without even a touch, battles blazing all around her. Lay back and relax, that's going to need some time."
Ashara stirred from her chambers and stepped down the hall. She knew Andronikos would be seething. She dipped her head into his chambers.
"Feel up to a drink?" She asked.
"Definitely, let's get out of here." He said, and they headed out.
"It seems I've scared everyone off." Lana said.
"The scary Sith with the yellow eyes" Nox joked laying down beside her, stroking her hair. "Any other girlfriends I should know about, presently I mean."
"No. How about you, any other boy or girlfriends I should know about?" Lana said sarcastically.
"Very funny, none."
"I missed you terribly. I ached for you and that's a new emotion for me, longing. It carries a vulnerability I'm unaccustomed to." Lana shared.
"I'm with you now." Nox said. Nox appreciated the freedom with which Lana shared her emotions. This was surprising to her as Lana could come across as aloof.
"When you walked in to the cantina tonight I almost ran to you, like some lovesick fool". Nox said. "I feel your absence when you are not near me, and find myself reaching to you through the force. Your presence is strong and steady, active, always searching."
"Yours is bold, commanding, and unpredictable." Lana said.
Nox kissed her longingly. Lana tried to move on top of her but clutched her side in pain and laid back down beside her.
"Relax, and give in to pleasure without control, let me indulge you while you focus on emptying all sense of worry or reciprocity." Nox said persuasively. Nox had her own talent for persuasion.
Nox's kisses drifted gently down Lana's neck and arm, to her stomach, and her thighs. Nox focused healing energy in her fingers as she caressed Lana's hips. Lana felt a warm, hypnotic peace fall over her. The presence of pain and thoughts seemed to drift away. All that remained was the sensation of Nox's mouth on her. Lana felt warmth in that place where Nox worked her. Lana was silent, breathing deeply and holding loosely to the back of Nox's head. Her heart beat at a steady pace, as Nox slowly and tenderly made love to her with her mouth, deeply kissing her clit and sliding her tongue between her soft fair lower lips. Lana's free hand began to tense with a building climax and Nox reached up to take her hand in hers lightly, the touch a reminder to let go of all tension. Lana relaxed her grip and came in a silent, shuddering release. Nox said nothing, wrapped them in blankets and laid closely against Lana's back. She kissed the back of her shoulders and traced the outline of her side as Lana fell to sleep.
Chapter 7: A Sith and a Pirate Walk Into a Bar
Andronikos and Ashara heat things up on Korriban
Ashara and Andronikos sat down at a far booth in the cantina.
"This place is a dump. Lots of young folks looking for love in all the wrong places. What'll you have to drink?"
Ashara had no idea. She'd never drank before, but now seemed as good a time as ever to start. "What do you recommend?"
"Nothing complicated. Eye Blaster?" Andronikos shouted to the service droid.
"Same" Ashara said. "Why do I think I'm going to regret this?"
Andronikos laughed, "you might."
The droid laid out two long shots, silvery liquid with a purple fruit slice on the rim. Andronikos swirled it around and raised it toward Ashara. She clinked his shot with hers and they downed them at the same time. "Now this" Andronikos said plucking the fruit from its rind and swallowing it. Ashara followed course. The shot was pure heat and acid and the fruit chaser sweet and cooling.
"That's intense!" She said fanning a hand in front of her mouth.
"Four more" said Andronikos. "So talk to me, what do you think about this Lana?"
"I like her. She's different for a Sith, but so is Master Nox."
"Yeah, I should probably give her a chance. Deep inside I knew we would never work out. You must think I'm an idiot."
"Not at all. I do think you should take some time though before getting back into a serious relationship. Maybe have a rebound" Ashara said tossing back another shot. She could get used to this.
"What do you know about that?"
"Not much. Isn't that what most men do when a relationship has ended? Perhaps that’s an overgeneralization of male behavior. Correct me if I’m wrong, I am open to learning new things."
"So are you volunteering?"
"Actually no, I'm not. I have been thinking on that a lot." She downed a third shot.
"Slow down!" That's gonna hit you hard."
Ashara was counting on it. She'd heard of liquid courage and thankfully the rush from the Eye Blasters was quickly setting in.
"Well you and I have both communicated a desire to take our relationship to another level. For me, well I want it to be special, not because you're heartbroken and I'm lonely and inexperienced. I think we both need time. You to heal and be open to love and me to, I don't know, learn more about what I want."
"So we should sleep around and maybe we'll come back to each other, that kind of thing?"
"Interesting. Ok. You don't think you'll be jealous?" Andronikos asked smiling at her.
"Well there's one way to find out."
He downed a shot. "Ok, well no time like the present. Look around, who looks like a good rebound for me?"
Ashara scanned the bar. She settled on an attractive Miralukan acolyte. "She looks nice".
"Too young, and horns are not really my thing."
"How about her?" She pointed at an older Mandalorian with red hair, seated with a younger male Mando.
"Interesting choice. Only one reason a Mandalorian is in a bar, to hook up. They stay tight with their clan otherwise. But they don’t look to be together. I bet the young one is a bachelor too. They usually travel in pairs."
The female Mandalorian noticed their attention and approached them, sitting down beside Ashara.
"You guys together?" She inquired.
"Nope, just friends, shipmates. I'm Andronikos Revel, pirate. This is Ashara, Sith apprentice."
"I'm Taela Ren, my friend there is Ko'vell. You guys looking to let off some steam?"
"Well I am, but my friend here-"
Ashara cut him off, "Yes exactly. That's what we're looking for."
"Look no further then." She motioned her companion over and introduced him.
"Ko'Vell is getting married in a few days, so I'm trying to find him a little more experience before then."
"Taela, don't be so blunt." Ko'vell said.
"I too would welcome the experience, just so you know." Ashara said, downing another shot.
Andronikos was a bit shocked by Ashara’s forwardness. In need of more liquid courage himself he ordered another round for everyone.
The four of them sat drinking and sharing battle stories. Ko'vell was funny and charismatic, Taela was blunt but charmed by Andronikos' attention and knowledge of Mandalorians. Taela had lost her husband a year earlier fighting a neighboring clan.
"He was a real warrior, and a good husband. He never backed down from a fight. He sought combat for the pure joy of fighting, I knew when we married that he would not be with me as long as most husbands. But that's love, I married him anyway. You ever been married, kids?" She asked Andronikos.
"Nope, pirates don't usually settle down, but I'm getting older, and the gig I got now is pretty steady, so who knows what the future holds."
"I'll never marry again, I learned that lesson. I have two sons, and they are my world. But I do have needs."
Fully imbibed, Taela invited them back to their room. The lodging was adjacent to the cantina, a few rooms leased out for low credits. The ruckus of the cantina was audible through the thin walls. A simple dimly lit living area with a lounger and table, a bathroom/ refresher area, and a separate bedroom with no door.
"We only have the one bedroom, but we can take the living quarters so you kids can have some privacy."
"Perfect, said Andronikus flopping down on the lounger. Taela sat promptly in his lap. Andronikos would never admit it, but he was uncomfortable with the lack of privacy. Ashara was enjoying the lack of inhibition courtesy of the eight shots of Eye Blasters. She stepped into the bedroom and laid down on the bed. The room was spinning. Ko'vell laid down beside her.
"I'm not used to doing anything like this." He said.
"Well I can get us started" said Ashara.
"First, there are some rules I should tell you about. I can't do the one thing, you know."
"What you can't... fuck?" Ashara said and the words seemed as if they didn't even come from her.
"Well, yes that's what I mean. It's forbidden. It's reserved for my wife, but I can do anything else. Before marriage Mandalorians are encouraged to learn how to please their spouse."
"So you need tips, pointers, practice. Are female Mandos afforded this same tradition?"
"Absolutely. Once we marry we will share our history with each other, and it is to make us better lovers. It probably sounds crazy to an outsider."
"Not really. I need some practice too. I've only had one other experience."
As they chatted things were quickly heating up in the living area. Taela was grinding Andronikos sitting in his lap facing him. She had already removed her armor and was stripping him down. He gripped her small breasts and kissed them.
"I need it rough, or I'll get bored." She said.
"You got it sweetheart he said pulling her red hair.
He stood up with her wrapped around him and penetrated her. He grasped her butt and bounced her up and down on his cock.
"Harder!" She yelled.
"Sounds like things are heating up out there. If you really want to learn something we should see what they are up to" Ashara joked, secretly wanting to watch.
They stood against the entryway and peered out. Andronikos was fucking Taela at a frenzied pace. He pushed her against the wall and drove into her harder and faster.
She gasped "mm, that's it, keep going."
Seeing this made Ashara more turned on. Ko'vell kissed her Lekku and stroked them.
“Are those sensitive to touch?" He asked interested.
"Definitely, she moaned. "Not sure how that will help you please your wife though, but I'm not saying stop."
"She's Twi'lek. She is the first of her kind in our clan. Is this something she would enjoy too?"
"Uh huh", Ashara said relishing the pleasure.
he kissed and licked them in long strokes.
"How about that, is that ok?"
Ko'vell fell to his knees and took the end of her left Lekku in his mouth, tonguing and sucking on it. She moaned in pleasure. He turned her around and laid her partly on the bed, with her legs draping off the end of the bed and her feet touching the floor. He pulled down her pants and started kissing her inner thighs while continuing to finger her Lekku.
In the other room Andronikos changed positions, bending Taela over the side of the lounger. He penetrated her from behind. As he fucked her he glanced into the bedroom to see Ko'vell going down on Ashara. He could hear her pants and moans and it added to his own lust. As he fucked Taela he thought of Ashara, wondering what it would be like to be inside her. These thoughts slowed his pace, and Taela backed against him banging into his cock harder and faster. He complied and fucked her wildly, pulling her hair hard and whipping her head back. She cried out "harder, harder" while stimulating her own clit as Adronikos pumped into her. Ashara raised her head slightly to see the show. Andronikos was staring right back at her. Ashara started to peak and let out a gasp just as Taela cried out in climax. Ashara collapsed to the bed. Ko'vell laid down beside her, stroking her breasts.
"How was that for you?" He asked
"Really good, really, really good. Trust me, you don't need any more practice, you've got it down."
Ko'vell laughed and kissed her.
"Let me return the favor." Ashara suggested.
"No, you don't need to do that, just relax. You provided exactly what I needed. Thank you."
Ashara giggled, "you Mandalorians are weird, that's for sure."
Ko'vell touched her face gently, "yeah we are."
In the living area Andronikos pulled out of Taela, still rock hard.
"Let me finish you" she said gasping for breath.
"No way, you just enjoy the moment, besides I think they're finished in there". Andronikos said.
He picked her up and laid her on the lounger, covering her exposed body with a blanket. He leaned down to kiss her.
"That's the first time I've been with a man since my husband died." She said smiling, but there was sadness in her eyes.
"I thought that might be the case. You're quite a woman, you deserve to be loved and desired. You would make any Mandalorian man really happy. I know I'm a one-time thing, not the kind of guy for you, and maybe you aren't ready to move on just yet, but don't close the door to the possibility of love. If your husband was a great man, then he would want you to find happiness."
She kissed him back. Andronikos dressed himself and stepped outside back into the cantina. He ordered a brew and cigar at the bar. Ashara joined him a few minutes later.
"Cigar? Drink?" He asked.
"Yes, and yes". She held the stogie between her index and middle finger to light it.
"No, no, hold it like this" he said adjusting her grip.
"Lots of firsts tonight" she said winking at him.
"So how was it?" Andronikos asked.
"Good, for me at least. He had some rule that I couldn't... you know pleasure him. So that was a little weird."
"Seriously? Those Mandos, they're strange folks."
"How about you, looked like you guys were having an... intense time."
"Yeah, that's not really my thing to be honest. I'm more of a gentle type, but that's what she was into so, yeah".
Ashara stared at him a moment waiting to see if he was kidding. He wasn't.
"Wait, is that what you like? I mean I can do that too."
"Obviously you can. No, it just surprises me to hear you refer to yourself as gentle. So that's not typically how it goes, for you I mean.?" Ashara asked.
"No, not at all. You?"
"I have no idea. This was just my second time. It looks like you're still... unfinished" she said glancing down at his crotch.
"Oh damn, is it that obvious?"
"Guess it was ladies night all around" Ashara said laughing.
"You're crazy, I never would have thought I'd be standing here with you cracking sex jokes."
"Well that makes two of us. Want me help you out with that?" Ashara asked touching his swelled groin.
"Whoa, I thought you said no funny business for a while".
"I did didn't I? Maybe just this once, you know to help out a crewmate in distress." She rubbed his cock under his pants.
"Man you are really convincing when you do that. What if you regret it tomorrow?"
"Guess we'll find out tomorrow", she said polishing off her drink. She took him by the hand and led him out of the bar. They staggered arm in arm past the cantina and down into the closed-up merchant area. Tents were drawn and sealed for the day, and the only sounds were Korriban wildlife and the distant hum of the cantina bustling. Their cigars left streaky plume trails in the warm night air. Ashara pulled him to the back of a merchant tent and dropped to her knees.
"I think you must still be really drunk." He said laughing nervously.
"Maybe so, but I want to do this for you." Ashara said looking up at him with a seductively serious expression. She unbuckled his belt while cupping his dick, wetness soaked through the front of his burgundy trousers. She jerked his pants down to his knees and his thickness bobbed free of its enclosure.
She rubbed his muscular thighs and took the tip of him in her mouth, licking the taste of his wetness. She sucked the tip gently and began stroking him.
"Like this?" She asked.
"Oh, yeah like that, but slow, I'm already almost there."
She gripped the base and continued circling her tongue around the tip, lightly pressing the tip of her tongue into the end. His breath quickened. She worked the tip in and out of her mouth, sliding it against one side of the inside of her cheek. Then she went down on him, almost fully, taking his cock into her throat. She continued to take him in this way, deeply and slowly. Plunging the tip to the back of her throat. He was panting now, barely able to hold on. She released her grip on the base of his shaft and he came almost instantly deep in her throat. She swallowed and licked his cock, savoring the taste of him. Then she rose to face him and kissed him sweetly.
"The best, sweetheart."
She playfully slapped his ass and they both laughed.
"Whoa" she said, losing her balance on a rock at her feet. Andronikos caught her. "I am really drunk."
"I got you." He said. And he hoped he was right.
Chapter 8: To Voss
Nox and Lana plan their strategy. The entire crew set off to Voss. An unplanned commitment takes shape.
Nox rose early to ensure her crew were all accounted for. The stench of alcohol permeated from Ashara's quarters and Nox rolled her eyes. She stepped into the bridge and set course for Voss then called Marr on the holocom to touch base on her plans and what she'd learned from Lana.
"Do you require more support? The Emperor cannot claim this map."
"It depends on what we're facing on the planet. Anyone who knew of Talos expedition would have thought him traveling to Taris, not Voss. I'll know more once we're there."
"Acina has also been stationed on Voss researching their technology. She is eager to repay you and could aid if needed."
"I'm sure that's true, but I think she had something more personal in mind."
"What are your plans if you acquire this map?"
"Lana intends to turn it over to Intelligence."
"But you have hesitations on this course of action."
"I do. Given the recent breach in Intelligence. The Empire is unstable, and it's unclear who remains loyal to the Emperor. I'm not convinced a weapon of this power belongs in anyone's hands."
"You intend to destroy it."
"Yes, but I am considering making a copy of it in my mind for you and I. What are your thoughts on this?"
" Will you share this plan with Lord Beniko?"
"I don't know. Her first loyalty is to the Empire. I trust her, but I'm not sure she would agree with me."
"If you do not discuss it with her then you will never know. You have a difficult decision to make."
"I'll contact you on-world with an update."
"May the force serve you, my child."
Nox clicked off the holo and roused Lana from her sleep, medpack in hand.
"I feel fully restored, love. You're a better healer than you let on." She said touching Nox’s face.
Nox took her hand "I’m glad you’re healing. I briefed Marr on our mission. I want to speak openly about my concerns but I worry what your response will be."
"Go ahead, I will strive to keep an open mind." Lana replied.
Nox coneyed to Lana her concerns with turning over the map to Intelligence or the Empire, given what had transpired on Ziost and Yavin IV.
"The Emperor has allies throughout The Empire, even among the Imperial guard. How are we to trust that whoever we turn it over to will not simply place it in his hands?"
"You make excellent points." So you believe it should be destroyed if we can locate it."
"I do." Nox said. "I may be able to ingrain a copy in my mind though, a trait among some of my people which I possess, mental etching. Then, should the appropriate time come, we could still locate this weapon, or whatever it is."
"We will need to make its destruction appear necessary to avoid questions on the matter". Lana said.
"Yes, and we cannot speak of this to anyone else, not even the crew. The more who know of this the greater risk of being found out."
Nox eyed Lana in a searching manner.
"There's more, something you aren't telling me."
"Yes, well your former lover is on Voss, and Marr believes she would be eager to assist us."
"Damn it, this is no time for jokes." Lana said hoping Nox was toying with her. "You're serious? I have not spoken with her in three years and have no desire to do so now."
"Apparently she is eager to repay me for her appointment to the Council".
"I bet she is" Lana seethed.
"We can send her out with Ashara to scout for Talos or some other task."
"I don't care what she does. I don't want her anywhere near you, she can be very persuasive." Lana added.
"You've nothing to worry about." Nox reassured her.
"Damn, this is not how I wanted our reunion to go."
Nox used the intercom to assemble her crew.
Khem and Xalek promptly responded. As they waited Lana chatted respectfully with the Dashade congratulating him on his victory over Zash's infiltration.
"She was a fool to enter such a powerful being, resistant to force powers. She was nothing compared to your will and strength. Where are the rest of your kind?"
"If any remain they are unknown to me, which is why I remain among you tiny Sith. With Nox is my opportunity to travel the galaxy and seek other Dashades. Xalek is a true hunter, and vicious comrade, I enjoy hunting with him. We bathe in the blood of our weaker foes."
Andronikos staggered into the meeting room holding his back, and just behind him was Ashara, blocking her eyes from the light. She slumped into a chair.
"2V, a stimpack for Ashara and Andronikos please."
"At once Master."
"You two look terrible, I hope it was worth it." Nox said.
"Definitely" said Andronikos.
"I cannot speak much of our mission on Voss, and neither will any of you. If anyone asks of your purpose here it is simply an exploratory quest for Voss knowledge and history. Voss do not welcome outsiders, and I expect everyone to be on their best and most dignified behavior. The Voss are our allies, as such we must not offend or engage in any fighting with them, is that clear?" All nodded.
"The Gormak are their enemies, if you are approached by Gormak, kill them but do not seek them out in their own territory. We will shuttle to Voss-ka city at the Imperial base. Our purpose is first to learn what happened to Talos. We will split up and speak with others in Voss-ka. We will convene for dinner at the cantina. Do not venture from the city, there are strict rules regarding the movement of outsiders." If you learn of Talos’ whereabouts contact me immediately. Andro you will join Khem and Xalek. Lana is with me and Ashara you will join Darth Acina once we reach the planet. I want you and Acina to speak with the Voss citizens and merchants as well as the tea house owners. Tea house culture is a vital social aspect of Voss culture. You will both need to exhibit great care and respect in the tea houses.
Nox turned to Andronikus, Khem, and Xalek.
“You three speak with every Imperial you meet to learn of any off-worlders recently traveling to Voss. Be respectful, but if you sense anyone is withholding information use your skills to persuade them to speak, in private. No witnesses. Understand?”
“We will choke it out of them if needed and leave them with no voice.” Xalex promised raising a clenched three fingered fist.
“Great, I gotta keep these two psychos in line, thanks for the easy job.“ Andronikos shrugged.
The odd team touched down in Voss-Ka, piling out of the shuttle. The Voss air wuality a vast improvement from Korriban and the manufactured supply on the ship. It set Andronikos head reeling, and he bent over to avoid fainting.
“Whoa, this is some air they got here.”
“Should help with your hangover.” Nox said touching him on the shoulder.
Lana spun around slowly in place looking high then low, taking in the vividness of Voss. It didn’t escape Nox that the sky was the same color as her eyes. She knew Lana would appreciate the beauty and simplicity of Voss, and Nox smiled watching her reaction.
“It’s breathtaking, this planet, and the sky… resplendent. I can see why you spent so much time here.” Lana swooned.
“You’ll find their culture just as fascinating, I promise. But the Voss can be maddening to interact with so temper your expectations on that front.” Nox took Lana’s hands in hers. “There is so much here I want to show you.”
Andronikos made a gagging motion and Ashara giggled. Lord Thaval was there to greet them.
“My Lord, a pleasure to see you again on Voss. I have secured lodging for you and your team. Though you may prefer to stay in the Shrine of Healing given your status as a Mystic.”
“I will stay in the Enclave, at least this evening.
“Of course.” Thaval bowed. “I will show you to your quarters. What of Darth Acina, she awaits your orders?”
“This is Ashara Zavros, my apprentice. Please accompany Ashara to Acina, and please give her a message. Offer my apologies as our mission requires us splitting into groups to quickly cover ground. We will all rejoin for dinner this evening in the cantina and I look forward to seeing her then. I recall the lodging is located off of the merchant’s area, we can make our way there without assistance. “
“Yes my Lord. Apprentice Ashara, if you will please follow me.”
Khem, Andronikos, and Xalex settled into their quarters in the Imperial District while Nox and Lana ventured to the Alien Enclave.
“Here I think.” The pair entered an immaculately kept cylindrical stone building. Golden pendants hung descending from the ceiling. Blue and red crystals dangled several feet beneath the them providing a glowing prismatic atmosphere. A stone staircase spiraled around the room ascending high above them to a tower. The floor was adorned with two thick rugs, one red with tan geometric patterns, the other a leafy green with similar markings. There were no chairs, only a floor sitting table. Tea was set for two and piping hot, trickling a steamy trail upwards.
“Voss aren’t fond of beds, but these rugs are quite comfortable.” Nox said, setting down her bags.
“The architecture is almost as beautiful as the planet itself.” Lana traced the ornate carvings of the door frame. “Is this writing?”
“Yes, Voss inscribe architecture with the stories of their creators, their family histories. Voss families trace their ancestors back thousands of years and keep their origins at the forefront of their daily lives.”
“I can see how unwelcoming this planet might be to outsiders.” Lana said. “I suppose I can soak all this in later, what is our first stop?
“First we must have the tea that has been set for us. Tea is a custom that is strictly obeyed by all Voss. As I am Voss, I must adhere to this custom or risk offense. Come, sit with me.”
They sat cross-legged at the carved floor table sipping aromatic tea, slightly sweet and floral.
“The two men outside, are they guards?”
“Yes, all mystics have guards assigned to them. We’ll have guards wherever we stay on Voss.”
“We never can have privacy, can we?” Lana said winking.
“We can up there, Nox pointed to the tower above, and I plan to show you the amazing views later this evening.”
“If the view involves you naked, I can’t wait to take it all in.”
“I promise, it will.”
They finished their tea and ventured to the Tower of Prophecy. Nox explained The Three, and their governance to Lana, adding that Lana should remain quiet as an outsider. A guard showed them up the stairway to the chamber of The Three. Nen-ji spoke first.
“Voss from afar, you return to us. The prophecy spoke of this to us. You seek a map to something unknown to you, unknown to us.”
“Yes. I had a vision that the map is here on Voss, brought by an outsider many years ago.”
“Others came searching for this map. They came with threats and bribes. They attempted to persuade us through magic and brutality. We had nothing to offer them.”
“In my vision, the map remained hidden from view in the Shrine of Healing. It requires trials to be accessed, only by a Voss.” Nox said.
“There are three relics which must be joined. Together they form a tablet. Two can be acquired by non-Voss. One in the Boneyard in the Nightmare Lands, one is among the Gormak Lands in the King’s Hall. The last can only be accessed in the vision plane, within the Shrine of Healing.”
“May I grant my companions permission to seek the first two?”
“Yes, but you alone can enter the Shrine of Healing. Only Voss may enter the vision plane. This trial is will be most treacherous.”
Nox paused thinking. She turned to Lana. “This is my wife, as I am Voss, so is she. Can my wife not accompany me in the vision plane?”
Lana said nothing but struggled to maintain her composure.
Nen-ji consulted with the others. Then she spoke.
“You were not joined on Voss. Voss only recognize marriage that occurs on Voss, in the traditional manner. We will grant this request if you are joined here on Voss.”
Nox turned to face Lana. She blinked several times as if awakening from a trance.
“How soon can we be… joined?” she asked.
Nox gave her a wink and half smile.
“We can perform the ritual shortly. I will gather the vow scrolls and light the flame. You know the ritual?” Sonn-Vi inquired.
“I do” said Nox. “We will need to acquire the traditional wedding clothes and incense. We will return at once.”
Lana and Nox bowed and exited the chamber. They were barely ever to contain their laughter as they strode down the tower steps.
“How did you get us into this?!” Lana asked laughing. “If you want to get married, you need only ask, though it seems a bit premature. You didn’t have to contrive some elaborate scheme!” she teased.
“Trust me, this is not what I had in mind.” Nox said. “We can find another way.”
“So you don’t want to marry me? You’d prefer going into some treacherous nightmare vision state alone rather than enter into a brief marriage with me, one that is only recognized on a single planet to which we may never return? Is that what you’re saying?”
Even with Nox’s keen insight into the inner workings of others, she was utterly perplexed as to whether Lana was serious or joking. She finally spoke, “No, that’s not what I’m saying, not at all. I’d much rather have you with me.”
“Well then, we have a wedding to plan, quickly.” Lana laughed.
Chapter 9: Fighting Uncertainty
Ashara and Acina look for clues, Nox and Lana overcome uncertainty and tie the knot.
Back in the Imperial District flaming orange eyes gazed upon the Togruta apprentice. She wasn’t Nox but she was lovely all the same.
“So, she’s pushed me off again and sent you in her stead.” Acina said.
“My Lord, I trust Lord Thaval conveyed my Master’s message.”
“He did, yes. Let’s have a look at you. A former Jedi I hear?”
Ashara said nothing.
“Sore subject? Fine then, we’ll be off. We’ve tea houses to visit and inquiries to make. I hope you’ll be more talkative, else it will be a long day indeed.” Acina offered her arm, smiling slightly. “I won’t bite, yet.”
The first stop was brief, the teahouse of Hara-Ju. An outsider invited them to take tea with her. She was a stocky and battle-scarred human bounty hunter, seeking an Imperial fugitive.
“I’ve been here a week, sitting all day in these damn tea houses looking for leads. If there is any news of outsiders looking for anything trust me, I know about it. The guy you’re for he’s a short little man, kinda nerdy, an archaeologist?” Ashara nodded. “He was here a few days ago, just touched down briefly and went straight to Bas-Ton’s teahouse. That’s the place you might try. He seemed in a rush to get off planet. The house of Bas-Ton, well he’s dead, but his son married an outsider, an Imperial Agent. When outsiders visit, they sometimes leave messages with him, because of his connection I guess. Name’s Phi-Ton. His tea house is across the bridge in the Enclave.”
“Thank you for your help, and the tea. Here are some credits for your trouble. Good hunting” said Acina.
The two Sith rose and departed toward Bas-Ton’s teahouse. They strode past a gathering of Voss citizens conversing about a marriage ceremony.
“There must not be much to talk about if a wedding is the talk of the city. How long have you been here?” Ashara asked.
“Too long. Only a couple of days actually. I’ve no idea why the Council would send me here to research Voss technology considering there isn’t really any to speak of. Now, tell me more of your Master, is she involved with anyone romantically?”
“My Master is very private.” Ashara protested.
“My dear, I just want to know before I waste more of my efforts.”
“Very well, yes she is. She is quite in love I’m afraid, with a Sith Lord, Lord Beniko.”
Acina howled with laughter. “Lana Beniko? Well she does get around then.”
“I’m sorry?” Ashara said in a questioning tone, but immediately wished she had simply stated it instead.
“Lana and I were lovers, years ago. I can’t believe she would land a gorgeous Dark Council member. Well played.”
“Well she landed you, didn’t she?” Ashara said combatively, then added “My Lord.”
“Indeed she did. Well then, tell me more about you. Girlfriend, boyfriend?”
“No, neither. I mean no one serious. As you know I was training to be Jedi before joining Nox. As such, relationships, intimate ones were forbidden. I’ve only recently started exploring myself in that way.”
“All that time wasted. You are lovely, you should be having the time of your life, not meditating on chastity”
“You sound just like Nox.” Ashara said.
“Ah, so have you two-“
“No, definitely not. It’s not like that.”
“So, have you ever been with a woman?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, aren’t you curious?” Acina asked focusing her fiery eyes on Ashara.
“I am, maybe. I’m not sure.”
“I hope you’ll consider it. If you do, I am an eager teacher.”
"Thank you, my Lord" Ashara stammered awkwardly.
They crossed the doorway to the Ton teahouse. A violent scene was immediately upon them. A young Voss male was pressed against the wall, lightsaber held to his throat. Two guards stood watch, in golden armor armed with sabers. Acina ignited her saber flinging it toward them disarming both. Ashara leapt over them and brought her blade down on the robed male terrorizing the Voss. Her blade enter the top of his back right shoulder and slashed downward and in, breaking his shoulder and searing his lung. She stood over him resisting the driving urge to deliver a killing blow. She kicked his weapon to the side and planted her foot on his decimated shoulder. He cried out, a gurgling hiss of a sound. She turned to check on her companion. Acina was crouched on one knee, two golden helmets spun at her feet decapitated from their bodies and steaming charred flesh. Her saber flickered off.
"Well done, very acrobatic apprentice."
"Let's see what he can tell us before he dies." Acina towers over the injured male and jerked his helmet off to reveal a mostly cyborg human face. "Who sent you?" She demanded.
“I serve the Eternal Emperor. I am nothing. I will tell you nothing. You will die at his whim."
"Not today, today you die at my whim."
With that she held her saber loosely at her waist, pointed down at his forehead and ignited it. His suffering immediately ceased as the blade carved an instant path through his frontal lobe.
"No point prolonging the inevitable." She remarked.
Ashara was impressed by Acina's raw power and combat skill. Her style was brutal but restrained, lacking the pleasure derived of bloodlust and suffering she had come to expect from most Sith. Ashara looked to the Voss they had saved.
"Are you injured?"
"No, I am unharmed. I am Phi-Ton, son of Bas-Ton. I am grateful to you."
"We were told you spoke with our comrade Talos Drelik. We are seeking his message.
"Tell me who you are and I will provide a message if one has been left for you." The Voss said.
"I am Ashara, my Master is Darth Nox".
"Your comrade was here three days past. He left a holo-recorder. I give it to you now."
Phi-Ton plucked a small disk from a hidden chamber behind the bar keep.
"Those soldiers or whatever they were, what did they want from you?" Acina asked flatly.
"Outsiders, neither Republic nor Imperial, the golden men. They come each day since your comrade left. They seek a map, they threaten but their threats are meaningless to Voss. I know nothing of what they seek. The Three say those who seek already know. Those who know enter the Spirit World. Only a Mystic may seek in the Spirit World. Only Voss are Mystics."
"Well that clears everything up." Acina said sarcastically.
"Thank you, Phi-Ton. I hope no further harm comes to you." Ashara said.
"Your comrade spoke of Taris, he asked that all who sought him be directed to Taris. All but you and your Master, to you I give what he left behind".
Acina stared down at the dead and the steaming pots of tea. "I cannot bear more tea, especially among this carnage. Let's head to the cantina early and have a real drink. We should contact Nox at once."
Nox and Lana debated their wedding clothes options: formal tunics or dresses.
"I'm definitely going for the tunic" Lana said.
Nox looked at her puzzled. "I can't believe you are so flippant about this scenario, it seems very uncharacteristic of you."
"Does it really? It seems the most sensible option given our choices." Lana said.
"Now I'm confused, are you speaking of the attire or our wedding?"
"Both I suppose" Lana said stripping off her robe and donning the tunic over her pants. Then she paused noting Nox's pained expression. "Look, I can see you are experiencing a moral quandary about this. This-" she gestured toward the wedding clothes and the vow scrolls, "is not a true wedding, I won't hold you to any commitment we make here. If we choose to marry one day, I want it to be everything you desire, and because we love each other, deeply. This is what needs to happen to expedite our mission, and to ensure our success and most importantly your safety." She bent down to where Nox was seated and took her hand, kissing it.
"But a part of me is Voss. For me there is a spiritual connection to all of this, because of the path I walked here. When we take these vows, whether it's serious to you or not, I worry that this connection may be more than you anticipate for me. And that connection may be transferred to you through the wedding ritual." Nox explained.
"I embrace deepening our connection, in every way. I appreciate your full disclosure, and I give you my consent freely. How else can I reassure you my love?" Lana spoke softly caressing Nox's hair and kissed her.
"Well I might go for the dress." Nox said lightening the mood.
"I think you should." Lana smiled.
Nox pulled the dress on, a sleeveless white and gray clinging gown with long gloves.
“Lana help me with the corset?”
Lana buttoned the dress laying kisses on her shoulders and neck.
“Mmm”, Nox whispered. “I need you.”
“I know, I neglected you last night.” Lana said breathing in her ear.
“There’s not enough time” Nox replied weakly.
“Then I must be very efficient” Lana said, pushing Nox up and on to the dressing table and pulling her dress up above her waist. She stepped between Nox’s legs and kneeled before her biting and kissing her thighs before quickly moving to her clit, darting her tongue side to side. Nox’s breath heaved at the feverish pace of her touch and struggled to hold herself back from touching Lana’s already fixed hair. Instead she held tightly to the sides of the table. Lana stood up between her legs and continued fucking her with her fingers, working her clit with her thumb. She kissed Nox as Nox held her close by the back of her neck. Nox’s breath turned into small cries of pleasure. She came in pulses around Lana’s fingers.
The holocom chirped, and they struggled to pull themselves back together.
"Go ahead" Nox said.
"Master, we retrieved a message left by Talos. He left it with a Voss teahouse keeper. You'll want to see it in person I think, but he is safe and no longer on the planet. Though he is being pursued by others."
"These guys in golden armor, they said something about the Eternal Emperor, and they fought with light sabers. Not as skilled as true Sith or Jedi." Ashara said.
Acina held aloft one of the fallen warrior’s helmets through the hologram transmission.
"Lana, have you ever seen this armor before?" She inquired.
"Yes, on Korriban during the recent incursion. They referred to themselves in the same manner. But this Eternal Emperor, Eternal Empire, I don't know what it means. I mean to say that Intelligence has heard chatter but nothing concrete."
"Master is that a wedding dress?" Ashara asked perplexedly.
"Yes. It's complicated."
Acina smirked "So we're out here shedding blood while you two play dress-up? Or is this the Voss version of kinky role play?"
"As she said, it’s complicated". Lana hissed.
"Well, what happens on Voss stays on Voss. That's what I keep trying to tell your apprentice." Acina said giving Ashara a seductive smile.
Nox sidestepped the topic. "We'll return to you soon. Please advise Andronikos that they can cease their inquiries."
Nox and Lana stood in a quaint room. Three carved stone idols stood between them and The Three. The only light in the room was the ceremonial flame. Clouds of woody and slightly sweet incense encircled them.
Nox began, “I came to Voss with no family and stayed to become a daughter of The Three. You, who have no family come to join the family of Nen-Ji, Sonn-Vi, and Gunta-Mer, who made Voss Mazu Rigveda, known to you as Darth Nox under the prophecy of Ten Thousand Seeds. You come to bind yourself to a daughter of Voss. We are children. Will you become Voss with me?”
“I will become Voss with you, a child no longer.”
Will you embrace the traditions of our people? Will you walk with the Vos to our destiny?”
Lana looked intensely into Nox’s eyes. “I will walk the ten thousand-year path, as long as you are beside me. Nox, will you pledge your dreams to me? Pour your life into my cupped hands, as I will for you?”
“I would have no other” Nox said, her eyes filling with tears.
“Then we walk before the flame”.
Nox and Lana bowed to each other and approached the flame. They performed the traditional hand passes over the flame which crackled and brightened. They knelt before the flame and rose. The flame reddened setting Lana’s eyes ablaze.
“Soo long as prophecy allows, we are one. Only the word of a Mystic will break our bond.”
Nen-ji spoke. “You are Voss now. You walk freely on this planet, a daughter of The Three. You are an outsider no more.”
Lana bowed to The Three and turned to Nox who moved in to kiss her.
Chapter 10: Ladies' Night Part 1
The ladies bond in the cantina. Things heat up between Ashara and Acina.
"This Cantina is so dull, how is it a bar survives with one drink option?" Acina complained, ordering another round of Correllian cocktails.
"You're different for a Sith. I find myself saying that quite often lately, perhaps I'm narrow-minded from my time with the Jedi."
"Perhaps you've been fortunate to land among unusual Sith. You're certainly an unusual Jedi". Acina retorted. "Have you any contact with your family?"
"No, my family rejected my choice to follow Nox. I'm neither Sith nor Jedi. My path is my own now. What about you, your family?"
"I have none. Both of my parents were killed when I was a girl. My father was a politician, a cold and calculating man. My mother was a Sith warrior. She was killed on Taris, slaughtered like many others. I began my training at age nine. I had no other family. The betterment of the Empire became my sole purpose. The in-fighting of Sith, the fractured nature of the Empire, I hope to unify the Empire, create a more honorable structure. The unquenchable lust for power and total domination that drives many Sith is a bastardization of our Code. We are our own worst enemy and the Emperor demonstrates this. So that is me, my path. You speak of your own path, what is your destination?"
"Much simpler than yours. I want to help those who need it. I abhor cruelty for cruelty's sake. To be a light in the darkness. When I walked in the light, I felt my own darkness, and it filled me with fear and doubt. But in the dark my light is amplified. For this reason I am more useful lighting a dark path."
"That is wise, wisdom beyond your years. I think your path sound much more complex than simple actually. It is a higher purpose, a selfless one."
Ashara enjoyed the philosophical conversation Acina provided. Much richer and more stimulating than her usual companions.
"I have a text you might enjoy, it speaks of the grey path, a middle path of the force. Followers of Revan attempted to walk this path before being corrupted by their own desire to overtake the light and dark. Before that though, Jedi and Sith alike rejected the polarities seeking a gray path. The Middle Code as it's referred to, have you heard of this?"
"No, I would much enjoy learning about this." Ashara said swirling the remnants of her cocktail.
"Come by my room later if you wish, you may borrow it. But be mindful it is considered heresy among Sith. I also have exceedingly better drink options than this wretched establishment."
"That sounds enticing". Ashara said, nearly flirting.
Ashara's holocom chirped. It was Andronikos and Xalek. "Hey ladies, we're in a bit of a bind. Gormaks, lots of them engaging on the east end of the District. We're holding them down but there's no way in or out until Voss reinforcements arrive this evening. You guys should hunker down where you are, maybe lodge in the cantina lets tonight."
Acina chimed in, "I have lodging nearby, Ashara can stay with me for the evening."
"Let Nox know we'll have to forgo meeting tonight. Thankfully you ladies found what we were looking for anyway."
"Just meet us here in the morning, be careful." Ashara said, but Andronikos could barely respond between explosions and blaster fire.
"Yeah, got it if we're still alive". The holocom flashed off, Ashara bore a worried expression.
"If you think they need our assistance we can go to them" Acina offered.
"No, they are more than capable and Nox needs to see this message" Ashara reasoned.
Lana and Nox entered the cantina. Nox had changed into traditional Voss Mystic robes and Lana had decided to continue donning the wedding tunic. Acina eyed them both up and down.
"Lana Beniko, it's been ages. You look well, and very...Voss."
"Thank you, you've done well yourself, Dark Councilor"
"As have you" Acina said raising an eyebrow at Nox. "Nox, your apprentice is as enchanting as you are. You keep excellent company".
"Thank you for your help today. Let's see this message from Talos."
Lana ordered a round of drinks and dinner for all as Ashara started the holomessage.
"My Lord, If you receive this I apologize for sending you on such a chase. I came here seeking a map to an artifact, a weapon I was told. I've since learned this weapon is a starship, thousands of years old. A legendary ship called The Gravestone. The map is here on Voss, but I quickly learned that outsiders cannot assemble what is necessary to retrieve it. But given your status as Mystic, you can. No doubt you know by now I am being pursued by a group unknown to me, also seeking this map. I'm leading them to Taris to act as a distraction, planting a few hints to leave a trail for them. I hope that will provide you with more time. If the legends are true, this ship is no mere artifact, it is a devastating weapon of unknown origin. I will leave Taris in three days if I'm able to evade capture. I will then journey to your stronghold on Yavin IV and await instruction from you."
"What is our next step?" Acina asked.
Nox downed a drink and explained the necessary procurement of three relics to attain the map. You and Ashara will venture to the Nightmare Lands, Andronikos and the others will seek the relic in the Gormak lands. The last can only be found in the Spirit World, accessible by only Voss."
"Naturally you'll retrieve that one, Mystic. So Lana can join the ladies only party?" Acina said.
"No, she can accompany me."
"I thought-" Acina started, but Ashara cut her off, grabbing her arm in revelation.
"I get it! The wedding dress, oh my stars you guys got married. And now she can go with you!" Ashara squealed and hugged the two Voss/Sith. "Am I right? Congratulations!"
Lana blushed at her glee, "you are right, thank you Ashara but it was...it was unplanned."
"Well I think it's great!" Ashara said beaming. I'm so happy for you."
Acina couldn't hide her shock.
"Well played Lana, truly a lovely couple."
"Thank you both" Nox said eager to change the conversation. "Where are Andro, Khem and Xalek anyway?"
Ashara explained their predicament.
"No matter, it's too late to start out tonight, we will venture our separate ways in the morning."
"Well let's celebrate, to Mrs. and Mrs. Rigveda-Beniko" Ashara raised a drink.
"I should clarify that this marriage was for the sake of our mission, and is only recognized on Voss." Nox admitted.
Ashara said swooning "Whatever, you guys are totally in love". They all laughed.
"How much have you had to drink?, I need you fully sober in the morning. Acina, please take care of her and ensure she's recovered, if you can handle her."
"I can definitely handle her".
As they all ate, drank, and chatted Lana leaned in to kiss Nox on the cheek. She studied her bride feeling a warmth in her chest. It was freeing to display such open affection. Acina shared several humorous and slightly embarrassing stories about Lana.
"You know she despises pets? When we were stationed on Makeb she returned to her tent and laid down to find a tiny Subteroth in place of her pillow. I'm not sure which of them screamed louder. She shredded the poor creature and the tent with it. Then she fumed for hours searching for any others. I don't think she slept for a week. After that it became a prank, our unit picking up stray creatures and hiding them in her tent." Acina cackled.
"It's true, every word I'm afraid" Lana said winking at Acina. "I have to admit it is good to see you again."
"Well ladies, I'm sure you've better things to do on your wedding night than hang out with us." Acina offered.
"You have a let nearby?" Lana inquired.
"We're set, maybe one more drink then we're off."
Nox and Lana bid farewells.
"What an interesting couple. Nox softens Lana, something I could never do. I excel in flings, but fail in the long run. Do you find me too intense?" Acina inquired.
"I hardly know you, but no not so far. You come on strong. That's not a bad thing to me. You really shouldn't ask my opinion, I've never had a relationship, or even had sex with the same person twice."
"Well aren't we a sad pair."
Ashara leaned on her clenched fist under her chin "This tired bar is making it worse."
"Say no more lovely, let me show you to our quarters."
"I must have a quick shower, please make yourself at home. Explore whatever you desire. There a kettle if you fancy tea before bed or some spirits. I'll lay a robe out as well. I assume you wish to refresh too, so I'll make haste."
Ashara took in her surroundings. A pile of books on a floor table, a large plush burgundy rug for sleeping, several datacrons glowing green and violet, and a simple meditation area adorned with fragrant leaves and flowers. Ashara turned on the kettle and poured two glass cups of tea. She located the book Acina spoke of and sat cross-legged on the floor to read. She could hear Acina humming in the shower. It was an unfamiliar tune, soothing almost hypnotic. She rose to her feet and eased closer to the refresher to get a better listen. The door was cracked. She peered in to glance Acina's naked body streaming with water through the glass shower door. She was beautiful, petite and slightly built, very different than she appeared in her armor. She had full breasts though and a perfectly round ass. Her skin was like porcelain a stark contrast to her blazing eyes. Acina felt her presence and called to her.
"You need not lurk in the doorway, come in, I'm getting out and you can step right in."
Ashara entered shyly, avoiding eye contact.
Acina stepped halfway from the shower her body steaming. Ashara quickly stripped and attempted to sidestep her, but Acina slightly pressed her dripping and hot body against her as she exchanged places with her, allowing her entry to the shower. Her lips nearly met Ashara's.
"Careful, it’s quite hot." She whispered.
An unexpected flood of lust rose in Ashara, but Acina was gone from the room in a flash.
Acina dropped her towel and undid her tight bun. Mahogany strands bounced over her shoulders. She dabbed fragrant oil in her palm and massaged it through her scalp and hair. It was a warm night and she would have preferred to bed down in the nude, but she didn't want to make her guest uncomfortable, so she donned a short sheer red robe and sashed the front. Having only a front sash at the waist, her chest was rather revealed. She admired herself while brushing her hair in the mirror and contemplated putting on a bra. "Fuck it" she thought, "I look good." She sat down for a few moments of meditation.
Ashara dried off and sipped her tea. She put on the soft robe Acina had laid out for her. She stood in the doorway and watched Acina meditating. She was so beautiful with her hair down. It was much longer than Ashara expected, and wavy. In meditation Acina exuded intensity rather than peace. She studied her sharp features and her legs, almost fully visible to her butt as she sat cross-legged on the floor.
I'm being a bad host." Acina said without opening her eyes. "This is how I end each day though."
"May I join you?" Ashara asked.
Acina nodded and Ashara sat down beside her settling into a meditative pose. She closed her eyes and reached out into the force for peace and tranquility. But something else reached back. Emotion: tears and joy, anger and victory, power and hopelessness, winds of peace and turmoil, the coming and going of all things, death and birth, passion and pain, the middle path. Not a straight line avoiding the extremes but a snaking path embracing them all.
"It's so much, how do you bear it?"
"How do you deny yourself all of it?" Acina replied opening her eyes and quickly standing. She hung her light saber on a hook and extinguished the torching sconces in the room except for one. She laid down on the large rug looking up to the ceiling.
"Lie with me."
Ashara joined her. She turned to her side to face Acina. Acina's eyes glowed fiery orange, like living flames. But she did not return Ashara's gaze staying fixed on the ceiling, then closing them. Ashara lowered her gaze to Acina's neck and chest. Her right breast mostly exposed by the plunging neckline of her robe.
"I usually sleep naked." Acina said without opening her eyes.
"Are you in my mind?" Ashara asked.
"Not exactly, but I can sense you exploring me. I only dressed to put you at ease, now I am thinking this modesty was unnecessary."
Ashara reached out and slowly undid the sash holding Acina's robe together. The sheer fabric fell to her sides exposing her slim, feminine figure. She studied her more, the landscape of her body, the curve of her hips and breasts, the slight dip between her rib cage. A different kind of power and beauty than the male physique. Ashara touched her stomach with the tips of her fingers, soft and smooth skin. Acina was motionless. Ashara traced a line from her navel to her right breast and caressed the outline of it. She gripped it slightly pressing fingers into the silken skin, taut yet soft. Acina's nipple responded hardening to a point. Ashara grasped it gently between her thumb and index finger, feeling its rippled texture. Acina took a breath in and released it in an audible exhale. Ashara's longing swelled and traveled from her mind to the meeting of her thighs.
"Will you show me?" Ashara whispered.
"Let your instincts guide you, and the response of my body." Acina replied.
Ashara kissed her nipples biting and sucking on them, savoring their responses as they hardened and reddened with her touch. Acina' back arched and she began to touch her own body, slowly stroking her clit as Ashara attended her breasts. Ashara held a lock of Acina's hair and smelled its rich perfumed scent. She buried her face in it and nuzzled her neck. Everything about her body was lovely, soft and fragrant. She kissed her neck and straddled her, holding both of her breasts in her hands. She pressed her lower half against her, felt their wetness mingle, a shared lake of velvety desire. She kissed smooth, full lips absent the scratchy stubble as she was accustomed to. Even her mouth and tongue felt different. Their kisses were intense but steady and knowing. Ashara sat up on her lover and began rocking against her. They connected in a slick swelled throbbing. Ashara moved downward tonguing her stomach and then tasted her wetness, a lightly salty confection. She slowly kissed her clit and explored her entrance with her tongue. Acina moaned a gasping series of breaths in and out, pushing against Ashara's mouth. Ashara continued to gently flick her clit with and up and down motion grasping her thighs and caressing her legs. Acina locked her legs behind Ashara's head, and Ashara responded by probing her tongue deep inside her. Her silken walls throbbed. Ashara pressed her tongue flat against Acina's clit, applying heavy pressure while lightly sucking. Acina fell over the edge of orgasm and panted and called out loudly with animal like intensity.
In a fluid movement Acina rose up and flipped Ashara on her back, still panting. She untied Ashara’s robe and beheld her young lover's colorful body. She inserted two ingenious fingers inside her curling them upward and massaging the sensitive spot just inside her. Ashara breathed her approval. Acina pushed herself against her still probing fingers lifting one of Ashara's legs over her shoulder further joining their bodies, she rode her while continuing to fuck her with her hand between them. With her free hand she traced the outline of Ashara's hip and breasts. Ashara reached down to feel the sensation of their shared wetness. Ashara stroked Acina's clit as Acina thrust against her and inside her. Ashara came silently sooner than she wanted to, gripping the rug beneath them with one hand. But Acina just continued riding her. Acina reached up to grip Ashara's Lekku, her fingers still dripping with their slick wetness. She held the end tightly stroking it. The sensation sent Ashara to climax again, this time she cried out. Acina then repositioned herself, blowing cool air on Ashara's pulsing groin.
Ashara began to laugh. "Oh, you are so good to me" she said seductively.
Acina began to slowly work her clit while still blowing cool breaths on her. "That feels wonderful" she said.
She increased the speed and pressure of her tongue and Ashara's breaths became shallow and fast. She held tightly to Ashara's ass while burying her face against her and Ashara exploded again in waves. She rolled onto her stomach giggling and pounding the floor. Acina laid beside her on her side draping a leg over her butt and laughed with her.
Chapter 11: Ladies Night Part 2
Nox and Lana consummate their marriage, new details emerge about Acina and Lana's previous involvement, a plan is hatched.
Lana and Nox walked arm in arm down the path back toward their quarters. Distant fighting could be heard, coming now in spurts rather than the onslaught heard earlier. Nox reached out in the force searching for the presence of her crew.
"Should we go help?" Lana asked
"No they're fine."
"Thank heavens, I'm slightly drunk and it is our wedding night. Still we've not had a good fight today, I feel deprived." Lana teased nudging Nox with her shoulder.
Nox leapt back and ignited her saber glowing deep orange. She spun it effortlessly.
"Need a sparring session?"
"Why not?" Lana said igniting her saber.
This was another perk of drunk Lana, her usual worries and reason fell to the wayside.
Lana lunged first, with clearly no intention of striking Nox. Their sabers met humming and crackling. Nox performed a defensive disarming move but Lana was too quick and somersaulted away landing on her feet. They dueled playfully crashing blades and parrying blows. Then Lana struck forcefully from overhead, Nox met her blade with her own held slightly sideways and inches from both of their faces, electricity popped and hissed from their sabers continued contact and neither would relent. Both used a disarming throw at the same moment and they shot apart landing on the ground several feet away. Nox was on her feet and reached down to help Lana up, but Lana grabbed her arm and tossed her to the ground, mounting her and igniting her saber.
"Well now you have to kill me." Nox said.
"Never let your guard down, love" said Lana panting and clicking off her saber. She helped Nox to her feet. Nox held her chin and the back of her neck and kissed her wildly. Lana returned the kiss, running eager fingers through her hair. They staggered through the entry of their lodging ignoring the guards at the doorway. Lana peeled off her tunic and Nox undid her dress robe dropping it to the floor. They continued to kiss as Nox eased Lana up the spiraling stairway toward the balcony. Lana tripped near the top, falling backwards, but Nox caught her hand pulling Lana on top of her on the stone floor of the landing. Nox slid her hand down Lana's pants touching her hot desire. Lana undid her pants to ease her access and grinded against Nox's hand.
"Is this what Voss do on their wedding night?" She asked breathlessly.
"The rite of Ardor" Nox replied biting Lana's neck and trailing her tongue along the length of it. "It's the awakening of passion between husband and wife, or in our case wife and wife. Before that, Voss know no passion or lust" she continued, grasping Lana's breast with her free hand. She moved toward her, hand still down her pants.
"In that case, we are definitely not Voss" Lana panted.
"Stand up, I want to show you something."
Lana got to her feet clinging to Nox's hand to ensure she didn't stop touching her as she rose. Nox led Lana backwards onto the balcony, all the while kissing her and stroking her clit. The night was bright, a massive golden moon taking up an enormous expanse of the sky above them. Nox laid her down on a large round cloth setee. Lana writhed underneath her on Nox's busy fingers. She started to return the favor in a similar manner. Nox grabbed Lana's hand away and restrained it behind her head.
Lana reached up to touch Nox's cheek. "Not like this, be with me, not in control. Be entirely with me."
Nox stood up and removed her boots, peeling off her underclothes as Lana looked up at her. Her green skin bore a golden tone basked in the moonlight. Nox freed Lana of her boots and pants. Lana's pale body glowed beneath her. Nox lowered herself onto her, naked skin on naked skin. It occurred to both of them that this was the first time in their history of hurried stolen moments that they had been fully naked with each other; and they relished the exploration of each other's bodies. Nox traced a deep scar on Lana's calf.
"A Nexu" she explained.
Lana placed her palm in the dip between Nox's rib cage and left hipbone, it bore a dark mark with a meandering scar radiating from it like lightening across the sky.
"A memento from Darth Lachris" Nox said.
Lana kissed the scar and traveled the path of it with her middle and index finger. Nox began to slowly writhe against her, and Lana turned her onto her back, trailing kisses downward. She placed her lips on Nox while entering her with two, then three fingers. Nox urged her on, lifting her hips and arching her back. Lana spun around above her, bringing herself into Nox's grip. Nox gripped her ass, and lowered her to her longing mouth. They pleasured each other, both panting and writhing. Nox knew she couldn't hold back any longer, but just as she climaxed Lana cried out and shuddered against her lips.
"We are so good together" Nox said.
"Yes, we are." Said Lana snuggling up to her.
She looked into Nox's eyes. "I'm so sorry that your first time with a woman was so cruel and horrible. I would like very much to kill Lachris, if ever give the opportunity. It's a wonder you ever felt comfortable with women again after that."
"For so long, I thought that's what passion was to the Sith, taking for one's pleasure whatever one desired. I didn't know romantic love could exist between Sith, but now I do, thanks to you." Nox said.
"I want to apologize for making light of our actions earlier today. It was more to dismiss my own fears than to devalue the bond we were making. I love you, truly, madly. Marrying you here, though it may not hold meaning off of this planet to anyone else, it means everything to me".
Nox smiled at her. "I love you Lana. I want you with me. Would you live with me, move in with me on Dromond Kaas?"
Nox's personal holocom chirped from below.
"Damn, we can never have any privacy." Nox said.
"It's fine. It's still early, go ahead. I'll make us some tea."
Nox throw a blanket around her, stumbled down the stairs and answered the call from Marr. Lana stood up on the balcony, naked and looking out over the district. Acina stood in the middle of the street glancing up at her and gave a "come here motion." Lana sighed and grabbed her tunic and pants. She strode down the stairs barefoot, passing Nox as she exited. "Acina, she's outside calling to me." She whispered. Nox nodded.
"These com channels may be unsafe."
"I see", said Marr. "Then we must focus".
Nox reached out to him through their mind connection, sharing silently their progress and plans to retrieve the relics.
"Very well, you have everything under control. If you need my company you need only reach out to me." He communed back. He inquired of her safety entering the Spirit World alone to retrieve the relic. She shared with him her wedding and how Lana would accompany her.
"Ingenious" he said aloud. "Well then, congratulations. I sensed this was inevitable, given your connection."
"Thank you." Nox said. Communing back into silence she shared with him the gold armored warriors who referred to the Eternal Empire.
"I will look into this matter" he said.
"Goodnight father". Nox said.
"Goodnight child, give Mrs. Beniko my best."
Outside Lana strode toward Acina.
"Some show you two put on up there. Enjoying your wedded bliss?"
"Thoroughly". Lana said. "What have you been up to, though I'm sure I know."
"Yes, love abounds, it seems."
"Be careful with her, she's very young you know."
"I have the best intentions, and no desire to trap her if that's what you mean. Looks like you've entirely trapped my fellow Councilor though."
"Surely you didn't call me down here to quip with me about our love lives."
"No, I want to apologize to you for the way things ended between us, or rather the way things were between us. I don't think you ever wanted to be with me, really. Though I made you desire me, I could never make you love me, and by the end you hated me, for good reason. I detest what I did to you Lana."
"Well that makes two of us. Look, I don't blame you for using your persuasion to charm me initially, that's was quite flattering really. But you bound me with what was supposed to be a gift and you hid that from me, even when it was clearly driving me insane. I don't think I can ever forgive you for that."
"I understand. I just want you to know I'm a different person now. I'll never do that to another person, I swear it. You're an exemplary woman Lana, Nox is lucky to have won your heart. You know I tried to flirt with her on Kaas and she wouldn't give me so much as a glance. Of course that was before I knew about you two."
Lana smiled and shook her head, "it's amazing you're obnoxious even when you're trying to apologize."
"So tell me, how is she, in bed?"
Lana punched Acina in the arm.
"Absolutely not! I'm not discussing that with you! Is there anything else, or is that the only thing on your mind?"
"Alright, calm down. There is something else. This map we're looking for to possess some weapon of incredible power, do you think it wise to turn over to the Empire given the state of things?
“Go on.” Lana said.
“There's such uncertainty and treachery, and lingering loyalty to the Emperor. How can we turn over such power, and to whom? Do you not worry it will fall into the wrong hands?"
Lana sighed, and paused at length. "Yes, we do. Nox shares your hesitation. She believes it should be destroyed once we have it."
"I agree. It's not the time to possess such a weapon, but given that other forces are seeking it, eliminating the ability to locate it is a wise choice. I could help it appear as an accident."
"What do you have in mind?"
Once the map is complete, I could lure some of those golden fools to your location and we could engage them, leading to its accidental destruction. They are decent fighters, but no match for three Sith Lords."
"Well it's better than anything we've come up with. I'll discuss it with Nox."
"Very well. I'll take your leave."
"Thank you Acina, for your apology and for your help."
"Of course" she said, grasping Lana's hand for a moment, and closing a necklace in her grasp. "I want you to have this, do with it what you will."
Nox stood in the entryway watching the odd exchange between her them.
"What was that?" She asked
"An apology, and peace offering." Lana said dangling the necklace I front of her.
"So she's bribing you with jewelry now?"
"This is how she possessed me and kept me enslaved to her. She gave it to me when we started seeing each other. Unknown to me, it was imbibed with a powerful ritual that bound me to her. Very earl on I knew things weren’t working between us. It got to the point that I hated her, but couldn't leave her. I thought I was going mad. In a battle on Belsavis it was struck from my neck and I felt the immediate release of her control. She was there fighting beside me when it happened and I knew at once what it really was. I nearly killed her. We never spoke again until yesterday."
"That is madness. I'm so sorry, I had no idea when I threw my support behind her."
"No, it's fine. She's different now, I can see that. She is sincere in her apology, though I can't forgive her just yet. On another matter she expressed the same fears you had about handing the map over to the Empire. She also believes it should be destroyed and she offered to help us make it appear an accident.”
“What did she have in mind?”
“Luring some of those Eternal Empire fighters to us and making appear as an ambush resulting in the map’s destruction.”
“Well it isn’t a bad plan, but we remain unsure who they serve. I don’t want us to get into a situation where we are facing formidable forces.”
“I agree, but Acina’s force persuasion is very powerful, she could grasp the mind of one or two and lead them into an untimely death, stage the scene if you will.”
“I see, so we’d simply be corrupting their minds to drag them into their execution.”
“Precisely, though that does sound horrible.”
“It is, I like it.” Nox said smiling wickedly. “Change of plan then, we’ll send her off on her own to seek out a couple of vulnerable parties and Andronikos may join Ashara in the Boneyard in search of the relic. Now, as I recall we were in the middle of something.”
“Yes we were.” Said Lana pushing Nox against the wall and gripping her between her legs. As I said, it’s still early, and now I have some pent up aggression to work out.”
“Well don’t hold back” said Nox sliding her hands up Lana’s tunic and grasping her breasts. “Give me all you’ve got.”
Chapter 12: Seeking Relics and Revelations Part 1
Entanglements are revealed as Ashara, Andronikos, and Acina travel the Nightmare Lands. Nox's past and Lana's fears are explored in the Shrine of Healing.
Nox laid on the floor, Lana collapsed beside her naked one arm draped over her chest, and one leg interlocking hers. They were drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.
“It’s like I’m possessed, I can’t get enough of you.” Lana said. “Is it possible the Rite of Ardor would affect us this way?”
“I think so, most Voss spend the first three days after marriage attending to only their awakened passion. Given that our passion was already awakened, maybe our experience is heightened.”
“How are we going to focus on our mission when I can’t keep my hands off of you?”
“I suppose we will need to steal away every few hours.” Nox said kissing her cheek.
"We have to try and sleep. Do you have any sedative packs?"
Nox rose to her feet and retrieved two innoculators, handing one to Lana. They curled into each other, arms and legs intertwined and slept.
With the morning suns, came the arrival of Andronikos, Khem, and Xalek. The latter seemed fresh and exhilarated from the previous night’s battle, but Andro was exhausted and nursing an injured left arm. Nox attended to healing him as they awaited the arrival of Acina and Ashara.
"Something is different about you. You seem more relaxed than usual. What gives?"
"Lingering effects of the sed pack."
"Nope, you been getting it on."
"Guilty" Nox laughed.
"I'm glad you're happy. Now heal me up, will ya?"
"Acina has business to attend to, but I'd like to send her with you and Ashara, just until you know what you're up against. The Boneyard is well guarded, and you won't be as quick as usual until you've had time to rest and heal. Unfortunately, we don't have that kind of time. She'll join you for the first day at least."
"Fine by me. I don't want Ashara getting hurt on my account."
"Be warned, she can be quite persuasive, and sarcastic."
"My kind of woman."
Nox pulled off Andronikos' shirt and laid her hands on his left shoulder. She entered a trance and cool waves passed between her fingers into his skin and muscle tissue. He groaned a sigh of pleasant relief. Lana looked on from the cantina table. A crimson flash of jealousy rushed over her cheeks and chest. She abhorred Nox touching him so intimately, but knew it was necessary. "What the hell is wrong with me?" She whispered to herself.
"You're in love, with all of its passion and fear and anger and intensity. It makes you stronger yet vulnerable." Acina said wrapping an arm over her shoulder.
Nox concluded her healing and ran her palm over Andronikos' shoulder gently. "Better?"
"Much better, not perfect but much improved, thanks."
Nox issued orders to the team. Acina appeared outwardly pleased to join Ashara for the first leg of their journey and gave her a wink and half-smile.
"We will crush the Gormak, Master. Xalek said wrapping his claws into a fist.
"Many dead already, I crave the flesh of many more. We will feast on them." Said Khem.
Andronikos rolled his eyes, relieved to be away from the two killing machines for a couple of days.
"When you have the relics meet Lana and I at the Shrine of Healing. You cannot enter without me. Two days’ time will hopefully be enough. If not, I will contact you by holo once we exit the Spirit World. We will be unable to communicate with you while in the Dream state. If you meet serious threat, contact Darth Marr. He can send aid. I have full confidence in each of you.
The makeshift teams set off.
"Team AAA let's roll" said Andronikos rather gleefully. The three took a shuttle to Ghen's Overlook, the Imperial Post in the Nightmare Lands. Andronikos inquired a Voss merchant about renting a speeder.
"No speeders here, the path through the Nightmare Lands is treacherous, you will be pursued by Gormak and creatures at every turn. There is no set path to the Boneyard. The only way is by foot. A half day journey, and you will meet fierce opposition. Voss do not venture there. I will provide coordinates."
"Nightmare Lands, Boneyard, I think we drew the short straw." Andronikos complained.
"You seem rugged enough, not up to the challenge?" Acina asked.
"I'm up for it doll, just didn't exactly have a peaceful rest like you two. I was up all night fighting off Gormak with skinny, barely trained Voss."
"Who said we had a peaceful rest? As I recall we were up quite late ourselves." Acina said.
Ashara's eyes widened. "We had a lot to discuss. I'm glad you're ok. Were there heavy losses?"
"Not too bad for the Voss, but the Gormak lost maybe 30 or so."
Acina studied Ashara's face. "I'll take the path lead, I sense you two have some catching up to do." She sprinted 50 meters ahead and set a brisk pace. Andronikos groaned and limped along beside Ashara.
"I'm not sure what to make of her. What's she like?"
"She's very strong in the force, dark but not cruel. She's witty and wise, she's also Lana's ex-girlfriend."
"What?! Really, you don't say. Well that's surprising. I thought she was angling for Nox."
"She might have been at first. But, that's definitely off the table. Wait, did Nox tell you about her and Lana?"
"That they're all in love, yeah we talked about that like a week ago sweetheart."
"No, that's not what I meant. She and Lana... got married yesterday."
Andronikos stopped dead in his tracks.
"I'm not. It was unplanned but became a necessity for Lana to enter the Spirit World with her. only Voss can enter the realm of Spirit. Master is considered Voss because she successfully completed the Mystic trials. There was no time for Lana to embark on the trials, so they wed to make her Voss. That was the intention at least." She paused. "Though I sense the union has bonded them intimately and sincerely."
"And here I thought she was against getting married. Guess she just didn't want to marry me."
"I'm sorry Andronikos." Ashara said placing her hand on his shoulder.
"It's ok. I just thought I was over her, but hearing this, it kinda burns me up."
Ashara stifled her own guilt and worry. What would he think if he knew she had been making love with Acina all night. Should she tell him? Acina would likely reveal it over the next couple of days. Would he even care? What was she thinking? And did it even mean anything to her, to Acina? These questions swirled in her head.
"Don't look so serious, I'm a big boy. I'll get over it. Honestly this will probably make it easier to move on for good." He smiled.
"Yeah, sure." She stammered.
Ahead on the path Acina's saber blazed as she disemboweled two Chrysfang.
"No need of assistance, you two just continue your idle chatter". She called out to them.
Four more Chrysfang lurched toward her from a tangle of golden thorn bushes. Andronikos drew his blaster groaning from the stiffness of his shoulder. Still he took one down with two shots.
Ashara drew a stimpak from her bag and tossed it to him "I'll go ahead with her for a bit, you keep up the rear and pick off the stragglers. This place is teeming with wildlife." She jogged over to join Acina.
"He's a good shot and a quick draw. Pirate or soldier?"
"Both" said Ashara.
"Is he your boyfriend?"
"No, well no but it's complicated."
A towering Vorantikus plowed toward them roaring. Ashara leapt upon its back and sliced into its neck, carving a deep gash and throwing her body weight down and around it before again resting atop its shoulders. Its head thudded to the ground as she simply stepped forward from its falling corpse walking in stride.
"Now that's how it's done!" She said jovially.
Ashara bowed giggling. "Thanks, I learned from the best."
Another group of Chrysfang approached. Andronikos killed two easily from a distance.
"Tell me about your complication with the pirate" Acina said electrocuting a third Chrysfang.
"He was involved with Nox, fell for her pretty hard." She threw her saber clean through the center of a fourth beast's head and coaxed the hilt back whirring into her hand. "When it ended between them we revealed our mutual attraction. But he isn't over her yet really, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be in a relationship. I've never been in a real committed relationship, or any relationship for that matter."
"I see. Have you slept with him?" Acina asked. She force-choked a Chrysfang dangling it in the air inches from her face.
"It's vital to test the merchandise before you commit." She twisted her wrist snapping the creature's neck. She looked at Ashara with amber eyes burning, "not that I'm encouraging you."
"I haven't. We are good friends, crew mates, I worry about losing that if things don't work out."
"It can be challenging going from friends to lovers. I prefer to begin as lovers then see where things go. Less to lose, less complication. And what about now, have you had enough experience that you'd consider a relationship?"
Ashara though for a moment. "I think I have, yes."
"And do you want it to be with him?"
"I'm not sure."
"That sounds like a no. But maybe you want to sleep with him, to see how it feels changing the dynamics between you, what your chemistry is like."
"It seems odd talking about this with you, after last night. Honestly, I'm still reeling from the passion we shared. It was wonderful, for me at least. I can't really think about him at all like that right now." Ashara said.
Acina smiled. "I take that as a compliment."
“What about you, you do not seem like the committed relationship type.” Ashara said.
“That’s quite an assumption. I prefer it actually, though I am not opposed to a more casual arrangement.”
"On your left!" Andronikos yelled. A pair of Vorantikus flanked them. Acina spread her arms wide at her sides palms open to the sky. Crimson bolts of lightning rained from the sky electrocuting the pair. Flesh sizzled as she stepped over a bony protrusion on the fallen beast's back.
"You ladies gotta pay closer attention, this place is crawling with vermin." Andronikos joined them revived from the stim pak. "I'm good now, just needed to move around a bit."
"Excellent, let's keep a brisk pace." Acina said. The trio walked on, and despite their quickness they encountered Chrysfang, Vorantikus, and Shaclaw every 1000 meters or so. Though they easily handled the beasts, it quickly became exhausting for Andronikos given his lack of sleep.
Just past midday he checked their coordinates. "We're only a couple of miles from the Boneyard, we need to branch off the path up here. It looks much less inhabited, thankfully."
Ashara took stock of her companions "We should rest while we can, recover our strength and eat. Up there, there's a waterfall and a small cave. An ideal place to rest undetected."
"I won't protest." Said Acina moving toward their respite.
Andronikos reclined on the cool cave floor propping his head on his knapsack. Ashara drew some rations from her satchel, tossing one in his direction. He caught it and sat up wincing. His eyes fixed intently on something behind Ashara. She spun around anticipating more Voss wildlife but instead beheld Acina naked and slipping into the pool of water behind the small waterfall just inside the cave entrance. Her armor lay in a pile beside Ashara.
"She's something, huh?" Andronikos remarked.
"You have no idea". Ashara said.
"Don't you want to cool off?" Acina asked untying her hair and leaning back to submerge it. Her breasts bared to them.
"I'm exhausted", Andro called out over the rushing water. "Maybe after some shut eye." Then he whispered to Ashara, "You think she's flirting with me?"
"No, I don't." Ashara said bluntly.
Andronikos shrugged and scarfed down his ration. He laid back and shut his eyes. Ashara moved to the edge of the pool to watch Acina, floating on her back. She was beautiful, almost peaceful.
"Get in with me."
Ashara shook her head slightly and offered a half-smile. But she found herself stripping her armor despite her better judgement. She slid into the water in front of Acina who stood up to face her. Acina took her hand and led her to a rocky protrusion that hid them partially from sight. The water was cool and crystal clear. Ashara kissed her tenderly.
"I've been wanting to do that all day." Ashara admitted.
"I thought I might be a mere bagatelle." Acina said, eagerly kissing her back.
"What? No. Last night was amazing, not just the sex, but just being with you, talking with you. I feel it's awakened something in me."
Acina smiled. Andronikos stirred from his slumber.
"It seems someone else is awakened." Acina said before diving under the water resurfacing several feet away.
"You ladies ok?" He asked.
"Never better". Said Acina force-leaping from the pool. She stepped out into the hot suns and laid upon a boulder to dry off light saber in hand.
Ashara stepped out of the water. Her skin immediately dry as water wicked from her poreless Togruta frame like glass.
"You're a sight for sore eyes" said Andronikos.
"You should take a dip, it feels great." Ashara said awkwardly.
Andronikos picked up on her discomfort.
"Are we ok? We haven't talked since the other night. We were both really drunk, and maybe you regret what happened between us. I just want you to know we can talk about it, whenever you want to."
Ashara dressed quickly, saying nothing.
Andronikos continued. "It just seems like things are different between us today, you having second thoughts? It's ok if you are, you don't owe me anything. But I would like to know if I'm wasting my time holding out for something that will never be. I've been down that road before."
"We're ok. I do regret what happened the other night, but I'm just disappointed in myself. I said I thought we should both see other people, you focus on getting over Nox and me getting more experience in intimate matters. And then hours later we were… you know.”
“Well you can’t always control the heart, don’t beat yourself up about it.”
“No you can’t, but that had nothing to do with my heart, it was impulsive. And I’m not sure what I want, or who I want it with. Given that, I think you shouldn’t hold back from seeing whoever you want to, I don’t want you to wait on me to figure things out. I’m going to continue seeing other people.”
“I get it, I do. You’re young, you don’t want to be tied down yet. You’ve made that clear.”
Acina stood up outside, still naked wringing excess water from her hair before pulling it back up into a tight bun.
Andronikos watched Acina. “Maybe I’ll see if she’s interested, I mean she’s certainly showing it all off.”
“I’m pretty certain she’s only into women.” Acina reputed.
“Did she say that? She strikes me as pretty open-minded. Why else would she be stripping and showing off like that?”
Ashara glared at him. “Well you’re not the only one around to show off for.”
“What, you got a crush on her?” He teased.
“Look Andronikos, last night, we… we had sex.”
“What? You two? Wow, I’m shocked. You don’t even like women though right?
“I never said that. I said I wasn’t interested in Nox.”
I’m an idiot.” Andronikos growled.
“It just happened, it wasn’t planned.” Ashara said apologetically.
“Man, you really get around.” He said in disbelief.
“That’s completely unfair, and you’re one to talk. I didn’t want to keep it from you.”
“You’re right. It’s fine, like I said you don’t owe me anything.” Andronikos said seething.
Andronikos got to his feet and walked out of the cave over to Acina, newly dressed.
“So, you and Ashara, huh? Can’t say I blame you. She’s a hell of a catch.”
“Yes, she is. We have no formal arrangement though, she is free to do as she pleases, for now. Are you revived enough to continue?”
“Ready as I’m gonna be.”
The trio reached the Boneyard before dusk, pausing once more to recharge and devise a plan of attack. Andronikos took up a post high above a cliffside to survey the opposition. As Nox warned, it was heavily occupied by Gormak tribesmen and Mowvarr and Vorantikus. In order to even search for the relic they would need to wipe out the tribesmen and wildlife completely.
“There’s maybe 40 men, well-armed. If that wasn’t bad enough there’s more of those damn creatures we’ve been practicing on all day, but they seem trained for defense, at least 40 of them too, maybe more like 60.” He explained. “I think we should try to ambush the smaller groups on the perimeter first. There is some kind of ship and a platform, perhaps an elevator to an underground level. Hopefully there aren’t more in there.”
“No, no men, just a storage area. Nox found a datacron there the last time we were here. Maybe the relic is there too.” Ashara said.
“Perhaps. We clear the area first, then search for the relic. Considering we don’t know exactly what we are looking for it is vital that we clear everything so our full attention can shift to the search. We should separate, this will create confusion as to our numbers once our presence is detected. Andronikos, can you take a high position and pick off some of the numbers from a distance, and send healing probes as we need them? If too many get on to us, create a distraction with cover fire or grenades. How does that plan sound to you?” Acina asked.
“No problem, but you will both need to stay in my sightlines. The central group has greater numbers, we should take them together last.”
“Agreed” said Acina.
Lana and Nox stood before Magra-Su in the lowest level of the Shrine of Healing.
“The Mystic from afar returns seeking a relic in the Spirit World. You bring another outsider with you. You are one and may enter as one. But you will face trials as two. You Mystic will face your greatest regret, you outsider will face your greatest fear. You will witness as one. You will leave as one or perish as one. Meditate at the altar and awaken in the Spirit World.”
Nox nodded and bowed to Magra-Su. They knelt at the altar meditating. Moments flashed by, Suddenly Lana and Nox felt pulled into a vortex. Lana opened her eyes to complete blackness, accompanied by the sense of falling or rather moving backward at a great rate of speed, then just as suddenly stillness, no, not stillness, floating as if in the gravity free depth of space. Stars came into focus, then a faraway nebula. She looked down at her hands to gain her bearing, but she held no physical form in this place. Still the sensation of being in her body was there, even if she could not see herself. She sensed Nox was with her but could not see her. She called to her, but her voice made no sound. She was in the vacuum of deep space. She reached out with her mind and Nox reached back.
Then suddenly she was projected forward, so quickly she could not breathe the air that whipped against her, the stars turned to bright lines all around her as she moved faster and faster toward a nebula, ever growing. It was a galaxy, closer still, stars, planets, a solar system of some sort, then toward a planet, larger, larger still, closer still, she fell through the atmosphere burning and choking on hot noxious gas, plummeting toward the ground. A planet devoid of life, not unlike Ziost, but remnants of a great golden cityscape with crumbling spires and decaying transport lines. Then a thud and nothing again. She woke gasping on stale, acrid air. The atmosphere was hazy and yellow, a whirring wind the only sound. She took to one knee and surveyed what stood before her. A partially collapsed palace, what was once a grand manor, oxidized to a green and brown patina. Windows obliterated, skeletal remains charred and powdery everywhere. Thousands of dead, perhaps millions. It was as if the planet itself bore the emotion of terror. She walked toward the deteriorating building. She ignited her saber inside as a light source. More dead were inside littering the floor bones twisted and rigid as if struck down fleeing. Lana climbed a stairway, circling up as far as she could see.
Nox’s presence, she felt it calling her forward and upward. As she climbed, stairs crumbled behind her. She quickened her pace, and stairs began to crumble at her feet. She was dashing as quickly as she could, but to what? Finally, a landing stood before her and she lunged toward it, grasping the doorframe as the stairway gave way completely. She heaved herself into the room, igniting her saber once more. A voice, a whisper called her name. Nox. Where was she? The voice echoed from all corners of the room. She swayed her saber, looking for Nox.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“Lana, get back!” Nox exclaimed. “He is here, inside me.”
Lana turned towards the sound of her voice and there standing before her was Nox barely recognizable. Her complexion showed the severity of dark side corruption. Her brown eyes replaced by vacuous black lids and blood red irises. Then came a crushing sensation in her mind. The body before her was Nox, but the presence was of the Emperor. Nox stood before her possessed by him.
Nox screamed out to her, begging her “Kill me, you must kill me to end him. He hungers, he will consume everything.”
Nox’s eyes glowed rays of white, as if some force was trying to exit through them. She reached out grabbing Lana’s throat, and choked her mercilessly. Lana felt the fragility of her pharynx, it was being crushed.
“I can’t, I can’t kill you, I won’t.” Lana mouthed, choking.
Nox’s mouth twisted into a sickening grin, and the laugh of the Emperor bellowed from her lips. As Lana nearly slipped into unconsciousness she plunged her saber into Nox’s chest. Life drained from her eyes as her grip failed and her hand slipped from Lana’s neck. Lana took a heaving breath, holding Nox up with her saber still buried deep inside her chest. Smoky white trails of force energy flowed from Nox’s agape lips, entering Lana’s gasping mouth. The Emperor’s life force was seeking to possess her. The only other living being on the planet or for all she knew the galaxy. She couldn’t allow herself to be his vessel. Lana withdrew her saber and plunged it into herself, still holding to Nox. Their bodies collapsed to the floor in a shared pool of blood.
Lana was awakened by desperate cries and the deafening shaking of an explosion. What was this place? A yellow haze and the familiar acrid air. They must still be in the Spirit World. They had to be, surely none of this was real. She was in some sort of tent-like structure. It was cold and dry but not freezing. A fire bellowed in a small stove casting plumes through a makeshift chimney. A woman and child cowered in the corner. Mirialans. They appeared unable to see her. The Mirialan woman hushed a small child.
"You must be silent or they will find us." She whispered gently stroking the child's hair.
Nox's eyes opened to the same scene She fell to her knees. Lana caught sight of her and rushed to her side.
"Are you alright?"
I can't bear this Lana, not again."
"Easy, it's not real, it's just a vision."
"No, this is real. This is my past. I cannot bear you seeing it."
"It will be alright, I'm here with you." Lana tried to reassure her.
Another explosion outside followed by shrieks and cries.
"Very well, we must see this through." Said Nox. She rose and exited the meager residence, Lana following behind her. Mirialans rushed by them armed with primitive spears, staffs, and knives. Blaster fire rained down dropping the warriors like discarded dolls. Imperial troopers carved a bloody path toward them, then lined up in a parallel formation. Lana recognized the Sith who appeared before them, Darth Lachris.
"Bring him to me or I will slaughter them all."
A robed figure emerged behind her. From the facial tattoos and bronze colored eyes Lana knew it was Nox perhaps 16 standard years old.
"Yes my Lord" she replied robotically.
The young Nox removed her hood and placed her hands to the sides of her head and closed her eyes as if blocking out the sound and sight of suffering all around them. A Mirialan man staggered towards her from a pile of fallen men. His face was partially burned, green flesh oozed from his temple like a waxy candle dripping. He fell to his knees at her feet.
"I failed you daughter. This is not your fault. Your mother was right, we should have kept you here with us. I was no father.
Nox glared down at him. "Look at your creation father, let it be the last thing you see before you die."
He lowered his head.
A woman cried out from the distance.
"No! Don't do this Mae, I beg you. This is not who you are!"
"Nox seethed, “What would you know about me? This IS who I am mother."
"Kill him." Lachris commanded.
"With pleasure. The young Nox tightened her hand into a fist which began to shake violently. Her hand opened emitting a crackling sound and dark waves encircled her father. He gasped and fell lifeless to the ground. Nox's mother broke free from the on-lookers running towards her. She rolled her husband on to his back and attempted to heal him.
Lachris cackled. "Fool, even you cannot resurrect the dead." She turned to young Nox. "Do you want to kill her too?"
"I have no quarrel with her."
"Perhaps I will kill her then." Lachris said.
"Her suffering will be greater if she lives." Nox said.
Nox's mother wept, clinging to her husband's body.
"Goodbye mother.” Nox reviled, “Now you know what it is to feel alone and discarded. I hope it drives you as mad as it has me."
Lana looked upon the young Sith then turned to Nox's present form. The scene around them evaporated and they stood in a dark void. Her pupils expanded and the ground beneath her changed to hard stone. Both she and Nox took on a golden glow, somewhat transparent and luminous. Grey clouds circled above them, yet they seemed to be back in the Temple, in a semi-sentient state.
"You killed your father."
"And many of my people."
"Lachris possessed you or was controlling your mind." It wasn't your fault."
"No, Lana she didn't. I wish that was true. I was a monster of my own making not Lachris and not my father, a monster filled with rage. I killed him because I wanted to, to prove my loyalty was to the Sith, not my people. I never saw my mother again. It took years to feel any remorse for what I did. "
"You were just a child". Lana said.
"Marr killed his father, actually both of his parents when he was just a boy. Years later he had a daughter, a Jedi. He killed her too. Like me, their deaths were a test of his allegiance intended to harden him and strip him of any humanity. But also, like me, the wounds of those actions had the opposite effect on him over time. He grew to hate his blind cruelty, and his grief softened him. He taught me to channel my anger, feed on its power but not be consumed by it. And by some chance he taught me how to trust and care for another person."
"He became your father." Lana said.
"Yes, the father I needed. And I became the daughter he needed. But the monster you saw, she is still inside me. Your vision of me possessed by the Emperor, it is a reasonable fear. I pray you would kill me if it ever came to that."
Chapter 13: Seeking Relics and Revelations: Part 2
Part Two of Three for this section. Theron Shan drops by to lend a hand. Andronikos and Theron reflect on the many commonalities in their lives. And wait, are they flirting?
Ashara and Acina stealthily assassinated three small groups of Gormak and their trained beasts with only med probe assistance from Andronikos. It was starting to look like a cakewalk. But while approaching the larger central group, Ashara triggered a tripwire, setting off alarms throughout the Boneyard. Suddenly a group of five Thalak tribesmen escalated to ten, then fifteen, with rampaging Chrysfang thundering towards them.
"Damn." Said Acina "get behind me." She threw up a protective force barrier and prepared for the onslaught. Andronikos heaved several grenades toward the stampede, knocking four of the now uncountable Gormak.
"You guys need some back-up?" A chipper voice quipped behind Andronikos. He spun around to see Theron Shan perched behind him, leaning back without a care in the world.
"Well I've never been happier to see you." He said. Theron leapt across the overlooking cliff to an adjoining ledge and began a steady stream of dual blaster fire. Andronikos continued heaving grenades and laying down fire of his own.
"It appears we have acquired some additional assistance, thankfully.” Acina said flatly glancing at the blaster fire from above. The Thalaks had fallen in number to a more manageable ten, but the beasts were the more immediate concern.
Acina flung both hands toward them and the ground quaked, large shards of rock tore from the cliffs slamming into the Chrysfang knocking them dead or unconscious. Ashara lunged through the barrier and slashed two, then three more. Then she ran head on toward the remaining Thalaks. She summersaulted through the air dodging fire and emitted an uncharacteristic cry of rage, gutting two of the Gormak. But three more were upon her immediately. A bolt of hot blaster fire ripped into her abdomen. The hot pain was excruciating but fueled her rage. She tore the arm off the assailant with a single swipe of her saber. Just as another Gormak held his blaster to her back Theron shot him through the forehead and he dropped to the ground. Acina dropped her barrier and flew to her aid. Her light saber whipped and spun with acrobatic precision as she sliced through two, three, then five Gormak with ease. Her killing ability was incredible to behold. Though Andronikos continued to dispatch medical probes, Theron and Ashara became transfixed by her fighting, and stood only watching her. From the start of the battle, over 30 Gormak and ten or more beasts laid in ruin.
"How seriously are you injured?" Acina asked, tearing a strip from her robe and pressing it against Ashara's wound.
"It's through and out. I don't think it struck any major organs" she winced, then collapsed into her arms, adrenaline spent.
Andronikos hopped down from the overlook to approach them. Theron hung back aware of the unknown Sith Lord and hoping to receive an introduction before announcing himself.
Andronikos scooped Ashara into his arms. "We gotta fall back, there's another large group about a kilometer above the hill, somehow they didn't hear us, but as soon as they send down a patrol they'll know we're here."
Acina nodded. "Who is our mysterious ally?"
"Hmph, Theron Shan, Republic SIS. He's a friend of Nox."
"Satele's bastard son? Well Nox does keep odd company."
"Doesn't sound like gratitude I hear." Shan said approaching.
"I appreciate the aid, and as such I won't kill you, for now" she quipped.
"Well, that's courteous of you."
"We have to tend to Ashara's injury now. You two find cover with her. I will dismantle the remaining smaller groups around the perimeter. Andronikos, do you have any timed explosives, any stealth shields?"Acina inquired.
Yep, two large charges and one stealth shield, a few grenades too, that's all I got." He dropped the duffel from his shoulder. "I'll keep the med supplies, so be careful."
Acina clamped a stealth generator onto her wrist and disappeared.
"She's intense." Said Theron. "Where to? This place isn't much on atmosphere considering how beautiful the rest of the planet seems."
"No kidding, how'd you know where to find us?"
"Lana of course. She contacted me this morning, asked me to come to Voss. Said you three had the worst to deal with, and that you were injured. Beyond that her message was vague, go to the Boneyard. So that's what I did. She also said you were seeking a relic."
"Yeah, I'll fill you in once we get to a safe place."
Andronikos surveyed the area, spotting a cave.
"There, good cover and its dark. Only a few of those lizard-faced freaks to handle along the way. I've been watching that cave off and on for a few hours, only transport vehicles slipping through from time to time no Gormak."
To their relief Acina dispatched the few raiders in their path toward the cave. They were inside within a half hour and laid Ashara down on the cool cave floor. She was shivering and incoherent having lost a lot of blood. Andronikos slipped off his jacket and wrapped it around her. He cauterized the wound entrance first then rolled her onto her stomach. She winced in pain.
"That looks bad" Theron said assessing the exit wound which was burned and jagged.
"Yeah, not exactly through and out."
"Does Acina have any healing abilities?" Theron asked.
"I don't know, but I think we need to close it now."
"I have a couple of antibiotic stims, left over from the last time I indulged at the Pleasure Palace on Hutta, long story. Anyway, can't hurt. Theron drew two vials from his small pack and invented the caps revealing needle tips.
"Sorry, this is going to suck."
He jammed them into the exit wound. Ashara barely groaned, raising their worries. Andronikos readied one of the three remaining med probes and it whirred above her, cauterizing the exit site with a white-hot laser. The smell of burning flesh turned their stomachs.
"All we can go now is wait." Andronikos said.
An explosion shook perhaps a mile from their position.
"Guess Acina found a promising distraction point." Theron said.
It was followed by three smaller explosions. Andronikos knelt at the cave entrance with binoculars.
"Genius, she managed to rig some of the wrecked vehicles to explode. That will keep them distracted for quite a while."
Then an immense explosion rocked them from their feet, stone chunks fell from the cave ceiling. Andronikos looked out again.
“She blew up half of the cliff above them. She probably took out most of them, and their comm towers are buried or destroyed. Man, she’s good.”
“Well that’s great, because I don’t think your friend here is going to be up for fighting, or even able to travel tonight.” Theron remarked.
“We can make camp here. At nightfall we can post watch at the entrances in shifts and leave one of us here to keep an eye on Ashara and get some rest.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
"So how'd you go from Republic Captain to Sith-aligned pirate? I mean that's got to be a story."
"Yeah, it is. The Republic dumped on me one time too many. Sent me and my crew right into an ambush and abandoned us for dead. Wasn't the first time either, so when we escaped with our asses still intact I decided it was time for a career change. Loyalty to the only person who never left me hanging, myself. I made a fortune in piracy, plundering Imperial and Republic ships. It was great while it lasted."
"Sure, but going to the Sith, after the Empire locked you up. I don't get it, why not come back to the Republic?"
"Because at least I know where I stand with the Empire. It's cutthroat, every man out for himself. The Pubs are worse, liars who pretend to care about everyone, but the reality is you’re expendable unless you're a Jedi. Tell me your experience is any different."
"Not really, but with the SIS, it's kind of the same as you, you know what you're getting into. And the Republic has a greater cause, liberating oppressed people, uniting alien species, treating all beings equally. That kind of thing."
"Right, it sounds good, but all the soldiers dying so others can live, meaningless wars with the Empire, for what? A few months of control of the galaxy then it all starts over. There is no glory or higher purpose in war, regardless who is doing the slaughtering. And the Jedi and Sith aren't that different in my opinion. I mean look at Saresh, her actions led to the death of millions on Ziost, petty fighting with the Empire over a doomed world. So many could've been saved. And who was there trying to actually save people? Your Sith buddies Lana and Nox, that's who. Did they pick and choose who they saved? Nope, they cured as many as possible from the Emperor's control and evacuated as many as they could while Saresh kept good soldiers on the ground to die."
"I see your point, but not all Republics or Jedi are like her."
"Maybe not, you seem ok. But if the Republic is so great how come you keep showing up allied with Sith?"
Theron was rendered speechless. Andronikos often had this effect on people. His blunt truth more powerful than any nuanced words. Theron knew they had more in common than at odds. Both had a rocky past with the Republic, both had fathers who were mighty soldiers, but largely absent from their childhoods. Theron's father had told him stories about fighting alongside Andronikos' father in the Battle of Alderaan. He knew Andronikos must've grown up with the same loneliness he had endured. He was easy on the eyes too, and Theron took notice of his chiseled body and ruggedly handsome face. But he stifled those thoughts from his mind. Definitely a ladies’ man, he thought.
Andronikos conceded, "I didn't mean to be so harsh, it's just the Republic is a sore subject for me. Still, I'm glad you showed up to help us out. Ashara might be dead if you hadn't."
"So, your friend here, are you and her..."
"Nope, we're just friends. But if you're interested you should know she's sleeping with Ms. Darth killing machine you met earlier."
"Really?" Theron replied with surprised inflection. "No, I'm not interested in her, I didn't mean it like that. It's just, none of my business, never mind.”
Acina emerged from the dusk, breathing heavily but otherwise in one piece.
"How is she?" She asked concerned.
“Sedated, we patched her up as best we could. Theron pumped her with antibiotics to stave off infection, but she lost a lot of blood. We'll need to hold up here tonight. She's in no shape to travel."
"Fine, we can search for the relic in the morning. All the Gormak are dead or buried in rubble along with their comm towers. I influenced one to radio his comrades that they'd been ambushed by Voss and were pursuing the threat to the north, they will attempt to rendezvous in the morning and find nothing there of course, so we must move quickly to secure the relic and get out of here before they return here."
"Is there anything you can't do?" Theron asked tossing his hands up.
"Heal her, unfortunately. Still, I'll stay with her for now, you two-"
"Yeah, yeah, keep watch and find supplies, we got it."
Theron took the stealth generator and disappeared into the night.
"He's rather cute." Acina said.
"Uh, I guess. But you're not into that are you, men I mean?"
"No, But I think he is."
"Ha, I used to think he was angling for Nox, goes to show how perceptive I am."
"It really does." She said laughing.
"Still, how could you tell?"
"The hair, his style, I mean a tight red jacket, not to mention the way he was checking you out."
"What? Now you're just being ridiculous. You are teasing right."
"Honestly Andronikos, you really are clueless."
"Hmph" He said and sauntered to the far entrance of the cave. He surveyed the dead as the suns set and thought of his father, how disappointed he would be to know he was running around with Sith. He'd always been a disappointment to him. Seeing Theron reminded him of his father, what little he knew of him. He was a fearless warrior, a roving ladies’ man who never married. Andronikos had several brothers and sisters with different mothers, probably some he wasn't even aware of. The only time he recalled his father being proud was when he enlisted in the Republic Navy. Andronikos was a good fighter, but not a great one, his skill was flying. He thought of the one occasion they fought together, him piloting and his father commanding troops on the ground. Victorious, they celebrated together on Alderaan. His father introduced him as his son, for the first time in his life, bragging about his flying and quick shooting that allowed Havoc squad to gain the upper hand. They drank and swapped stories of the battle from ground and air. Then his memory shifted to the look of disgust on his father's face, upon seeing him embrace a fellow pilot, Zarin Felios. Andronikos had known Zarin since he joined the Navy, they were in the same training batallion. Zarin was a great pilot, a rowdy drinking bar-fighting companion, and a charismatic and unapologetic queer man, strong and proud enough to kick anyone's ass. Andro had never met anyone like him, and their bond ventured into occasional drunken passionate moments. Andronikos had never told anyone about their casual romance, but the moment his father saw them together, he knew and rejected it outright. He wondered if Theron's father similarly rejected him. He shook these thoughts from his mind and touched down to inventory his packs. One med probe, three stimpaks, six rations and a handful of water filters, plus his flask. He tossed it in the air and caught it in his other hand. "Glad I remembered you".
"So turns out I've got dinner covered." He said launching a ration toward Acina.
"I hate to ask, but what is it?"
"Imagine bread meets indiscernible vegetables in a blending accident, voila. Just add water. Here's a couple of dried fruit bars too, they're much better but not as filling. And there's liquor."
"Why didn't you lead with that?"
He chuckled at her and passed over the flask. She took a gulp and exhaled. Theron reappeared carrying a pack of his own.
"Since they're all dead I looted some things for us. Couple of blasters, a few medpaks, even some mines to set at the entrances so we can all get some rest. They had food, but it seemed disgusting. Still there were a few energy bars that kind of resemble something sweet so I grabbed a handful of those. Some thermal blankets, some decent water canteens, and a few flasks of extremely potent alcohol."
"Sounds like a party." Andronikos said.
"Glad you're pleased, I tried to find something resembling pillows, but you can't have everything."
"Well done. Andronikos had some rations left in his bag. Let's eat and get drunk, it'll make the night more bearable."
"I am not gonna argue with that." Theron said. "You two go ahead. I set mines outside of this entrance, so don’t venture outside. I'm going to go rig the rear."
"I bet you are." Said Acina.
"You are one naughty Sith." Theron said winking at her as he walked away.
The trio ate and drank as Ashara slept. It was a relief to relax knowing their sanctuary was secure. Ashara stirred and tried to sit up. Acina sat down with her, grasping her hand.
"How are you feeling?"
"Ok, very weak actually. I must have passed out. What time is it, where are we?"
"Still in the Boneyard, but we're safe in a cave. All the Gormak are dead, but it got too late to search for our relic, so we will resume in the morning. For now, you need to rest."
"I was careless in the battle, it's always been a problem for me. I become overzealous in combat, especially when outnumbered and take unnecessary risks."
"It is a weakness of Jedi training, the denial of fear. Fear is more than the path to the dark, it is a gift. Fear, when given its proper respect allows one to choose wisely the correct action at the correct time, to self-preserve. One must not ignore fear nor be overcome by it. Welcome it as a friend, understand it's wisdom, then choose to act, not react."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"In battle, someone will always react to fear, the point is to not be that person."
"I still have much to learn." Ashara said sighing.
"As do I, as do all of us" Acina replied kissing her forehead. "Rest now, you are lovely when you sleep."
"Will you stay with me, lie here with me?"
"My pleasure. I must meditate, but I will stay here with you, and sleep beside you. I will try to keep my passion in check, for tonight." She gave a half smile and Ashara half rose with great effort to meet her lips in a kiss.
"So, you weren't kidding about those two." Theron said glancing down at Andronikos who was sipping his flask and kicking off his boots.
"Do you ever relax?" Andronikos asked.
"Not really, no. Relaxation not my thing. Spies don't sleep easy, always something on the mind."
"Same for pirates. Look, I'm sorry for being so harsh with you earlier. It's one of my lesser attractive traits, bluntness."
"I wouldn't say that. You had valid points, I'm glad you spoke to me honestly."
"We have a lot in common, you and me. More than just the Republic, but our fathers, the way we were raised, or lack of being raised. I'm just assuming you dealt with the same sort of rejection."
"Oh yeah, from my mother and father. I was a disappointment, still am."
"Because you don't have force powers?"
"Well yeah, I mean that's part of it. I was the child that was never supposed to happen. Then failed as a Jedi. I didn't even know who my father was until I was a teenager. And let's just say I wasn't exactly his vision of an ideal son. I knew being a soldier wasn’t for me, and early on I became skilled at lying and hiding who I was. So being a spy seemed like the perfect career path."
"I grew up hearing stories about Jace from my dad."
"Yeah, those two definitely had a bromance going on."
They both laughed and Andronikos passed Theron his flask.
"Come on, have a rest." Andronikos said slapping the cold stone ground beside him.
"Alright, I give in." Theron said sitting down beside him.
"You know, I thought you and Nox were a thing." Theron said.
"We were for a while, nothing serious though. Funny you mention it, I thought the same thing about you and her."
"What? Really? No, I mean that would never happen for lots of reasons."
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. You're not that kinda guy."
Theron looked down, unsure what to say.
"Hey man, I don't mean nothing by it. That's fine by me. I've been around the galaxy, had a lot of experiences myself so to speak."
"So you're ok with that."
"Definitely. Men get each other in a way that women never will. There's no shame in that. If that's your father's problem, well fuck him." Andronikos said. "My best mate, when I was in the Navy, we had a casual thing on the side. My dad picked up on it and he was just disgusted. I didn't admit it, but the moment he saw us together he knew. I've actually never talked about with anyone."
"Well I'm honored you'd share that with me. Same with my father. We don't talk about anything except our work for the Republic. Jace thought he could beat it out of me when I was a teenager, didn't work."
"So much for our heroes". Andronikos said.
"No kidding, all I ever heard was how great it must be to be the son of a Jedi and a Republic hero. It was a nightmare. How about your mother?"
"She died when I was five, she was in the Navy like me, a real shark of a pilot, took me everywhere she flew, sometimes stashing me in a stowaway bin. Folks might question her parenting choices but life with her was an adventure. I watched her die after we were shot down. I hid under the command deck. She begged me to stay quiet, so I did. We were on Hoth. Not even Imperials that killed her, but scavengers looting the wreckage. Pubs left her and three other captains crashed out in the snow for hours assuming them dead. They all survived the initial crash only to be slaughtered by a pack of scavengers."
"I'm so sorry." Theron said placing his hand on Andronikos' shoulder.
"Me too, she didn't deserve to die like that. What about your mother?”
“She schlepped me away to her Master to be taught in the force. And well, that didn’t work out. I think I am her biggest regret. But we get on ok now, not close of course but I don’t think anyone could be close to her. Maybe that’s true for me too, I’m not really close to anyone. Being a spy helps too, can’t exactly put down roots. Lana is probably the closest to a friend that I have. Man, we are getting into some deep stuff.”
“It’s this Gormak liquor.” Andronikos said. “So you don’t ever think about leaving the SIS, maybe settling down, working in Republic tech or as a Diplomat?”
“A Diplomat? Like a Senator? I am definitely not cut out for that life.”
“Well piracy then, or maybe work as a smuggler or switch sides, hunt bounties. Then at least you have the autonomy to make your own life, find a running partner.”
“Well that sounds tempting, if the right person came along.” Theron said smiling and giving a quick wink.
Andronikos nudged him with his shoulder and smiled. “That’s more like it. Maybe there’s hope for you yet.”
Chapter 14: Seeking Relics and Revelations: Part 3
Lana and Nox delve deeper into the Vision Quest. A shocking revelation occurs threatening their relationship.
"How long do you suppose we've been in here?" Lana asked.
"Considering how tired I am, at least a full day." Nox replied.
"I'm exhausted. Is it possible to rest in a place like this?"
"I think so, provided we stay put. In my experience exploring progresses the vision, while being stationary does not. Still there's no guarantee. We can rest here shortly, but we should stay alert."
"Agreed." Lana said.
The two moved toward a corner of the massive stone room and sat down. Lana looked up where the ceiling should be. It was a swirling mass of purple clouds that broke with lightning every few seconds.
"What is that?"
"Your subconscious." Said Nox. "Rather dark isn't it?"
Lana appeared concerned.
"I'm just kidding." Said Nox.
"Sorry" said Lana laughing unconvincingly. "I'm just not sure what to expect here. My past is not a place I care to revisit. In my early years as an apprentice and as a young Sith I was cruel and vicious. Much like you apparently. I prefer not to venture to those places in my mind, let alone with an audience."
"Believe me, I understand." Nox said. “On the bright side, by the time this is over, all the mystery will be gone from our relationship. “
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”
Nox leaned her head on Lana’s shoulder, and as she did, noticed their forms had lost the orange ethereal glow. “Well perhaps this will make you feel better, it appears we have resumed our sentient states.”
“How long do you suppose that will last?”
“Until we progress through your visions. I’ve heard tales of Mystics giving up on the vision quest and choosing instead to remain here rather than moving on. But time here is deceptive. We cannot tarry long or we might lose ourselves. “
Lana relaxed one leg against Nox’s, enjoying the simple sensation of their bodies touching. She reached around Nox’s thigh and Nox raised a hand from her lap to take Lana’s.
“Being with you, even in this mad place is better than any time spent without you.” Lana said.
Nox smiled slightly. “When we get out of here we are going on holiday.”
“Where shall we go?”
“My temple on Yavin IV, unless you have another idea. It’s very remote, no holo, no tech of any kind. There is a natural hot spring running inside it, in the bed chamber.”
“That sounds incredible. Is that where you snuck off too every night?”
“It is. I’m a bit of a recluse at heart.”
“Well that makes two of us.” Lana said.
Lana filed this bit away under another shared commonality they had. Nox was bold, funny, sarcastic, and charismatic, yet private and gentle.
“What name do you prefer?”
“What do you mean, like in a pet name?”
“No silly. I mean since I’ve known you, you’ve been Darth Nox. But that isn’t really who you are. Before that you were someone else, Maezu. But that name seems to reflect a lot of pain and loss. I wonder what you would like me to call you.”
“Marr calls me Mae when others are not around. It reminds me of my mother. Honestly though, I’ve never strongly identified with a name. After Ziost, when you called me “my love” it felt like for the first time I knew who I was supposed to be.”
“Then you shall be “my love.” Lana said. “You think too well of me, you know. You hold me in such high regard. I fear you will be disappointed to learn how boring I really am.”
“Please, I’ve traveled with you for nearly a year now. You are ingenious, unflappable, brave, and I’m constantly surprised by you.” Nox said, kissing Lana’s forehead. Lana raised her head and kissed Nox passionately, grasping her face. She sighed wanting more.
“We should get moving.” She said reluctantly, lightly tapping Nox’s chest with her fist.
“Agreed, let’s get this over with.”
They rose to their feet and their bodies resumed an orange translucent glow. Lana stepped forward and a doorway materialized before her. They stepped through and found themselves in the Sith Academy.
"I presumed we would start with him." Said Lana. "Where is he?"
Harkun's voice screeched in the darkness.
"You pathetic excuse for an acolyte: small, weak, timid."
"Great, we get to kill him twice. This should fun" Nox said.
“No, this time he’s mine.” Lana insisted.
Nox nodded. "Don't make the same mistake I did, take it slowly, enjoy it."
"You're nothing!” he hissed striding towards them.
Lana extended her arm toward him effortlessly lifting him from the ground. Her hand flexed and shook choking the air while several meters away he contorted and clawed at his throat. She relaxed and he collapsed to the ground coughing and gasping. Lana walked slowly to him.
"I should've killed you when I was a child. Thank you for the second chance."
She crackled sparks of energy from her fingertips at his writhing frame. Her eyes flashed orange intensity as she continued the torture for a full minute. Harkun's body sizzled and hissed like charred meat.
"I think he's well done now, Lana."
Lana acquiesced and dropped her hands, but Nox felt her still seething rage.
"What’s next?" She growled.
The atmosphere around them shifted, the ceiling lowered, and walls closed in to tight winding corridors. Sirens screamed echoing off iron floors and cells.
“Belsavis” Nox remarked. “I hate this planet.”
“Well that makes two of us.” Lana said. “I know what’s coming. Esh-Kha. I was sent here with a team to distract Republic guards by releasing prisoners while another team secured the release of the Dread Masters.”
“Yes I know, I aided in their release.” Nox said. “Wait, your team released the Esh-Kha correct?”
“Yes, but it was a total shock to us, we had no idea they were imprisoned alongside Imperials.” They took us completely by surprise, it was horrendous. They massacred all but me.”
A wailing sound accompanied by thundering footfalls edged closer to them. Seven towering figures approached, bull-like with bony protrusions, but standing upright propelled by massive cloven feet. They spoke gutturally in an unknown language.
“This time I’m helping.” Nox demanded.
Nox charged first, gutting the first Esh-kha with her saber. The others snarled, enraged and pounced on her. Lana stood frozen in terror. Nox was fully buried by the weight of the six remaining Esh-Kha. They tore at her armor. Nox screamed out unleashing a shock wave of energy that catapulted the pile of enemies in all directions, stunning them momentarily. The expenditure of force power drained her to grave vulnerability. She collapsed turning to Lana.
“Lana, you have to help me, I’m going to die.”
Lana snapped awake from her fear. She leapt to the Esh-Kha closest to Nox and stabbed with her saber through the side of its bony temple. It hissed and struggled to rise but was paralyzed at the waist. She withdrew her saber and assaulted the next closest pair, slashing with her saber in one have and emitting force lightening from her free hand. Nox managed to cast fear into the remaining two, clouding their minds with the memories of their species’ annihilation. They stood cowering as Lana eventually dispatched her pair before turning to the last two. Her breathing heaved as she watched Nox hold them in their trance of terror. Lana had witnessed Nox use this unique ability only once before, and it was incredible to behold. She wondered if Nox used it on her, what would she envision as her greatest fear and vulnerability. Lana shook the thought from her mind and executed the pair with quick thrusts from her saber to the base of their necks. She quickly surveyed the area for any stragglers, but the scene evaporated, and they were again alone in the spirit realm, the clouds of her subconscious swirling above them. Nox stood, returned to her uninjured state.
“You’re ok?” Lana said.
“Yes, thanks to you.”
“I’m sorry for freezing up. That was truly the most terrifying time in my life.”
“It’s alright, you rose to the occasion.”
“Yes, well I think it was only because you were at risk.”
“Well at any rate, its good to know I bring out the best in you.”
“You really do”. Lana said smiling. “Let’s move on.”
They walked the circumference of the room but nothing happened. They paced twice more the large circular chamber. Clouds darkened and thundered above them but otherwise the room remained the same.
“I’m beginning to worry that we are trapped here. Is there something I need to do or say perhaps?”
“Perhaps you are not ready to face what’s next. Have you any clue what might remain?”
“None.” Lana said hopelessly. Thunder and lighting crashed above them.
“Your subconscious disagrees.”
“Well actually there is something, but I’m not certain of it. I’ve been worried about it since we visited your homeland.”
“What is it? You must tell me, it might be blocking your vision quest.”
“What happened to your mother, after you killed your father. You said you never saw her again, but do you know what became of her?”
“I know she died during an assault on Mirial. There were rumors that she abandoned her healing and became reclusive. Why?”
“When I saw her, she was familiar to me. But I thought it couldn’t be the same woman, unless she became consumed by darkness.”
“No, that could never be. She wou-“
The room shifted, interrupting Nox mid-sentence. A blustery, blood-stained snowdrift expanded in all directions. Mirialan fighters and Imperial soldiers lay in bloody heaps strewn about. A hooded figure stood cascading waves of red force energy to the injured Mirialans. Life force energy was being siphoned from the fallen Imperials, feeding the healing waves of the hooded figure. The Mirialans rose to fight again, but not truly healed, undead and zombie-like. They resembled the possessed citizens of Ziost.
“What the hell is this, Lana?”
“A battle, on Mirial. Nox is that woman your mother?”
“No.” Said Nox in disbelief, but she sensed that it was.
The figure approached flanked by staggering risen Mirialan fighters. Lana engaged them. The figure removed her hood to reveal a Mirialan woman corrupted by dark energy. Her eyes were gaunt and colorless with deep purple rings at the eyes and mouth. The facial tattoos mirrored her own. Nox knew this was her mother. As Nox tried to comprehend what she was seeing she felt her life force being sucked from her. Her back contorted and she levitated. Her mouth opened in a scream, but no sound exited. The woman spoke with a metallic rasp of a voice.
“I take from you the life I gave, just as you took from me.”
Nox attempted to infiltrate her mother’s mind, searching for her vulnerability. She found memories of herself, her mother’s cold rejection and fear of her, she dove deeper sensing her mother’s own darkness hidden deep inside. Nox seized on thoughts intensifying them.
She spoke to her mother through their mind connection, “You are the darkness. You became what you feared in me. It was always there in you. You denied it in me because you denied it in yourself. I embraced and overcame, you denied and succumbed to it.”
“No!” shrieked her mother, fighting to exile Nox’s terror from her mind. She intensified her attempt to drain Nox’s life force.
In the momentary distraction afforded by Nox, the remaining Mirialan fighters were slain by Lana and thankfully had not resurrected. Lana turned her attention to Nox’s mother. Lana instinctively clutched the pendant which hung from her own neck. She’d done this before and knew what had to be done. She drew her saber and impaled the woman from behind, through and out her chest. The woman exhaled violently and slumped to the ground. Nox inhaled deeply, coughing and took a knee. She struggled to regain her composure.
“Mother!” she cried out and crawled to her mother’s body.
As she gently drew her head into her lap, the vision faded. Nox wept. Lana stood silent. She was stunned and at a loss for words. Thankfully Nox spoke.
“When did this happen?”
“It was about five years ago. The Empire learned of a growing Republic presence on Mirial. They sent soldiers and agents to quash them. We arrived to find them well-organized, armed, and joined by Mirialan forces. Sith joined in the fight once it was revealed that the fallen soldiers were being reanimated. The battle was brutal, heavy losses on both sides. I consulted with your master, Lord Zash due to her knowledge of dark life sustaining rituals. She identified the life siphoning ability that your mother was using. She taught me how to identify the culprit and gave me an amulet which prevented her from draining my life source. I still wear it. I was sent to kill her. At the time I was perplexed as to why a Mirialan would resort to such measures. I’d hoped she could be turned to join the Empire, but her hatred towards us was greater than I’d imagined. I pleaded with her to no avail. I killed your mother, Nox.”
Nox said nothing, still sitting on the ground staring down where her mother’s body had been. So focused were they, that neither noticed the presence of Magra-Su. She spoke to Lana.
“You have faced your past and emerge victorious.”
“Victorious? I killed her mother. It’s unforgivable. We’d have been better off not knowing.”
“You have learned the complex nature of your shared history. History reveals itself sooner or later. Shared visions are the most difficult. You entered as two, witnessed as one, and must leave as one or perish as one. If you perish as one, your bond will be severed. You will leave as two and your path together will be no more. You must choose.”
Lana looked to Nox. “My love, I am so sorry. I know those words are of little consequence. For me this changes nothing of what I feel for you, but I will accept whatever choice you make.”
Nox replied, “My mother made her choice Lana. I ventured into her mind and saw the darkness. It had always been there. I know now that I did not ruin her, nor did you. If anything, you released her from her pain. She chose her own path and that choice consumed her. I will not let her choices forge my path. I choose you.”
Nox stood and grasped Lana’s hand. Magra-Su nodded slowly and a pillar rose from the ground, cracking through the floor. The fragment of a stone relic hung above it swirling with a blue haze around it. Both reached out to take it from opposite corners and it fell heavily into their hands. Magra-Su vanished as did the camber around them. They found themselves standing in the Shrine of Healing once more, with the relic in hand.
Chapter 15: Seeking Relics and Revelations: Part 4
Nox and her companions succeed in securing the relics, but not without complications. Nox and Lana are interrupted during an intimate encounter.
Andronikos snored loudly and Theron took the chance to linger his glance on his topless torso. Acina joined him taking a break from her vigil with Ashara.
“He’s not bad to look at is he?” she chided.
“Not at all.”
“You should go for it.”
“Hmm, maybe when we’re done here. About that, I understand that you need to create a diversion upon our return, somehow we’re supposed to destroy this map without it being obvious. That’s the plan, right?”
“So Lana filled you in, good. Yes. The Empire is unstable and turning it over would likely lead to another war; or worse land it in the hands of our former Emperor. I’m a bit surprised Lana would share this with you. How are we to trust you won’t simply steal it for the Republic?”
“That’s an excellent question. All I can tell you is that I have the same worries about the current state of our rule.”
“Saresh you mean.”
“Exactly. She is burned up over Ziost even though that was basically her making. She’d love the chance to strike at the Empire again and boost her popularity.”
“You are a very unusual Republic spy.”
“Yes well Lana and Nox are very unusual Sith, maybe you are too. So we don’t let the others in on this, right?”
“I know it seems dishonest but yes, it’s vital that as few of us know about the plan as possible. I’ve not told Ashara. Andronikos, Khem, and Xalek are also in the dark.”
“Got it. What’s the plan for destroying it?”
“I’ve already planted that seed. I force persuaded some of the Gormak to sabotage us in the cantina at the Imperial District. I propose we would all gather there to celebrate our success. Lana and Nox will reside there with us all for the evening in the lets. I’ll need to step out briefly to signal the Gormak to move in on us. Otherwise they’ll starve or die of old age waiting for my command. Perhaps you can assist in making my exit unnoticed, and in getting everyone as intoxicated as possible.”
“Sure thing. Just so I understand, they’re basically hiding and wasting away under your mind control until you send them to their death.”
“That’s pretty harsh.”
Acina smirked. “Well, do you have a better idea?”
“Actually no, it sounds pretty good. One question though. If this weapon is such a big deal and all these people are supposedly after it, why would we stick around on this planet to celebrate when we could get out of here and head to the safety of the Imperial base, or get straight on with tracking it down?”
“What we need” Theron continued, “is a legitimate reason to stay on Voss for at least a night.”
“Alright, any suggestions?”
“We could damage the ship, put it in need of repairs.”
“Yes but that wouldn’t keep us on the planet, we could all simply stay on board while the repairs are made. What if one of us was injured, unable to travel safely without treatment.”
“That’s an idea, but Nox’s ship has a med bay doesn’t it?” Theron asked.
“I’m sure it does, a basic one, yes. But maybe an injury that requires treatment by a Voss doctor.”
“So like a poisoning or a Voss animal attack, something like that?”
“Yes, something treatable of course but a bit complicated.”
“Hmm, let’s see what we have.” Theron pulled his datapad from his jacket. “Ok so Chrysfang fever is an option, but that can take days to set in. Thalak poison darts, that one comes on slowly about 6 hours after injection. Treatment is an herbal poultice that needs to be reapplied for twenty-four hours. Sounds like a winner. Question is, who’s our victim?”
“Well I’m out, I have to be mobile for our plan to go off.”
“I’ll do it. It makes the most sense. Besides I hate the idea of sabotaging one of the others.”
“No, that won’t work Theron. No offense but if you were injured we could just leave you behind to heal, since you likely wouldn’t be traveling with us anyway.”
Theron rubbed his chin thinking. “Again, good point. Ashara is out, she’s already injured, and it wouldn’t be safe to reinjure her. Since we can’t reach Xalex and Khem that leaves Lana, Nox, or Andronikos.”
Acina considered, “Lana or Nox make the most sense, but it’s highly unlikely they’d be struck with a poison Thalak dart. I mean we’re the team out here engaging the Thalaks.”
“So you’re thinking Andronikos. I hate this idea.” Theron resisted.
“But it makes the most sense. Nox would never leave him behind. And he’s the captain and engineer of her ship.”
“Fine. So we need to create the illusion of an ambush and acquire a poison dart. How do we do that?” Theron questioned smugly.
“We need to search the bodies of the Thalak, preferably one of the chiefs. Since you laid the mines at the cave entrances, I’m afraid you’ll need to venture out on your own. Find one that doesn’t look too dead and prop him up or something.”
“Right. I guess I need to drag the body up close to the cave, shoot Andronikos with the dart and then fire on the already dead Thalak.”
Acina interjected, “Give me the dart. I’ll use the stealth generator and simply stab him with it.
Then you can be poised and ready to “kill” the intruder. You can be the hero to your pirate prince.”
Andronikos woke to a searing pain in his shoulder.
“What the”- he yelled staggering to his feet in a fog and pulling his blaster.
But Theron was already up and running, giving chase. Andronikos strained to see outside the dark cave.
Several shots were fired and Andronikos lunged toward the entranceway.
“Wait, there are mines everywhere out here, do not step foot outside!” Theron called to him.
Andronikos skidded to a halt suddenly, nearly toppling over in the process.
“How many are there?” he called back.
“Looks like just one. I got him. He was already pretty far gone. Must’ve dragged himself up here.”
Theron reentered the cave. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, he shot me with some kinda dart.” Andronikos snatched the small projectile from his shoulder and eyed it in the moonlight. “It burns, maybe some sort of poison on it, that’s just what we need.”
“What’s going on?” Acina called out igniting her saber.
“Minor ambush. Looks like you left one mostly dead and he came back for revenge.” Andronikos said.
“Did you search his body to ensure he didn’t have a communication device?”
“Yep, he was clean. I’ll stay out here a bit to make sure there aren’t any more. Evaluate Andronikos’ injury will you? Looks like a poison dart, we need to know what we’re dealing with.”
Dawn rose only an hour later, and the hangovers were immense for Theron, Andronikos, and Acina. Ashara however awoke refreshed, mostly healed, and eager to atone for her carelessness the day before.
“Rise and shine” she said chipperly.
Acina stirred. “You’re much improved. It’s a good thing, we had a bit of an ambush while you slept and Andronikos is injured.”
“Are you ok?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine sweetheart, just a little poison dart. Theron read up on it and it’s treatable, just a pain in the ass really.” He coughed, sputtering blood.
Theron helped him to his feet. “I need to get him back to the Imperial district for treatment. He’ll need to see a local doctor.”
“We’ll retrieve the relic and join you shortly, just take care of him.” Ashara said tenderly wiping the blood from Andronikos’ lips.”
“I’m on it.” Theron replied and the two departed.
“He’ll be alright, Ashara.” Acina reassured her. “You have an idea where the relic is located.”
“Yes, I believe it is hidden with a datacron just over that ridge, there’s a secure lift, we just need to slice into the computer to access the lift.
The two reached the ridge quickly, passing the carnage of Acina’s rampage from the day before.
"So now we search the dead for a security card." Ashara said
"No way we're doing that." Acina stood over the security console and drew her saber.
Ashara shook her head. "Are you sure you aren't a man?"
Acina snickered and holstered her saber. Instead she clicked away at the console, drew her datapad, then tapped again on the console. The forcefield disengaged and the circular lift ring began to lower.
"Is there anything you can't do?" Ashara teased with a surprised grin.
"Well I am the head of Sphere of Technology, so naturally slicing is one of my many talents."
The two jumped onto the platform as it descended spinning slowly.
All around them were shelves of treasure: jewelry, ancient texts, statuettes, helms of Gormak and Voss origin.
"This is quite a horde of antiquities. What do you think we're looking for exactly?" Acina asked.
"No idea." Said Ashara.
But the lift shuddered to a stop, and directly before them sat the relic, a long jagged stone engraved with what appeared to be the tip of a cannon emitting a beam. Ashara lifted it from the shelf and turned it over in her hands. The back contained a small section of map, a star system unrecognizable to her, and the end of a series of numbers, coordinates perhaps.
The lift reengaged, rising slowly to the surface.
"How odd, as if it knew what we were seeking." Acina remarked.
"The same as when Nox retrieved the datacron. All that killing for this small fragment. It hardly seems worth it. And now Andronikos is sick, for what?" Ashara added angrily.
"This weapon must be quite powerful for its makers to have taken these efforts to hide it. It could be a huge asset in the war with the Republic, and your friend will be alright. He's in capable hands with Theron."
"Yeah, about that, why would Theron aid us in finding a weapon for the Empire? It makes no sense."
Acina paused, searching for an answer. She longed to tell Ashara the truth.
"He has his own worries about the state of Republic leadership, and more than that he recognizes the danger of our former Emperor seizing such power. He trusts Lana and Nox, and so do I."
"I trust my Master, I just hope she's thought this through."
Nox and Lana settled into their temporary quarters in the Shrine of Healing awaiting the others. Nox removed her heavy boots and clicked off her belt and saberstaff, draping them over a low hanging torch. She flung her black chest piece in the corner examining her upper body for injuries to match her aches. Lana remained fully dressed and sat in the floor illuminated by the dim torch lights. She stared vacantly into the torch fire.
A Voss servant entered with a gleaming tray of fruits, cheeses, and meat, and a tall sconce of orange wine. She placed it on the floor at the edge of their bed rug, bowed, and silently left them, closing the door to their chambers.
Nox faced the stone wall away from Lana and removed a chestnut sleeping robe from a hook. She donned it and finished the task of peeling off her greaves. Then she unpinned her jet back hair, shaking it loose.
She turned to Lana, tossing her the other robe.
"We should eat."
The robe fell at Lana's feet and she sat motionless, transfixed in her gaze upon the torch.
"Are you alright Lana?"
"No, I'm not. I sense your anger and I think I need you to be angry with me."
"Because you killed my mother?"
"Yes, precisely. If it were the other way around I would be furious at you. My parents were killed too, during an invasion on Dromund Kaas. I've never known exactly what happened to them. I loved my parents. They feared for my future, I was the only force-sensitive person in my family for several generations. My mother tried to hide and curb my abilities, much like yours. But she never feared or rejected me, she longed to spare me from a life of conflict and treachery. Losing them, my love for them was transformed into hatred of the Republic and loyalty to the Empire. But seeing this today, my actions, this horrible unimaginable connection between us, I don't believe in fate, yet this IS fate in the cruelest sense."
Nox stood above her, closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, centering her thoughts.
"Lana, what you had with your parents, the love, the bonds of family, I never had that. I am so sorry that they were taken from you. My anger is not aimed at you. I am angry because even in death my family causes suffering for me and now for you as well."
Lana's amber eyes took on a glossy sheen as she stifled tears. Her personal holocom alerted. She eagerly accepted the interruption.
"So you guys make it out alive and intact?" Theron asked.
"Alive yes, intact mostly."
"Well that's pretty much the same for us. I'll give you the short version. I felt we needed a valid reason to remain on Voss long enough to be ambushed, otherwise why wouldn’t you just bolt after completing the relic?”
“Go on.” Nox repiled.
So, and I stress this was HER idea, she devised scheme to injure one of your crew and necessitate recovery here on Voss. “
“Let me guess, Andronikos.”
“Yep, Andronikos was shot in his sleep with a poison dart and he's being treated by a Voss doctor here in the Imperial District. He'll be fine but he's going to need to stay for at least 24 hours to receive a native treatment for the poison. Acina suggested meeting up at the cantina here. That’ where our ambush will occur this evening. She has about a dozen Gormak under mind control, poor bastards are just cowering in bushes a few hundred meters away until she sends them to be slaughtered by us. She and Ashara have their segment of the relic and are en route."
"We should check in with Khem and Xalek" Lana replied.
"Already taken care of, not by me of course but Ashara spoke with them and they have the second fragment. I hope yours is more revealing, because these two are indiscernible."
"Theron, please refrain from trying to make sense of the relics, you've no idea what we are dealing with here." Nox said scoldingly.
"No worries, I'm here to help destroy this thing not jump-start another galactic war."
"Then we're all on the same page." Lana said.
"I hope so. Listen, don't rush back. I'm exhausted, so are the rest of your crew, Khem and Xalek are already asleep in their quarters and we're stuck here for at least a day. No offense but you two look terrible so get some rest."
"Thanks for your concern." Lana replied sarcastically.
"No problem, everything is in place for tonight, and it needs to look convincing, so rest up and bring your best poker faces."
"We'll meet you at dusk." Nox said.
The holo clicked off.
“Poor Andronikos, he seems to always get the raw end of things.” Lana remarked.
“Well she certainly wasn’t going to poison Ashara, she’s having too much fun with her.” Nox said.
Lana laughed. “That’s true.”
Their mood lightened. Lana changed into her robe and they settled on the floor to eat.
“Do you still want me to move in with you?” Lana said out of the blue.
“Of course, after our holiday on Yavin IV.” Nox said winking at her and pouring to glasses of the fiery colored Voss wine.
“I won’t know what to do with myself. I rarely relax.”
“I know what to do with you.” Nox said.
“You certainly do", Lana beamed. "May I ask a personal question?"
"When we first met, what was your impression of me?"
Nox sipped her wine and reclined to her side propping up on an elbow. One side of her robe slipped from her shoulder.
"Its difficult to answer, as of course I delved into your mind in search of your motives and weaknesses. I sensed right away that I could trust you. I thought you were intelligent, unusually pleasant, measured in temperament, more astute than the Sith you served. This perplexed me. I was attracted to you right away. Andronikos was with me, and he commented on your breasts the moment we left your company"
Lana laughed nearly spitting out her wine.
"That's horrible! What did he say? No, I don't want to know!"
Nox poured them another glass.
"He said, 'nice rack on that one.' That's why I left him on the ship in Rishi. I knew you were the one who summoned me there, though I acted surprised. By then I was falling for you and I couldn't hide it. I'd rejected his proposal so it was quite awkward between us. Also I couldn't stand the thought of him trying to flirt with you."
"Thank you for sparing me that!" Lana slid the tray from between them and reclined on her side to face Nox. She reached out to caress her exposed shoulder and tucked a swath of Nox's hair behind her ear. Nox continued to talk.
"After we defeated Revan, and you said we couldn't be together, this was the first time I sensed fear in you, a fear of intimacy. You felt it would make you weak, and that I would not be satisfied with you. That you would be too boring or conventional, or focused on your work."
"Yes, that is all true."
"What about you, what were your impressions of me?"
I thought you were bold, self assured but not arrogant. You seemed uninterested in power, which was surprising. I admired your diplomacy in meeting Theron and Jakarro. I appreciated your comforting nature. It was something I'd never known in a Sith Lord, let alone a Dark Council member. I thought you were beautiful. I was shocked every time you flirted with me. I tried to keep a distance from you emotionally, but you made that very difficult. Despite my reluctance, when everything on Ziost fell apart I knew I had to call on you. The moment I saw you there I could no longer fight my feelings. I realized your presence made me stronger, not weaker. And here we are."
Nox leaned in to kiss her, and her head swam.
"Speaking of strong, this wine is really something."
"It is, I can't believe I'm telling you all this." Lana said, easing toward Nox to kiss her. Nox responded by playfully pulling Lana on top of her. Lana's robe fell open bearing her breasts and Nox eased the robe off of Lana's shoulders. It fell to her hips.
"Now that's more like it." Said Nox.
Lana reached down to pin Nox's shoulders to the ground, her breath quickened.
"We should take Theron's advice and rest." Lana resisted.
"We've been married one day and you're already giving me the shaft? It's not even midday, we have hours to recuperate."
"You're relentless. And I love it." Lana said, grinding her pubis against her lover. She placed her hands on Nox's breasts admiring the contrast of her pale skin against the sage colored flesh. She rocked atop her slowly, pacing the rise of passion, relishing the slow build of lust. Nox laid beneath her nearly still, arms submissively stretched above her head, watching her peaceful rapture. She felt a new emotion, tenderness mixed with longing. She studied Lana's body, her slim waist and large round breasts, the slight concave of her stomach, a purple bruise at her collarbone. Nox reached up and placed her left hand on the bruise, slightly grinding against her as she she did so. Slow pulses of warm healing energy passed between fingers and flesh. Lana moaned slightly as the bruise faded, pain evaporated as pleasure intensified.
"Thank you", she whispered. "I wish I could do that for you."
Nox took Lana's hand gently infusing it with force healing, then lowered it to her own bruised shoulder.
"Just let go, envision the transfer between us."
Lana exhaled as the bruise faded. She caught her breath from surprise and her eyes lightened several shades as she became momentarily overcome by the light side of the force. She felt overwhelmed by the shifting balance inside her. Nox reignited their passion, gripping Lana's breasts and bucking against her, casting Lana's robe to the side. Lana brought the nakedness of her body down upon her breathing short quick breaths. She kissed Nox's throat, biting and sucking the muscular area. They writhed against one another. Nox gripped her ass pulling her upwards and Lana complied in a domineering manner, kneeling at Nox's shoulders, and sliding her wetness just above her face. Nox lifted her head between Lana's legs and pulled her to her mouth. She flicked her tongue first against her swollen lips then explored the velvety inside of her. Lana rode her mouth and face in slow strides, leaning back to pleasure Nox with her fingers. Nox began the slow focus on Lana's clit, circling and sucking it. Lana responded by intensely stroking Nox's clit with her index and middle finger, impatient to bring her to climax as she was barely holding back her own. The tide of orgasm overcame them at the same moment, and they shuddered against mouth and fingers. Nox came quietly and breathlessly against Lana's muscle contractions, while Lana cried out in pleasure.
"Brilliant. If this Sith thing doesn't work out, you two should put on a clinic."
Lana nearly jumped across the room, saber leaping to her outreached hand.
"Acina, how the hell did you get in here?" She asked.
"I can be very persuasive. Don't stop the show, please."
Lana suddenly aware of her own nakedness strode to retrieve her robe. Nox seemed unbothered and maintained her naked position on the floor.
"What can we do for you Acina?"
"I have a few ideas." She replied coyly.
Lana glared at her.
"I'm kidding. The others are sleeping. I brought the other relics in case you wanted to have look before we destroy them. There's still time to change your mind."
Nox jumped to her feet. Acina undid her parcel presenting the two fragments.
"I hope yours is more revealing." She said, playfully looking Nox up and down.
"It certainly is." Nox said ignoring her innuendo.
"For God's sake please dress yourself, she practically drooling." Lana scolded.
Nox tossed on her robe, leaving the front untied. Lana rolled her eyes and sashed it for her.
Nox retrieved their section of relic and placed the three pieces together, careful to leave some space between them to prevent their joining. She studied the image on one side first, a starship of ancient origin with a four pronged cannon. She then turned them over to reveal a star system, unfamiliar of wild space origin and lengthy coordinates of numerals, illegible to them.
"Good luck deciphering that." Acina said.
Nox reached out to Marr through her mind connection. Almost immediately Acina's personal holocom chirped an alert.
"Excuse me ladies, just a moment."
She strode from the room.
"Marr I presume?" Lana asked.
"Yes, I must be quick about this."
"That's really handy you know, the connection you share. I'll keep an eye on her. Also you really must be more modest, I hate the way she gawks at you."
Nox smirked and quickly kneeled. She chanted holding her hands to the sides of her face studying the relic. She closed her eyes and the image began to trace in her mind, the ship came easily into focus, then she wrestled the pieces to their other side resuming her chant. The image took hold slowly, star points, then coordinates. The language barrier meant she had to open her eyes several times to study the markings then resume her closed focus. Finally it was completely visible to her with eyes closed. She rose, walking across the room to a darkened corner. She uttered incantations and opened her eyes. Her eyes illuminated brightly, casting the projected image on the bare walls and she studied it shifting the pieces fully together.
"She's coming." Lana said in awe at the spectacle before her.
Nox closed her eyes and the image vanished from the wall.
"He's all caught up. Though I can't imagine why he didn't call you." Acina said.
"He may have, I turned off my holocom." Nox said casually.
"You have to get these back before the others realize they're missing."
"Were you able to make any sense of it?" Acina asked.
"No, it's an ancient language, Rakattan I would surmise. But the Emperor would no doubt easily decipher it."
"Then I suppose it must be destroyed. Pity. Well, rest up for our performance tonight, you may want to avoid any encores of your own until then so you can put on a good show. But afterwards if you need an audience, or an extra, please do let me know." Acina winked at them repacking the two smaller relics.
"I can't believe you were with that woman." Nox said as she left.
"Don't remind me. Imagine what she has in store for Ashara after that."
"I'd rather not" Nox said.
"Were you able to inscribe it to your memory?"
"Yes, but it's not a language I've ever seen. I thought Rakatan at first, but it's something else. The star system itself is also nothing I've seen before.
"I pray we will never have use for it."
"Now, where were we?" Nox said suggestively.
"We were going to sleep." Lana said dryly. Then she softened and undid her robe.
"Come lay with me."
Nox snuffed out the torches save one and slid onto the rug against Lana.
"Your healing powers are aligned to the light."
"Yes, it's why I'm not very skilled at it."
"I thought you couldn't heal yourself."
I can't, not without a conduit. You were quite a natural. You felt the light, your eyes changed, they turned almost green."
"They were green when I was a child. It was strange to feel that presence, a little exhilarating really. I can't believe you can transfer the light it must be a very unusual ability."
" I didn't. Force healing takes the form of the healer, or in your case, the conduit. That came from within you. There is lightness in you Lana. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."
Chapter 16: Seeking Relics and Revelations: Conclusion
We end our journey on Voss with a showdown. Injuries abound. Theron and Andronikos take their Bromance to the next level. Lana has second thoughts.
Twilight arrived on Voss, and the sky took on the red hue of evening. Andronikos was incoherent, mumbling, and alternatively delirious and terrified. Drenched with sweat, he was restrained at his wrists, legs, feet, and chest. A bandage wrapped around the wound held the poultice in place. Theron sat on a stool several feet from his bed. I guess the only way to get a bed on Voss is to get shot." He thought. Then he felt wracked with guilt over Andronikos' condition. Another wave of delirium swept over Andronikos.
"They're all over me, get them off of me!" He yelled.
Theron explained to him for the eleventh time that he was hallucinating, that he'd been poisoned, and that he was going to be ok.
"The worst is over, I promise."
Andronikos tried to reach out to him but the wrist restraints prevented him from doing so.
"Don't leave me alone." Andronikos said.
"I'll be right here with you. I'm not going anywhere."
Theron grasped his hand firmly, it was soaked with sweat from his breaking fever. He sponged his forehead with cool water from the bedside medical table and placed a few ice chips to his mouth. Andronikos accepted them and seconds later he was again unconscious. Gone was his brash tough exterior. He looked so vulnerable. Theron dried his face and chest of sweat, placed ice in a cloth and held it to his neck and chest trying to cool him. He wondered how much Andronikos would remember about the ordeal.
"You're quite the nurse aren't you?"
Acina said taking in the scene.
"I can't leave him, he's terrified and hallucinating every time he wakes up."
"We can get on without you. Nix and Lana should be here within the hour. The others are in the cantina already, getting drunk."
"Well they're in for a shock when the Gormak show up."
"I've been practicing my surprised face". Acina said demonstrating looking aghast.
"You're pretty funny for a Sith."
Acina glared down at ailing Andronikos.
"I don't understand what you and Ashara see in him, he's much too rugged for my taste. Maybe it's your daddy issues."
"Unbelievable, you have no filter."
"Enjoy tending to your patient, I do hope he pulls through."
Nox and Lana joined the team in the cantina just in time to hear Khem and Xalek argue over who slaughtered the most Gormak. Xalek bowed to Nox .
"Master, I congratulate you on your wedding. Two Lords of the Sith, I cannot think of a more powerful union. Let us toast you congratulations."
"Thank you Xalek, thank you all, and raise a glass to yourselves. Because of you we have the map. A map to a powerful weapon for the Empire. But more importantly, a weapon the Republic can never wield against us."
Acina seized the moment of raised glasses as the perfect time to unleash the Gormak upon them. A garbled roar grew closer and bottles shook on the bar-top. Ashara anticipated an earthquake perhaps. Then the door cracked and split from its hinges as Gormak spilled into the small cantina. They were crazed and shooting at everything in sight except for the crew, though none noticed except Nox and Lana. The bar splintered with rifle and blaster fire, bottles shattered, stools and tables ricocheted the crude shells and shrapnel. A couple of unsuspecting Voss patrons dove under their table. Ashara leapt with Acina’s knapsack in hand behind the bar to take cover with the fragments of the map. Lana and Nox engaged the Gormak with Xalek and Khem assisting. The bar went almost completely dark as lights shattered. And torches snuffed out. The only discernible sight was blaster fire, whirring light sabers, and sparks of force lightning. Guttural groans and gurgling sounds were punctuated by deep thuds and the tearing of flesh. Ashara drew her saber, unsure of whether to help or continue to guard the fragments.
Acina screamed "I need help!"
Ashara jumped to her aid racing toward the sound of her voice. One of the Gormak loomed above Acina, having stabbed her in the stomach. Ashara's blade alighted and she tore his arm off at the shoulder. It was total chaos. How many were there she wondered, ten, fifty? Who could tell in the darkness? The ground began to shift and quake beneath her feet. She knew what was coming and laid atop Acina to shield her as best she could. A shockwave of force energy exploded all around them, knocking them all unconscious. Only Nox and Lana remained standing, contained in a force shield back to back, sabers drawn.
"What was that?" Lana asked.
"A force quake. We must act quickly, we have only seconds. Lana jumped to retreive the knapsack of relics from behind the bar, and passed the bag to Nox. Nox dropped a grenade into it and tossed it toward the entrance hurling the body of a slain Gormak on top of it. She pressed the charge and the bag exploded hurling fragments of the map and the Gormak everywhere.
"Messy, but effective." Lana said, dispatching two unconscious Gormak with strikes through the head.
"We need light in here." Nox yelled, stumbling over bodies.
"There, that torch is still lit." Lana indicated down the hall toward the sublet rooms. Nox retrieved it and re-lit the hanging sconces. They surveyed the bloodshed. Ten Gormak lay dead. Khem splayed out unconscious, his teeth still sunk deep in the neck of one. Xalek was the first of her crew to stir. He scanned the room for surviving combatants, finding one attempting to stand. He slashed him across the chest with his doubled bladed saber. Ashara tried to rise, coughing.
"Get this damn thing off me." Acina muttered.
Lana pulled the armless corpse off of her and noted the blade still buried in her side.
"You're injured. Be still."
"I'll be fine, just a flesh wound."
"Master, the map." Ashara began.
"It's gone. One of the Thalak got it. We killed him, but the map was destroyed in the process."
"It's my fault. I was guarding it, but Acina needed aid. I let my emotions distract me from our mission."
"I would have done the same for any of you. Do not blame yourself, this was a coordinated ambush."
"All of our efforts for nothing" Xalek hissed.
"No, though it's a loss for the Empire, we've eliminated perhaps the most powerful weapon from our enemies' grasp. Neither the Republic, nor our crazed former Emperor can ever wield it against us. We should be proud of that."
"Indeed, you should." The crisp voice of Darth Marr echoed through the room.
"I regret I arrived too late to aid you. But Nox is correct, you have all done a great service to the Empire, even if the outcome was not as desired.
"My Lord" Xalek kneeled before him. "I am honored."
Marr lifted Acina in his arms.
"There's a Medical facility close by. Lana and I will accompany you. You all stay here, check for any surviving Voss, we will send aid." Nox ordered.
"So, things didn't exactly go smoothly?" Theron asked as Marr laid her down on the hospital bed.
"They shot out all the lights, we had to improvise; but it's done."
"Ashara took cover with the map, we needed a distraction to coax her away." She paused struggling for words, "I influenced one of them to stab me. I mistook him for a common soldier. In the dark I didn't realize it was one of the Thalak blade masters."
Acina winced and released her grip from the wound. It spurted blood.
"You've lost a lot of blood." Lana said.
"Thank you Darth Obvious" Acina retorted.
"Well at least your sarcasm remains intact." Lana quipped back.
A Voss doctor approached the bedside.
"You are needed elsewhere. Gormak attacked the cantina. There are injured Voss. We will tend to our comrade. Go now." Marr said sternly.
"I'll go with him, I need a break from this place." Theron said.
"Nox, can you heal her?" Marr asked. Nox tore open Acina's robe at the wound site. She swiftly pulled the thick, large blade from her stomach. Acina cried out and rose up from the bed.
"Hold her down!" Nox directed Lana.
"I have to stop the bleeding internally first. This is the most efficient way but it will be most unpleasant."
Acina screamed out and panted wildly.
"Try to control your breathing."
"Fuck my breathing!" She yelled. Then her eyes glossed over, she appeared to be in shock. Lana observed Nox's right hand buried into the wound itself, her left hand placed onto the flesh around the massive stab wound. She was overwhelmed by the scene but refrained from speaking and struggled to hold Acina down.
Nox closed her eyes and focused on the injury: tears in the stomach, muscle, small intestine. A flood of warm energy flowed from her hand into Acina.
"Stay with me, look into my eyes, feel the healing force pulsing through your pain."
As tissue healed she slowly withdrew her hand from the wound. The effort was exhausting for Nox, and the pain for Acina was excruciating with exhilarating waves of healing in turns. Both Sith took gasping breaths. Lana felt anger and jealousy at the intimacy of their exchange. After several minutes the wound closed and Nox laid both hands gently on the newly formed scar atop Acina's stomach. She pressed slightly, ensuring no internal injuries remained. Acina gripped Nox's hand, her exposed stomach and chest rising and falling with quick gasping breaths that began to slow. Nox stroked the side of Acina's face. "You'll be fine now.
"Sedate her. Nox said weakly, "she needs rest now."
Marr inoculated Acina with a sedative. Nox released her healing touch and took a step backwards.
"You're bleeding." Lana said. "Are you alright?"
Blood trickled from Nox's nose. Wearing a blank expression she fainted. Marr caught her.
"Is she ok?" Lana frantically asked Marr.
"She exhausted her reserves, injuring herself to complete the healing. An exchange of injury, if you will. She does not often heal others as it is so debilitating to her. I thought this was beyond her capacity, but her will surpasses her limitations. Like Acina, she needs rest now."
"I'll stay with her here." Lana said.
"No need, I can carry her back to your quarters in the cantina."
Marr effortlessly lifted Nox in his arms briskly striding away.
"Take her to our previous quarters in the Alien Enclave, no need to further upset the crew." Lana said.
For a moment she contemplated the decision to destroy the map. As she surveyed Andronikos' and Acina's injuries she sighed. So much had transpired in the past 48 hours. She almost missed the monotonous routines of intelligence reports and briefings. Her days were typically rigidly scheduled. Yet here she was on Voss, reacting moment by moment to unexpected situations, having her most personal moments revealed, getting married on whim.
"I've lost my mind". She said aloud to no one in particular.
Lana remained to assist the Voss in treating the wounded patrons and bartender. Exhausted, she checked in with Nox's crew in the cantina. Khem and Xalek sat with Marr, transfixed by his fame and eagerly sharing battle stories. Theron sat with Ashara, but got up to greet Lana.
"Is she still thinking this is all her fault?"
"No, I mean maybe a little but I think she's glad the weapon won't be wielded by either faction."
"Well that makes one of us." Lana said.
"Khem was furious. When he realized the map was destroyed he went nuts, chasing down the Gormak that fled, tore their limbs off. He said one of them knocked him out, and that's how they got the map. He said he was a disgrace to the Dashade."
"Nox incapacitated the whole room with a force wave. They were all unconscious when we destroyed the map." Lana explained.
"Now they are all blaming themselves. I'm sure Andronikos will blame himself too once he regains his senses. Where's Nox?"
"Resting, she injured herself healing Acina. It's probably good that she isn't here to see them all bemoaning."
"Well that's the lonely burden of leadership. You make difficult choices that you can't always justify or share with those who follow you, all to protect a greater cause."
"That's quite perceptive, Theron. Well said."
"She must not be too bad off" Theron said, as Nox appeared in the bar.
"You should be resting." Lana scolded.
"I'm fine. I need to be here with my crew."
Ashara started in, "Master, How are"-
"Acina will be alright, she's healed but sedated. Andronikos is awake and mostly back to his brooding self. I told him what happened. He could use a drink, why don't you take him one?"
"I got it" Theron said eagerly.
"I'll join you, I want to check on both of them." Ashara insisted.
"Sit at least." Lana said noting Nox's swaying, unsteady gait. She led her to the bar beside Marr.
"How do you drink in that armor?" She teased him.
"I don't. I pray you'll take some time off, both of you. You've had no time to recuperate from Ziost and now this."
"Yes, we're taking a holiday on Yavin IV."
"Good. Talos is aboard my ship. I retrieved him for you. I prefer him to venture with me if you approve. He has troubling clues regarding the possible location of our former Emperor. I intend to pursue these leads."
"Of course. Reach out to me if you need me."
"What of the map?"
"I can see it in my mind. The weapon, it's a ship of some sort. I did not recognize the technology. The coordinates were in a language I've never seen, Rakatan I thought at first, but no something else. The star system was also unknown to me, somewhere in wild space. I can transfer the image to your mind when my strength returns."
"No, you mustn't. That is for your consciousness only. It may prove too tempting. In time, it may reveal itself to you, if it is meant to do so."
Nox said nothing, and downed a tall shot of Voss brandy. With the bartender absent, Xalek had raided the spirits and lined the few unbroken bottles on the bar-top. The commotion of their battle hadn't gone unnoticed by others in the Imperial District, and the bar was crawling with outsiders partaking in the free drinks of an untended cantina.
"What a bizarre scene this is." Lana noted.
Blood streaked walls, smashed stools and tables, it seemed an odd atmosphere for the jovial partygoers.
"I take my leave. You have my well wishes for a restorative holiday." Marr took Nox's hand and held it fondly. Nox smiled at him smiled slightly, placing her other hand atop his. Marr turned to Lana.
"Lana, I relieve you for the week and will relay that to your subordinates."
Lana turned to Nox."You're going to bed now."
"I'm not done drinking." Nox said half joking.
Lana snatched a bottle of liquor from the bar-top. “We’ll take it with us, now bid them goodnight.”
“Xalek, we depart at dawn. Lana and I will drop the crew at Kaas City. Everyone can take the week off, we all need a rest. Let the others know.”
“Understood Master, I will ensure the crew are aboard the ship.”
At the medical center Theron surveyed Andronikos’ condition. “You look pretty good, considering.” Theron said sitting at the foot of Andronikos’ hospital bed, offering a flask.
“Thanks, I really want a shower.
“Well there’s a refresher in my room if you feel up to it.”
“Hell yes, let’s get out of here”, he said taking a large swig.
He swung his legs off the side of the bed and fought through dizziness, shaking his head.
“Are you certain you’ve completed your treatment?” Ashara asked from her meditative state on the floor, eyes still closed.
“Sweet of you to be concerned, but the Doc said once my fever broke and the hallucinations subsided I was good to go. Feel bad for Acina though, she took one hell of stabbing.”
“She’ll be fine, don’t worry about her.” Theron said with a tinge of irritation.
“Course she will, she’s got you here.” Andronikos smiled down at Ashara, who broke from her meditation to give a slight smile back.
“Well promise you will take it easy.”
Ashara rolled her eyes and shook her head at him. “You’ll never learn.”
As the two parted, Acina spoke
“You should join them, it’s no fun here.”
“You’re awake, how are you?”
“Fine, groggy and sore but fine thanks to Nox.”
“Master healed you? I was worried, it appeared to be a deep wound.”
“Look for yourself.”
Ashara parted Acina’s robe revealing a long scar and a bruise.
“Pity, I had such a perfect stomach.”
Ashara grinned at her. “Just another battle scar for you to brag about.”
“I’m afraid I’ll be in need of respite for a bit longer.”
“I’ll stay here with you for now, we depart in the morning.” Ashara said sadly.
“Yes, Nox and Lana are going on holiday in Yavin IV. Would you like to travel back to Kaas City with me, until they return?”
“Yes, I would like that.”
“So would I.” Acina replied winking at her.
“Nox has an apartment there, though. So you won’t be stuck with me.”
“Perhaps I can persuade you to stay a night or two, take you out for a proper date.”
“I’m sure you can.”
Theron perused his packed clothes. “You’re a bit taller than me, but these should be ok for one night.” Theron tossed Andronikos a shirt and pair of lounge pants. “Leave your clothes by the door and I’ll put them in the laundering capsule.”
Andronikos peeled off his shirt and pants. His chiseled, wiry frame and tight underwear left nothing to the imagination.
Theron talked incessantly when nervous. “Are you hungry? You must be, I’ve got some decent food. Voss cuisine isn’t bad, cheese, fruits, and some meat, not sure what it is, but it’s pretty tasty.” I’ll make you a plate.”
“You don’t have to do all that.”
“It’s my pleasure, or it’s no problem, I mean, it’s nothing. I’ll eat with you.”
“Oh-kay” Andronikos said slowly and deliberately.
Andronikos stepped into the refresher. He peeled the mesh covered poultice from his leg wound. It stuck to the hair and scab on his thigh and oozed orange fluid. He exhaled sharply, pursing his lips and stifling a groan of dull pain. He thought of the previous night’s drunken conversation with Theron. He’d never opened up to anyone about his bisexuality. Then bits and pieces of his delusions came back to him. He recalled Theron calming him and comforting him. “He must’ve stayed with me all day” he thought. He had a flash of Theron rubbing ice on his chest, and a rush of desire came over him. He held his face under the steamy spray of water and felt the blood rush downward, hardening his cock. “I can’t come out like this” he thought. So he quickly turned on the cold water and stood under the shock of icy spray. It wasn’t helping. He stepped out of the refresher and dressed, the tight fitting pants weren’t helping either. The shirt was too small so he abandoned it completely.
Theron stood in lounge wear reading over his data pad, trying not to look at Andronikos as he handed him a plate of food.
“This looks great, thanks.”
“No problem”. Theron said absently, typing away.
“No really, thank you for everything. You’re a kind and generous guy for a Pub spy, even if your clothes are too small for me.”
Theron looked up from his datapad at Andrnikos in his ankle high pants. “Now that’s a good look for you”.
“So, you can smile.” Andronikos said. “You should do it more often, it really is a good look on you.”
“Well, if there was a shirtless guy standing in my room more often...” Theron retorted.
“What else makes you smile?” Andronikos asked stepping toward him.
Andronikos put the plate down and playfully tossed Theron’s datapad on the floor.
“That’s a start”. He said eyes fixed on the bulge in Andronikos’ pants. “What do you have in mind?”
Andronikos pressed his body against Theron, he was already rock hard too. He stripped off Theron’s shirt to reveal a muscular chest. He slid his hand down his pants and gripped Theron’s cock, it was surprisingly long.
Andronikos wasted no time, pulling Theron’s pants down to only his thighs. He dropped to his knees and took his cock in his mouth as deeply as he could, stroking the remaining length of it. Theron held Andronikos’ prickly, shaved head as he thrust slowly into his mouth. Andronikos sucked and flicked the tip of his cock with his tongue. He continued downing his cock for several minutes, gripping Theron’s round ass. Sensing Theron was on the edge, he stood up slowly, turned around and pressed his ass against Theron’s groin. Theron needed no further invitation. He pulled his and Andronikos pants down and let his shaft thrust between his ass cheeks, not entering him. He reached around the front of Andronikos’ hip bone and found his cock, stroking it quickly. It was shorter than his own, but thick and wet at the tip. As he stroked him Andronikos pressed harder against Theron’s cock. Theron slid partly inside him, continuing to stroke him at a slower, firmer pace. Andronikos muttered his approval, moaning and pressed harder against him, taking in more of his cock. Theron rocked against him, sliding in and out with deeper thrusts. Andronikos continued to pummel against him until Theron was backed fully against the wall. He began to ride him wildly, his hips smacking against his ass. Andronikos’ dick throbbed and shuddered as he came, driving deeper onto Theron’s cock. Theron continued to pound against him, sweat now dripping from his chest onto Andronikos’ ass. Theron squeezed the sides of Andronikos’ ass ready to pull out with his building orgasm, but Andronikos again pushed back into him, taking his climax inside of him. Theron gave in and came hard, thrusting deeper with each successive stream of cum. He pulled out, panting and Andronikos turned around to face him. He was hard again. Theron pushed him to the floor and took his dick in his mouth. His cock was wide. His head bobbed up and down licking and sucking the sides of his cock. Andronikos laid on his back holding a lock of Theron’s hair. Theron began to suck and bite his cock head while cupping his balls tightly. Andronikos voiced his pleasure, groaning. He came in a rush, holding tightly to Theron’s hair. Theron licked him clean as Andronikos shuddered and laughed.
“That’s not how I thought this was going to go.” Theron said, lying beside him.
“Didn’t take me for bottom?”
“No, I didn’t. That was a pleasant surprise. In fact, you’re full of surprises”.
Theron noticed Andrikos’ leg wound was bleeding.
“Let’s clean that up.”
He bounded to his feet, retrieved some supplies and bandaged his wound. Andronikos reclined, hands folded behind his head enjoying the attention. He closed his eyes.
“You really should eat something.” Theron said. But Andronikos was already fast asleep.
Nox’s chest rose and fell slowly in deep sleep. Lana watched her, wishing for sleep herself, but far from it. Her mind was swirling with uncertainty. She would move in with her after their holiday, but what would Nox think of her need for quiet time? She was much more introverted than Nox and hated social engagements. As a member of the Dark Council, Nox would attend many events. Lana wondered if she would be expected to regularly accompany her. Then there was the matter of her affinity for routines. Lana maintained a rigid schedule and sought to streamline most aspects of her life, wearing the same outfit each day, eating the same foods, and organizing her home and belongings in a strict manner. Nox was spontaneous. She’s going to be disappointed with me, she thought. Dismayed by her thoughts she stepped outside for some air in the cool Voss night. Ashara appeared to be doing the same, walking toward her from the medical center.
“How is-“ both of them started to say at the same moment.
Lana laughed. “Nox is fine, she’s resting.”
“Acina too. Andronikos was released, he’s staying with Theron.”
“Good new all around, then.” Lana replied.
“You look very forlorn.” Ashara remarked.
“Yes, well I’m trapped in my thoughts.”
“Are you having second thoughts, about getting married?”
Lana was astounded by Ashara’s directness. But Ashara eyed her steadily, clearly expecting a response.
“Not exactly. I am a creature of habit, and this all happened so quickly. I won’t lie, it’s a bit of a shock really that I could do something so spontaneous.”
“I think you two are good for each other, you balance each other out. Like the force, light and dark in balance.”
“Or at war.” Lana said.
“I sense fear, not conflict.” Ashara replied.
“You are correct. I worry that I will not be enough for her. I worry she will find me rote and boring.”
“Her best friends are Darth Marr and Talos Drelik. Do you have any idea how boring they are?”
“I do”. Lana said laughing.
“I mean, there are no guarantees, but I can assure you that Master is very much aware of who you are, and she will respect your needs and personality. Somehow she keeps our crazy crew together. A Sith, a pirate, a fallen Jedi, an archaeologist, and a monster. She seems to value us all in different ways. When the months went by after facing Revan, and she heard nothing from you she was miserable. Also, you were kind of a jerk when she showed up on Ziost and still she pursued you.”
“These are all excellent points.” Lana said. “Thank you for your reassurance.”
“Ok, now I have a question for you.”
“Acina asked me to stay with her in Kaas City, while you two are gone.”
“Did she? I’m not surprised.”
“You two have a history.”
“Yes, but that was years ago. She seems somewhat different now, but not entirely. She is quite impulsive and charming, she is skilled at influencing others. Some might say she is manipulative and controlling.”
“Would you say that?”
“I would say that she was those things when I knew her, absolutely. But she has tried to make amends and it seemed genuine. She is fiercely loyal, and a lot of fun.”
“Are you going to stay with her, pursue her?” Lana asked.
“It scares me. I think I might.”
Chapter 17: Honeymoon, Cut Short
Lana and Nox honeymoon on Yavin IV while the crew take respite on Dromund Kaas. What should be a relaxing and joyful time is interrupted by continued threats in Wild Space.
Xalek and Khem snored loudly in the crew quarters. Andronikos flopped onto Nox’s bed. Rain poured steadily outside, a typical stormy day in Kaas City.
“Should we call you Master?” Ashara asked, arms folded with a disapproving look.
“She ain’t here. No way I’m bunking with those two freaks. You’re welcome to join me, it’s a large bed.” He raised his eyebrows at her and patted the bed with his hand.
“I’ll pass, but-“ she flopped down beside him, “I always wanted to try this bed.” She grabbed a pillow and flung it at Andronikos playfully. “It’s all yours though.”
“You gonna stay with your evil girlfriend?”
“Maybe for a night or two. We’ll see.”
Andronikos’ holocom alerted.
He groaned and peeled himself from the bed.
“Yeah” he answered casually.
“So, back in enemy territory?” Theron’s voice quipped.
“Indeed. It’s surprisingly relaxing so far, Nox gave us the week off, so we are all just making ourselves at home in her sprawling palace.”
“Glad you’re getting a break. I had to depart before you got up, and I didn’t want to disturb you. Still, it felt in poor taste not saying goodbye.”
“Well I appreciate the sentiment, and you know, the good time.”
“It was a good time wasn’t it?” Theron asked.
“Really good.” Andronikos replied.
“Give me call if you’re back in Republic or neutral space some time.”
“Will do, likewise.”
“Alright, well stay safe out there. Catch you later, pirate.”
“You too, Republic scum.”
“Sounds like you made a friend. What kind of trouble did you two get into?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Andronikos said, falling back on the bed. “You’re welcome to stay and cuddle, but I’m going to take a nap.”
“Say no more, enjoy your big bed, I’m venturing into the city, I have a dinner date.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” He teased, then furrowed his brow. “Seriously, mind your heart will you? You don’t know much about her. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Ashara turned briskly to leave and threw up her hand at him, clearly uninterested in his commentary.
Lana surveyed the overlook atop the temple onto the vast grounds of Nox’s stronghold on Yavin IV.
“This is all yours?”
“It was a gift from Marr. This is the main structure, but there are two smaller temples, and the grounds are expansive. There is a cave system as well. Go wherever you like, it’s yours now too.” It is the only residence I have with no links to the outside, no communications devices, no terminals of any kind. I come here for relaxation and reconnecting with the force, and now with you.”
“It belonged to the Revanites.” Lana surmised.
“You know, I was one of them, for a time.” Lana said bracing for admonishment.
“I did not. But I can understand the appeal.”
Lana continued, “As an acolyte I was sent to infiltrate their ranks and provide intelligence to the Empire. But I found his teachings remarkable. The Order’s embracing of alien species and cross-faction membership was appealing to me. Acina was also a convert, for a time. I saw truth in Revan’s philosophy, but members of the Order still clung to their factions, even as they strove to walk a middle path. In the end, I realized how blind and fanatical they had become. I suppose that is the case for many followers be they religious or philosophical. As time passes without their leader, they become something different entirely. Revan would decry their current state.”
“How did you leave the Order?” Nox asked.
“Acina. She was sent for the same purpose, and together we revealed a key Sith member of the Order to the Empire, Tari Darkspanner. I had mixed feelings exposing her, but Acina convinced me that we would likely face treason if we did not turn her over. She was right.”
“You were unaware of Arkous’ involvement?”
“I was, that was truly shocking, especially considering my time with the Order. Though initially he would not have known that I turned against them. Prior to our exit, Acina postulated that we would infiltrate Intelligence as double agents, to further the the Order’s purpose. Tari believed the ruse completely, and we left the Order with the promise that we would promote their cause within the Empire. Arkous must’ve become involved sometime later, or have operated in greater secrecy than Tari. When he sought me as his Advisor, it did not occur to me until much later that he may have done so thinking I was still loyal to the Order. If he knew my history he must’ve surmised over time that my loyalty to the Order was gone.”
“You’ve lived an exciting life, Lana. Are you sure you’re ready to settle down?”
“Well so far our life together hasn’t been dull. I imagine you will only bring more excitement into my life.”
Nox stopped mid-stride at the end of the massive stone bridge adjoining the temple to the grounds. Two pyramidical smaller temples sat before them, one to the left and one to the right.
“Is that what you desire? More excitement?” Nod asked smiling coyly.
“I desire many things, but mostly you.”
Lana kissed Nox, who bent down slightly to meet her lips.
“I do wish you weren’t so damn tall!” She teased.
Nox kicked off her boots lowering her height by a couple of inches.
“Walk with me, I want to show you something.”
The ground was mossy, purple and soft beneath her feet. She led Lana to the temple on their right. They entered through the low stone gateway. Inside was a large red rug, covering the full length of the floor. A meditation chamber stood in the center, light cascading a billowing ray upon it from the windows above. To the left and right stood two holo-projections of a male and female human. The male was tall, middle-aged, with wavy locks of chestnut colored hair. He bore a welcoming smile, dressed in colorful Kaasian robes indicative of wealth and status. The female was petite, donning a black tunic and casual grey pants. Her expression was serious, but not cross, with perhaps a hint of a smile at one corner of her mouth. Her hair was short and starkly blonde, but her most striking feature were her intense green eyes. There was no mistaking she was Lana’s mother.
“How did you, did you make these?”
“I did. I hope that’s alright.”
“It’s, wonderful. Forgive me, I am overwhelmed.” Lana fought back tears. “When did you do this?”
When we were last here. You and Theron stayed in the camp, but Marr and I retired each night here. I was already very curious about your past, and Marr provided me with data about your family and recordings of your parents. Your parents were quite well known, and Kaas city being under constant surveillance, it wasn’t difficult to find their images. These are-”
“From the day I left for the Academy.” Lana interrupted.
“I can’t believe you did this for me. Before we were even together.”
“Yes well, I intended on giving them to you after we defeated Revan. But then Marr wisely promoted you to Intelligence Minister. I understood your need to eliminate any intimate relationships that would distract you. I thought gifting these would make our parting more difficult. So I kept them here.”
“Thank you, I’m touched. I really don’t know what to say.”
“This temple is yours, and yours only. I want it to be a respite for you. This will be a place you can retreat to meditate or work, or just to be alone. I know you value privacy and time alone, and I will respect that by not entering this space. I hope it will be a sacred space for you. You can make whatever changes you desire, anything that you need or want for this space you need only request and I will make it happen.”
“There is one thing I need”.
“I need you to show me your bedroom.”
Ashara followed the coordinates to her date with Acina. She hadn’t much explored Kaas city in the past aside from one night out with Nox. Unending lightening cracked high above in the eternally gray sky. A warm, muggy light rain fell though she noticed the ground was not wet. The stone covering the city floor seemed to absorb each drop completely the moment it landed. Her datacom chirped, she had reached her destination. From the outside, the apartment looked identical to Nox’s building. Ashara dreaded speaking to the Imperial guard stationed at the door. As a Togruta or any alien species aside from human or Sith, communications with Imperials were seething with discrimination.
“You are here to see Darth Acina. Please enter, she is expecting you. You may take the lift to the right and call her. The lift will take you to her apartment. Please enjoy your stay.”
“Thank you.” Ashara said, shocked at the pleasant exchange.
She entered the lift and a computerized voice welcomed her. “What is your destination?”
“The residence of Darth Acina.”
Seconds later the door whisked open. The foyer was filled with terminals and datacrons, desh piles, boxes and boxes of sliced computer tech, and several droids busily sorting. One walked past her on three spiky legs. It turned toward her and blinked a pair of blue eyes from its long smooth vacant face. “Good afternoon Ashara. I am Fab. The lady of the house will be glad to see you. If you need service of any kind please call for me.”
“Forgive me, I’ve only just moved in. It’s a wreck, I know. So you’ve met Fab. He is my service and fabrication droid, he is also a knowledgeable historian. Fab will take your bags. Come, let me show you around.”
“Enjoy your stay.” Fab said in a proper and familiar voice.
“You taught a fabrication droid to speak Basic?”
“Well I programmed him, yes. He’s quite helpful being able to complete multiple duties. He is the only talking droid in my apartment. I really hate a lot of chattering droids so I thought it best to have only one that could speak.”
“His voice is familiar.”
“Well don’t tell anyone but I used Darth Arkous recordings as his voice platform.”
“That’s hilarious. Lana would die.”
“She really would” Acina laughed. “My apartment is probably similar to Nox’s, but smaller. The main reception area to your right. A guest room ahead, to the left is the hanger. Then up these stairs to the main living area.”
They walked the long semi-circular stairway to the upper level. A larger reception, lounge area with a stocked bar, sofas and cantina tables. Several lush plants and a fountain filled the room, but the walls were bare of any paintings or decorations.
“Sorry, it’s quite bare at the moment, decorating is not really my thing. This way…”
Through the lounge was a bedroom. Three walls were filled with library shelves stocked with books and holocom recordings, a large umber metallic bed set in the middle facing the massive paned wall of windows overlooking Kaas city. A silver, scaly rug encircled the floor.
“My bedroom, sort of.” Acina pressed three holopads on one of the library shelves and the shelf sprung open to reveal an entry way.
“But this is where I spend most of my time.”
The entryway led through a dark hallway, shelved as a closet with boxes of tech stacked on one side and robes and clothes on the other. The opposite end held sabers, belts, ammunition, grenades and medpacs hanging from hooks and a palm pad.
"You spend most of your time in a closet?" Ashara asked sarcastically.
"No, smart-ass, here." Acina waved her hand across it and the back wall opened, another hidden room. This room was massive, hexagonal and richly lit with flaming stone Revanite sconces. A meditation chamber, several hovering and gleaming datacrons were set in symmetry along the five corners of the room. A statue or Revan stood in the center of the room. The banner of the Order Of Revan hung from the ceiling, with its four circles. Several ancient texts strewn about the floor, historical accounts of Revan’s battles and philosophy. His saber and mask stood on either side of the statue, suspended in the air above force-fields.
“How did you get these?”
“I cannot say. And no one can know of this.”
“I am not a Revanite, not any more at least. The Order is a mockery now, but I do hold reverence for Revan, and I believe in his philosophy of bringing balance to the force, balance to the Empire.”
“His saber’s blade was violet, like yours.”
“Yes, it is his crystal that lights my saber.”
“I hope you don’t think me a mad-woman.”
“Not at all. I think you are very wise.”
“Well it will be our secret.”
Ashara noticed the long window in the room overlooking the apartment parallel to Acina’s.
“Aren’t you afraid someone will see in here from outside?”
“The window is tinted, no one can see in from the outside.”
Ashara walked toward the window peering across into the other apartment.
“It’s Nox’s bedroom, oh my, you can see right into it.”
“Indeed, you can. It’s a shame she hardly uses it. I do love a good show.”
“Well you might want to avoid voyeurism this week, Andronikos is staying in it.”
“Maybe he’ll smuggle in Theron for another round.”
“Ha, I knew they were up to no-good last night, no doubt they found some girls to keep them company.”
Acina realized Ashara’s cluelessness and quickly changed the subject.
“Let’s get you settled in, we have an early dinner reservation, so our night will be open for… other pursuits.” She said suggestively.
“Head back out to my bedroom and assist Fab with attending to your things. I will secure things here and join you shortly.”
Ashara exited the room. Acina activated her holocom and Marr came into focus.
“How is your search going?”
“I’m chasing ghosts at the moment. But two of our outposts in wild space have been attacked, completely destroyed. I am en-route to a third, to provide military support in case of another attack.”
“Perhaps, I sense his nearness. There have been attacks by two brothers laying waste to Mandalorian and pirate vessels, and attempting to occupy unallied planets. These attacks though demonstrate boldness and calculation. Distress calls recovered from the wreckage detail a disturbing account of a massive fleet. I’ve seen no evidence of a fleet of this size.”
“A cloaking device, large enough to cloak an entire fleet?”
“Perhaps. It is an ominous potentiality.”
“One of the attacking ships was destroyed, but it’s technology cannot be sliced by us at least. It could be Republic tech or something else.”
“Theron could try to slice it, at least then we will know if it is Republic tech. I can have a go at it too.”
“I cannot bring him above my ship. Even in disguise his presence would not go unnoticed.”
“You could have him smuggled here as cargo. Nox’s crew is staying in her apartment. They are used to him by now. Andronikos could bring him in directly to the hanger at her residence, it’s larger than mine and can accommodate a freighter.”
“An intriguing idea. It’s less of a risk given Nox is not there. If he were discovered, she could sincerely deny knowledge if this. Very well.”
Acina smiled, looking into Nox’s bedroom through the window. “This should be entertaining” she thought.
Evening set on Yavin IV.
“There is a waterfall in your bedroom, of course there is.” Lana laughed.
“Too much?” Nox joked.
Lana was already stripping her clothes.
“I guess not.”
Nox followed her lead and both slipped into the water. The rocky edges were smooth and warm, and the sandy floor warmed their feet.
“It’s so warm.” Lana said grinning.
Nox relished rare moments when Lana expressed glee.
Lana’s perfect breasts bobbed atop the water, and Nox felt a rush of lust fill her as she looked on at her wife, here in her bedroom. Lana led Nox’s hands to her breasts and she felt the fullness of them.
Lana wrapped her legs around Nox’s hips and pressed her pelvis against her, laying back to float the top half of her body weightlessly. Lana looked to the sky peaking through from above and the spray and steam of the waterfall rising through the rays of light. Nox massaged her breasts and nipples, squeezing them lightly. Lana pressed her wetness against her, and Nox felt her slickness distinctive from the water surrounding them. Nox pulled them back a few steps, allowing her to stand on a rock, elevating her to bring their clits to direct contact. She pulled Lana against her, rocking back and forth as Lana floated breathing slowly and moaning slightly. She freed one of her hands from Lana’s breasts and entered her. Lana drove against her, clutching her fingers with the tightness of her, pulling her deeper inside her. Nox teased her, alternating penetrating her and thrusting her clit against hers. Lana locked her legs behind Nox’s ass and Nox began to stroke herself with her other hand. Lana’s breath quickened as did her own. Lana banged against her faster and faster. Nox felt so close to orgasm, she stopped touching herself and penetrating Lana, focused on driving their swollen clits together. They came in unison throbbing against each other. Nox immediately wanted more of her. She summoned the force to leap from the pool, Lana still wrapped around her. She carried her to her bed, dripping wet and playfully tossed her. Lana opened her legs to her and Nox pulled her to the edge of the bed. Draping her legs off the end. She dropped to her knees and forced Lana’s legs further apart, penetrating her deeply with two fingers. She buried her face into her, kissing and tonguing her clit roughly, sucking on it and biting it’s still swollen thickness. Lana cried out, gripping the bedsheets in a symphony of pain and pleasure. Nox fucked her with her hand while nibbling and licking her clit. Lana’s pussy enveloped her fingers tightly, muscles contracting with her building climax. She came hard, lifting her back into the air and calling her by given name. Nox paused.
"Don't stop" she said.
Nox smiled and warmed at the nickname, something she hadn’t heard uttered by a woman in many years. She slid onto the bed with Lana and pulled her face to meet hers. She kissed her, her mouth wet with Lana’s slippery wetness. Lana kissed her back hungrily. Nox toyed with her clit, rubbing it in broad circles. Lana uttered “Mmm, just like that.”
Lana breathed rhythmically as Nox stimulated her. A warm energy filled her as she strove to remain just on the edge of another orgasm. “Keep going, I want to enjoy this feeling.”
Nox complied, keeping the same pace for several minutes. Lana’s breathing heaved and her eyes appeared focused and intense. Nox leaned over to kiss and suck at the side of her breast. She took one of her nipples in her mouth and rolled it between her teeth. She quickened the pace of her fingers encircling Lana’s clit.
“Kiss me” Lana said.
She loved when Lana told her what she wanted. She kissed her, their tongues dancing as she briskly focused more pressure on her clit. Lana came with such force that she bit down on Nox’s lip, groaning an animal-like growl.
Then she pounced on her, dripping wet. Nox felt a warm trickle of blood come from her lip. Lana wiped it off.
“Sorry, but not really” she said with a wicked smile. Lana lowered herself onto Nox, trailing kisses down her neck and chest. She bit one of her nipples and pulled on it. Nox squealed. Lana quickly went to work with her mouth, licking her clit and penetrating her with her pointy tongue. As she went down her, she reached up and wrapped her hand around Nox’s neck applying pressure. Nox pushed against her gripping hand and Lana choked her, relenting after several seconds. Nox gasped, feeling the blood rush back to her face. Lana grabbed her again, choking her a second time, more roughly than before. All the while she intensified her stroking tongue. As she came choking, she nearly lost consciousness, and Lana released her grip, blood again rushing to her head. It intensified her orgasm which arrived amidst gasps and cries of pleasure. Lana collapsed on the bed beside her, sheets soaked with water and their lovemaking. It didn’t matter, exhausted they fell into a deep sleep.
The last glimmer of daylight faded on Dromund Kaas. Andronikos handled the freighter gingerly at Nox’s narrow hanger. “This thing is barely gonna fit, Khem, get out here and help guide me in.” He called over the comm, hovering at the hangar.
Still he handled it easily. Xalex joined them to unload the freighter.
“I thought we were off for the week.” Khem protested.
“We were, but Marr sent this for us to sort through, some kind of attack on Imperial outposts in Wild Space, unknown technology. He wants Acina to go through it. She’ll come by in the morning to have a look.” The other stuff is just supplies, we can get that sorted out now quickly between the three of us. “I have an appointment shortly with the Dark Council, I cannot assist you. Khem just growled and bared his teeth, backing out of the hangar.
“Fine, I’ll do it myself, as usual.
The freighter doors hissed open.
“Hold your fire pirate.” Theron’s said, reclined against a cargo crate.
“What the hell?”
“I just can’t get enough of you, had to smuggle myself in to see you again.”
Andronikos’ mouth hung open speechless.
“I’m kidding. Marr sent for me, wants me to have a crack at slicing these comm terminals, or what’s left of them to see if it’s Republic.”
“So he smuggled you into the Empire Capital? That’s bold, even for him.”
“Yep. It’s legit. Here, take a look at our comm logs yourself, then I need to wipe them.”
“No need for all that, I believe you. Buy you cannot leave this apartment.”
“I should be in and out by tomorrow, don’t worry.”
“I’ll set you up in Nox’s quarters, she has a top of the line slicing terminal in there.”
Ashara and Acina were done with dinner, awaiting their check and already very drunk when Andronikos called her.
“Didn’t kill the stowaway did you?”
“Nope, but a heads-up would’ve been nice.”
“We’re at dinner and these are open channels.”
“Thanks for the reminder. We’ve been at this for hours and nothing.”
“Well I am too drunk to be much help now, but I’ll be over in the morning.”
“Great, don’t stay up all night.”
“I’m not making any promises, are you boys?”
“Very funny Sith. Keep that to yourself will you?”
“My lips are sealed.”
The holocom clicked off.
“What was that about?” Ashara asked.
“Not here, love. Come and I’ll bring you up to speed.”
The lift opened into Acina’s apartment. Fab greeted them cheerily with a cocktail.
“You are so good to me Fab. I may need you to join us tomorrow.”
“I am always eager to assist, my lady.” Fab replied.
Ashara giggled. “My lady.”
“Well there’s no reason to shortchange manners in programming.”
“You are so weird, I love it.” Ashara said, wrapping her arms around Acina’s neck.
“I could say the same thing about you, a Sith apprentice with the heart of a Jedi, and the body of a goddess.”
“Keep talking.” Said Ashara.
“I’d rather stop talking.” Acina said, kissing Ashara.
“Well first you were going to bring me up to speed.”
“Oh that, yes. Marr smuggled our Republic friend Theron into Nox’s apartment to slice into some computer debris. Apparently two Empire outposts have been destroyed by a fleet of unknown origin. This time one of the attacking ships was destroyed leaving fragments of tech behind.
It’s unclear, but Theron is to help figure that out. There are concerns that Saresh is going rogue, lashing out again to provoke us after Ziost. But so far, they can’t make sense of any of it. I’m going to assist them in the morning. But for now, we have time to be alone.”
“Can I try on Revan’s mask, please?”
“My you’re silly when you’re drunk.”
“Oh alright, but show a little respect and dignity, no dancing around.”
Ashara composed herself. “Of course, I will be somber as an Academy Guard.”
In Nox's apartment, Andronikos lounged on Nox’s bed, laying on his stomach with pillows propping him up, his arms crossed under his chin. He stared blankly at Theron still tapping away at the slicing terminal.
“Another dead end.” Theron said, unplugging the fried motherboard and tossing it atop a pile of circuit boards. “Only 6 more to go.”
Andronikos pretended to snore.
“Hey, don’t conk out on me now. I need the company.”
“You need a break, your eyes are glazing over.”
“Yeah, I can finish these in the morning with fresh eyes. We’ll have to watch Acina go through them all again anyway.”
Andronikos grumbled. “Who knew being a spy was so tedious and boring.”
Theron stood up, stretched and fell backwards on the bed. “Tedious and boring is my middle name, and here you thought I was Mr. Excitement.”
“Well I would take you out for dinner and drinks but I don’t think that would go over well.”
“It’s fine, we’ve been snacking all day, thanks by the way for making me comfortable. I just need a place to lay my head.”
“Well its either in here with me or the guest room upstairs off the lounge. I’m guessing you don’t want to bunk with Khem and Xalek.”
“You got that right.”
“Admit it, you jumped at the chance to come see me again.” Andronikos said winking.
“You better believe it.” Theron replied, touching Andronikos’ calf and thigh. “Refresher?”
“Just through there.” Andronikos replied. “I’ll get you a robe.”
Acina released the forcefield containing Revan’s mask, it dropped into her hands. She held it out to Ashara.
“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you.”
“I have a strong connection to force items. It might.” Ashara said.
She took it gingerly in one hand feeling is steely coldness. Nothing. She raised it to her face, staring into it as one would stare into the eyes of a baby, searching for a connection. She turned it around and brought it to her face. The mask contacted her skin and cold turned to warmth as it took on the heat of her body. Voices whispered in her ears, several, then tens, then hundreds. “He’s coming”. “Stand ready”. “You must fight for me, for us.” “Don’t go, Revan”, “Come back to us”, “I will kill them all”, ”Your son needs you”… they became indiscernible, and a growing roar overcame the voices, screams of terror and death, then silence, but behind the silence resignation and focus, a whisper “They’re coming for you, you must get stronger, trust no one.” Ashara dropped the mask and fell to the floor fainting.
She awoke sitting in a soft chair with a table in front of her. Acina sat on the other side of the table, a steaming pot of tea bubbling between them.
“Yes, though I have a terrible headache.”
Acina poured her a cup. “Drink this.”
“I felt his misery, it was endless. He was so loved and so hated. He sacrificed his peace his future tied to the Emperor, influencing him until he was split in two. It’s tragic.”
“Yes it is.” Acina replied in a serious tone.
“I’m sorry, not exactly what you had in mind for tonight.” Ashara said.
“I enjoy your company, and not just horizontally.” Acina said.
Ashara glanced out the window, seeing a light come on in Nox’s chambers.
“Well they’re still up.” She said absentmindedly.
“Yes, and we should get to bed. It’s late and we have an early rise.” Acina stood up trying to distract her.
“Hold on, I want to see what they’re up to over there.”
“I’m not so sure you do.”
Theron stepped toward the bed, dropping his robe to reveal his nude frame. He leaned back, putting his hands on his hips and pushed his pelvis forward. A hand reached up from the bed moving back and forth.
“Looks like he has company. Who could he know in Kaas City?”
Then he got onto the bed on his knees and a second figure, larger but chiseled backed into him, ass in the air.
“Wow, this is getting good. I didn’t know he was into men.”
“Surprise” said Acina sarcastically.
The second figure rose up on the bed, still mounted from behind, he wrapped an arm behind Theron’s back and grabbed his ass. Theron gripped the man’s neck and he turned awkwardly sideways to kiss him.
“Wait, is that? That’s Andronikos!”
Acina braced herself for the onslaught of questions, but Ashara just let loose in wild laughter. She laughed until tears were streaming from her cheeks. Acina looked at her in disbelief which just made her laugh even more. She struggled to speak through giggles. She swatted at Acina across the table.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me! This is hilarious!”
“I’m glad you are so entertained. I was afraid you would be upset.”
“Upset? No I’m glad. I’ve been feeling so sorry for him for no reason. He has a boy-toy, and it’s Revan’s great-great-great-grandson or something. Does Nox know?”
“I don’t think she’s been high or his need-to-know list, so probably not.”
“Well this is just great! Come on, I feel much better now, but I really don’t need to see any more of that. “We can do much better.” She said, wrapping her arms around Acina.
Lana was up first the next morning and retreated to her meditation temple. They spent the afternoon exploring the vast cave system of her stronghold. In the evening they dueled with sabers on the temple roof as the sun set, Nox besting her twice and Lana besting Nox three times. They sat on the grass drinking wine in front of a roaring fire.
“I think you let me win that last time.”
“Please, you had me.” Nox said.
They retired early. Lana sat on Nox’s bed staring at the trickling waterfall in the center of the room.
“You look preoccupied, share your thoughts?”
“I’ve been thinking about the connection you share with Marr. How does it work exactly, and what are the limitations?”
“It depends on several factors such as proximity and focus. For example, right now I can feel he is very far away, and he is concerned and tired, but I cannot sense much more. If I were to reach out to him though with my mind I could communicate with him but it would need to be a simple message. If he were closer we could speak just as you and I are speaking now. When we occupy the same room I can sense his thoughts and emotions just as my own, but I don’t intrude his private thoughts, unless it is absolutely necessary”.
“But you could.”
“Certainly, but he would be aware of my presence. There are times when it is quite useful, in the council, during battles or confrontations.
“It is a matter of trust, then.”
“And there is no way to sever the connection?”
“There are a number of ways, death of course, or the ritual can be performed again to reverse it.”
“And we could literally sit here and have a conversation without speaking?”
“Do you want to try it? We can reverse the ritual right away, if you are simply interested in the experience.”
“I am. I’ve been thinking about the demands of our work and the challenges we might face being apart. I would love to remain connected to you even when we aren’t together. It could also be helpful when we are working together. This connection must not be much different for you, given your natural ability to read fear and motivation”.
“I assure you, this is very different.”
“Sit down on the floor and clear your mind. I’ll be right back.”
Lana sat on the cool stone floor of Nox’s bedroom. “Our bedroom” she reminded herself. Nox returned with a fire bowl of smoldering coals swinging from a length of chain and something wrapped in heavy cloth in her free hand. She placed the bowl between them, gesticulating slightly and the bowl alighted with a roar of yellow crackling flames that quickly died down to a mesmerizing flicker.
“A bit cold in here, yes?”
“A bit.” Lana laughed, “I swear you’re a magician.”
“I’m glad you’re laughing because it’s about to get weird.”
“Go on then” Lana said.
Nox revealed a simple knife and a long length of closed bondite chain.
“A blood oath?”
“Something like that.”
She wiped a swath of ash from the bowl and drew a symbol on her own forehead, similar to a lemniscate symbol but open at one end. She passed the knife to Lana.
“Trace it with the knife, not too deeply but it must bleed.”
Lana complied, wincing a bit. Nox did the same to Lana. She unfurled the chain, wrapping it around her neck first, then crossing the chain over itself and looping the other end around Lana’s neck, making the same infinity symbol they bore, but closed. She reached out with her right hand, palm forward and sideways and pressed against the bleeding symbol on Lana’s head. Lana did the same. Then she slowly turned her hand turning it toward her own face.
“Assak ha sienne. Meet me in the middle.”
Lana withdrew her hand, turning it to see the ashen bloody symbol stamped on her palm. Their hands met above the crossing of the chain between them, and they locked in a grip. The chain tightened at the backs of their necks, cracked between them then fell in two pieces as closed necklaces on each of them.
Lana wore a stunned expression. She started to speak, but Nox held a finger above her own lips.
“Speak with your mind.” She thought.
Lana heard her as if she had spoken aloud.
“Now you try, just focus on me and speak words aloud in your mind”, Nox continued telepathically.
“That’s remarkable. Can you hear my thoughts?” Lana telepathized.
“Loud and clear” Nox said aloud.
“That’s insane!” Lana said.
“Now, focus on my feelings, my present condition.” Nox said.
“Your head hurts. And you’re… delighted.”
“Yes and yes. You are a bit nervous, perhaps there is some surprise that this is working for you, you doubted it would, thought you might be too guarded.”
“That’s right.” Lana said.
Now, arrive on a memory and contemplate it. Let me know when you sense my presence in your mind.
Lana thought of the first night she spent with Nox, on her ship. She replayed their kiss and their lovemaking on the bridge. As she pondered on these images she felt warmth in her brain, a tingling warm sensation.
“Just now, there is a tingling, and a warmth, as if my brain is charged with electricity.”
“That’s me entering your mind. You’ll know I am there when you feel that, even if I do not announce my presence.”
“I’m going to be in your head all the time until I get used to this, it’s just amazing.” Lana said.
“You are welcome there anytime.” Nox said.
Nox touched Lana’s forehead, healing the wound, then infused Lana with healing energy to heal herself.
“I can feel the immense toll it takes on you to heal, it’s exhausting for you.” Lana said, brushing Nox’s hair behind her ear.
“Yes, you sense my emotions as well as my thoughts.”
Lana glanced again at the waterfall, contemplating a bath.
“An excellent idea.” Nox said, reading her mind. They stripped and sunk into the warm pool, bathing in silence and exploring each other’s minds.
Day2 on Dromund Kaas
“Long night?” Andronikos inquired of Ashara who yawned and stretched.
She considered a snarky retort to let him know she was in on his secret. “Not long enough.” She replied instead, wanting to choose the right moment.
“Hey Acina, I can give you some tips if you need them.”
“Tell me, is Theron long enough for you?” Acina retorted.
Ashara snickered and Andronikos turned a shocking shade of red.
“I’m going to get everyone some tea while you two get to it.” He replied, wisely choosing to not engage the topic further.
“You didn’t have to embarrass him like that.” Theron said.
“He started it. What do we have here, looks like obliterated junk to me. Were you able to get a read on anything?”
“Sure, these are the only three I could slice into, but the programming isn’t Republic, and I don’t think its Empire tech either but you can be the judge of that. I can’t decipher the language at all.”
“Show me.” Acina said.
Theron sliced into one, bringing the data online.
“ It’s definitely not Sith tech. But I’ve seen this language before, recently.”
“That’s what I thought, but I wanted your uninfluenced opinion.”
“Do you think it is related to the weapon Marr sent us to recover?”
“Perhaps. Fab, take a look.”
“With pleasure, my lady.”
“You have a talking Synthetic Prefab droid named Fab?”
“I am a full service droid capable of many exciting operations including history, stimulating conversation, hospitality, and technology scanning.”
“I see that. Well then Fab, have a go at it.”
The droid extended a port and sliced in to the least damaged CPU.
“Intriguing. This tech is not of human or alien origin. The programming is unmistakably droid technology.”
“How can you tell?” Theron asked.
“The language isn’t alpha or character based, it is numeric. This CPU is a cloaking device, or a small part of one. Sadly, this program is partial; it likely performs within a network of similar programs. It may have been designed to eliminate comprehension upon disconnection from the vessel.”
“In other words if the ship is destroyed, the tech cannot be read unless it’s intact.”
“No, it can be read, but it’s only a fragment. It’s as if the system is a map and the map has been torn into tiny pieces.”
“So we need the whole map.”
“Yes, considering the size and complexity of this program I surmise that it functions as a hive, hundreds or thousands of modules acting in concert to”-
“I know what a hive-mind is.” Theron interrupted.
“To cloak.” Fab continued. “Given its Droid operating language and unfamiliarity to both you and Acina, the vessel or vessels would be imperceptible to the Empire or Republic.”
“Fab do you know of any Droid civilizations capable of creating this technology?”
“I could speculate, but no. My programming in Droid civilizations is sadly limited.”
“I can download all of the known information on droid colonies and civilizations from the Kaas library, but it will take time to siphon through the data for possibilities and then longer to assign meaningful probabilities.”
“How long?” Theon asked.
“Depends on the amount of data available, hours up to a day or two.”
“I don’t like this.” Theron said. “we’re either dealing with a hostile droid race or an unknown entity controlling them.”
“It reeks of the Emperor.” Acina said. “Ashara, will you and Andronikos take Fab to the library to upload all known data on droid colonies and civilizations?”
“We’re on it.” Andronikos said.
“Theron and I will go back through all the components one more time with fresh eyes. Let us know once Fab has uploaded all the data.”
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Theron asked.
“That Lana would be extremely helpful, given her expertise in Droid tech and history.” Acina mused.
“Yep. How mad would they be if we contacted them on their honeymoon?”
“Livid, and there is no way to reach them, Nox forbids any comm tech on that refuge of hers.”
“Well we could always just show up.” Theron said.
“Absolutely not. We don’t have a clue how serious this is at this point. But Marr, well he an do no wrong in Nox’s eyes, let’s brief him and he can make the call.
Night 2 in Yavin IV
Nox awoke abruptly, sensing Marr reaching out to her. He was quite close. She stood up and gazed down at Lana still sleeping. She donned a robe and stepped out onto the temple grounds. He was there standing in the darkness.
“My child, I apologize for disturbing you in your refuge, but this could not wait.”
“Of course, this is your home too. What is it?”
“I need knowledge that Lana might possess.”
“What’s going on, is everything alright?” Lana emerged from the temple to join them.
“Are you aware of a race of sentient droids, one that takes only the form of a female humanoid?”
“There are a number of them, yes. Most were developed for sexual or companionate purposes. Is there anything more specific about the species you wish to identify?”
“These droids would function with hive mind programming, possessing the ability to communicate with each other through a network similar to a force connection. Perhaps allowing them to upload consciousness with into similar technology.”
“No, I’ve not encountered anything like that.”
“Pity.” Marr replied.
“What’s this about?” Nox asked.
Marr explained the attacks on Imperial and Republic outposts, the recovered wreckage, and revelations of Acina and Theron’s research.
“So these droids would possess superior intelligence, strategic awareness, as well as having a female form.”
“Well that would make them quite unique. Historically female droids are typically designed with limited intelligence; traits of service, conversation, and diplomacy being most common.” Lana stood silent, thinking for several seconds before continuing. “There is something though, a remarkable droid I encountered a few years ago. She didn’t operate in a hive mind, but she was able to upload her consciousness into technology to learn. She oversaw Belsavis security systems before joining a Cipher agent. Scorpio was her name.”
“What do you know of her origin?”
“Nothing. Neither did she, or at least that was her claim. Her memory core was damaged.”
“And this Cipher agent?”
“Cipher 9. Disappeared, unfortunately. He was an excellent requisition. He left Intelligence and became a free agent. I assume the droid remained with him.”
“Any known associates we may be able to contact.”
“Not that I am aware of. He preferred to keep company of others who operated on the fringe. But we can search for him, someone in Intelligence may still have contact with him or at least provide a lead.”
Marr’s holocom alerted.
“What is it?” He quipped annoyed by the interruption.
“Sergeant Del, my Lord. You requested contact in the event of another attack.”
“An outpost on the fringe of the Outer Rim dropped all communication with the fleet after signaling a distress call.”
“And the closest ship?”
“That’s another concern, there were at least a dozen ships in that part of the galaxy, all of them have also dropped out of communication. Four more are en route.”
“Let me know what they discover.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Lana interjected “It may be beneficial to speak with Satele to determine if there has been a similarly timed attack on Republic outposts in the area.”
“Yes. When you return to Kaas City please contact me immediately, both of you.”
“Marr if you need my assistance now, you need only ask.” Nox added.
“No, we are chasing ghosts at the moment.”
“I you need me, us, do not hesitate” Nox said.
They returned to bed, but both were fully awake.
“It’s very likely our honeymoon is going to be cut short.” Lana whispered.
“Yes, I think you may be right” Nox replied reaching across to touch Lana’s hair. Desire stirred.
Then Lana left the bed abruptly to retrieve something from her bag.
I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment, one in which I wouldn’t feel ridiculous but I’m afraid it may never arrive.”
She clicked on a harness.
“You brought accessories, what’s ridiculous about that? It’s splendid.”
“Pick your posion.” Lana said, pressing a button on the silver harness. A holographic cock sprung from it, black and sleek.
“Or perhaps this”.
She pressed it again and a wide tan cock appeared, veiny and upturned.
A blue Chiss member appeared, long and lean.
“Most anything you can think of, including various creatures.”
“How profane. I love it. Surprise me.”
Lana straddled her, grinding against her. Nox reached up to cup her breasts. Lana selected an iridescent cock, smooth and perfectly curved, with a small ridge of raised beads along the top of the base, it was somehow very feminine. She rubbed it against Nox’s stomach. Then she laid atop her, holding herself up by her hands and entered her effortlessly.
“You’re so wet. She leaned back and pulled Nox toward her, raising her legs around her shoulders and thrust into her, ridges stimulating her g-spot. Nox tightened around her and thust back against her slowly. Lana rode her with long, slow strides looking into her eyes. She pressed the button again and Nox was filled with a wider, more rigid member. She gasped to take it in. Lana responded by stilling her pace and rocking in a circular motion.
“It’s so big.” Nox said grasping Lana’s arms.
“You can take it.” Lana said gently.
Nox thrust against her. “Of course I can.”
Lana chose another, the member transformed inside her, lengthening and downturning, applying pressure against the base of her abdomen. Lana fucked her with deep strokes, watching her stomach fall with the out-strokes. It hit all the right spots.
“that one, that is perfect.”
“I thought so.” She fucked her with increasing speed, gripping her legs to her breasts as she thrust away at her.
Nox whimpered and made sounds of delight and pain. Lana plunged into her.
Lana fingered her clit while fucking Nox, gasping as her own orgasm built. Nox was transfixed by her beauty and refocused on her own pleasure wanting to climax with her. The cock pulsed inside her, and she tightened her walls around it, trying to hold it inside her. Lana thrust in deeply and stayed inside her, locking her eyes with Nox. Her mouth opened in a silent display of ecstasy and Nox felt herself spasm around the cock, grunting as she climaxed and drove the cock deeper inside.
“Ahh, Ahh” Lana screamed, orgasming in a series of jolts.
Another day dawned with another attack on Republic and Sith outposts along the Outer Rim. Acina sat in the Dark Council chambers stoically as her colleagues argued over who was responsible and how to respond to the attacks. Some of them claimed it was a Republic ruse, that the Republic must be abandoning some outposts and destroying their own while also taking out Empire posts. Another suggested Mandalorian clans simply “doing what Mandalorians do best”. Darth Braccis surmised the attacks were committed by the rumored twin conquerors, allegedly between the assault and uprising on Korriban. No one uttered what they all secretly suspected, the Emperor alive and well with a fleet at his disposal and an unquenchable thirst for galactic destruction. She longed for Marr and Nox to return. If she brought this notion to the Council they would eat her alive, but the three of them were a powerful coup, especially Marr. Even his adversaries considered his perspective. Acina searched her robe for a stim lozenge, how else could she bear another hour of this?
Instead she pulled from her pocket a small data chip affixed to a dried flower. She stepped from the room and inserted it in her datapad.
“I’m sorry to leave such an obscure message but Marr asked me to leave no record of our mission. Please destroy this once you’ve read it. I wanted to tell you in person of course but you were sleeping so peacefully this morning. He sent T, Andonikos and I to meet with Master Shan about our findings on the recent attacks. We’re meeting on Hoth., since both factions have bases there and it will be easier to coordinate a neutral meeting site. He is interested to hear the Council’s discussion, so try to stay awake in those awful meetings. I don’t know how you do it. I’ll call you when I can and I don’t know how long I will be away. I miss you already. I am yours,
Acina smiled staring at the message once more before plucking the chip from her pad and snapping it in two. Her joy was fleeting as thoughts shifted to the perilous situation. Marr was surely aware that both the Dark Council and the Republic Senate would prefer to stay in denial and blame the other faction, rather than consider the terrifying reality that the Emperor had returned. They stood at the brink of another unnecessary war, and he was doing all he could to gather proof of the Emperor’s involvement before either side struck. How she resented being stuck in the Council meetings when she could be alongside them, actually doing something.
The reunion between mother and son on Hoth was tense.
“Son, what were you thinking putting yourself at risk going to Kaas City?”
“Just doing my part. It’s not like it was my idea.” He replied gesturing toward Marr. Satele glared at him.
“Walk with me” Marr offered.
“You’re angry and I understand, but your son is an uncommon ally to both factions, you must recognize that. He may lack force powers, but his resourcefulness and talents cannot be wasted on petty spy missions.”
“Next time, let me know in advance when you plan to risk his life.” Satele said sternly. She softened. “If you were Emperor we might have peace.”
“Not likely, I would be a target and we would still have Saresh to contend with. There will be no peace as long as she holds a position of power.”
“I must get through to her, convince her that the Emperor is our common enemy.”
“Yes, and I must do the same with the Dark Council.”
Satele bore a defeated expression.
“I cannot see your face but I’m certain it conveys the same doubt as mine.”
“Indeed, we need irrefutable proof of the Emperor, both that he lives and is responsible for these attacks.”
“How can we obtain that proof”.
“I intend to pursue him in Wild Space, catch him in the act.”
“That’s insane, he will obliterate you as he has our ships and posts.”
“No, I have something he wants, Nox.”
“On Ziost, he called to her, he is infatuated with her, I believe he senses her power and intends to convince her to join him.”
“So you are going to what, just hand her over?”
“Of course not. I intend to lure him out, obtain evidence of his existence and escape.”
“It’s very risky, you have no idea what you’re up against, if he does possess the fleet we suspect.”
“My ship is the practically unstoppable, but there is no guarantee.”
“What if he intends to kill her?”
“He doesn’t. If he did, he would have done so on Ziost. If he attacks my ship, I will ensure she escapes.
“What if he intends to kill you?”
Then I will die trying to stop him.”
“And you’re certain Nox cannot be swayed to join him?”
“Entirely, I have no doubt of that.”
“How can I assist?”
“Just talk to Saresh. Acina and Nox will work to influence the Council once our deed is done.”
“And you too?”
“Assuming I return.”
“Then you are going on a suicide mission.”
“Perhaps. Too many times I’ve let him slip from my grasp, I will face him head on. If I fail, at least the Republic and Empire will be forced to face the reality of his presence. I am old Satele, and I grow weary of this nerve ending war. My power is great, but it is waning. This is my last chance to face him.”
“I’ll send Republic troops, and three ships to accompany you. It will demonstrate unity to both factions.”
“Can you do that without permission from the Senate?”
I’m a Jedi, I can do whatever I want. What about those three?” Satele motioned at Andronikos, Ashara, and Theron.
“Theron should stay here with you, take him with you to speak with Saresh. I will send Andronikos and Ashara to Yavin IV for Nox. Having her ship close by will allow her to escape quickly if it comes to that. I’ll have her rendezvous with me in pursuit.”
Lana awoke startled, bolting upright in bed.
“What is it?” Nox asked sleepily.
“A dream. A nightmare.” Her breathing heaved.
Lights filled the room, and a whirring from outside. Nox recognized the sound of the Fury landing.
“What the hell?” She said donning a robe.
Lana struggled to compose herself, snatching a ling tunic from the bedside.
She strained to reclaim the details of her dream.
“Boss, don’t kill us.” Andronikos voice called out from the darkness.
“Marr sent us to fetch you. He needs you to join him immediately.”
“He met with Satele. Republic and imperial ships are patrolling Wild Space. They believe the Emperor has returned and is launching the attacks.”
“But why does Nox need to join them?” Lana asked.
“Marr intends to use her to lure him out in the open, obtain evidence of his return to take to the Council and the Senate.”
“To use her as bait?” Lana asked horrified. “Absolutely not.”
“That’s why we’re here. We’ll lag behind the ships in the Fury. If he shows up then we’ll get her out of there.”
“Lana I have to go to him.” Nox said resolutely. She swiftly moved to retrieve her armor and saber.
“No, you can’t go!” Lana screamed hysterically.
“I had a vision. You and Marr, struck down by the Emperor.”
“You had a nightmare.” Nox reassured her.
“No, this was no nightmare.”
“Tell me exactly what you saw.”
‘You and Marr in shackles, Marr breaking lose, attacking the Emperor and falling dead. Then the Emperor standing over you.”
Lana sensed that sharing this only firmed Nox’s resolve to go with him.
“I have to go to him. He cannot face him alone.”
“Don’t do this Nox, if he knew what I saw he wouldn’t want you to go with him.”
“Then he mustn’t know. I’m sorry Lana, but I have to go to him. I’ll come back to you as soon as I can, I promise.”
Both knew it was a promise she would not keep.
“If anything happens to her I will hunt you down.” Lana snarled at Andronikos.
“I don’t like it either, just so you know.” He stated firmly.
Lana stood there in the darkness fuming. She raided her bag searching for her holocom. She called Marr again and again with no answer. In desperation, she hailed Acina.
“I’ll come for you at once. You need to be here anyway, three more attacks today. We are on the brink of war and I cannot make any headway with the Council.”
Chapter 18: Moving Forward and Holding On
Three and a half years after the death of Darth Marr and the Emperor, Lana holds out hope though her connection with Nox has been severed. Acina finds herself in a position of power but maintains her lighthearted, lecherous nature. She questions Lana's involvement with Koth Vortena. Despite everything, Lana yearns only to be reunited with Nox.
The silence of night in Kaas City was staggering, even with the ever-present rumbling thunder. Lana stood at the foot of Nox’s bed, staring into the dark sky searching with her mind for the thread of their connection. It had been months since she could sense her. And three and a half years since the waves of force disruption, the shockwave of Marr’s death, the agony and rage she sensed from Nox, the earthquake that followed, unmistakably the death of the Emperor’s corporeal form. Hours later, a message as clear as if she was in the room with her, warning her of the vast size of the Eternal Empire, that she was to be carbonized, that she loved her, that she was sorry. Lana begged for her location, Nox either didn’t know or refused to answer. Lana felt the agony of her carbonization, the terror and defeat Nox experienced, then nothing. When Lana reached out to her, she felt only her heartbeat.
Slowly though, Nox had struggled to communicate with her. At first Lana could only sense her confusion. Then, nightmares began. They were nonsensical, other worldly. Lana would wake, bathed in sweat gasping for breath. Nox on a fractured planet slaughtering her crew, conspiring with the Emperor, then fighting his will. Had this become Nox’s life? An endless nightmare, the thought agonized her. In Nox’s mind there were moments of lucidity. In these moments she reached out to Lana through there connection announcing, “I’m with you now.” Lana chose those times to apprise her of her of the status of the war, the treaty, and the steps she was taking to find her. Then suddenly six months ago the nightmares vanished. Days passed with no sense of Nox in her mind or reaching out to her. Then one night, Lana rose up in bed feeling her nearness. Nox’s voice whispered, “You can’t be here in my head. I cannot explain why, but it isn’t safe for you. Move on with your life Lana. I am casting you out of my mind, trust that this isn’t what t I want, but because I love you.” Before Lana could respond a great flood of vivid memories filled her mind cascading all at once as water overflowing a dam. All their time together, every moment from intimate encounters to simple glances, and mundane conversations. But Nox’s presence in her mind was gone, the chain representing their connection split open and tumbled from her neck into her lap. She sobbed, empty angry tears. How could Nox abandon her after all she had done to find her?
Immediately after the Emperor’s death Lana pleaded with the Dark Council to prepare a search team. Acina advocated on her behalf, but without the support of Marr they held no power. The Council was intent on seizing the moment to lash out against the Republic, surmising the rendezvous had been sabotage; that it had been the Republic accompaniment which turned on Marr’s ship. Of course, there was no evidence of this. Lana was relieved of her position in Intelligence when she continued to report the true threat of the Eternal Empire. The Dark Council would hear none of it. In the Republic, Saresh relished the opportunity to reignite outright war with the Empire. Acina had proven to be a staunch and loyal ally to Lana and to Theron, refusing to engage in war with the Republic and leaving with Lana to search for Nox. But her departure was short-lived.
As both factions organized to skirmish on contested territories, The Eternal Empire led by Arcann attacked on multiple fronts. Rather than pooling their resources to face him, the Republic and Empire continued to fight each other and Arcann. The Republic fell first, the Senate agreeing to terms of a treaty. The Empire was not far behind. None of the Dark Council members were willing to concede defeat, and each one was slain publicly. Korriban was laid to waste. Acina remained the only living Council Member. She returned to Kaas City to begin treaty agreements. She declared herself Empress by default, and the people rallied behind her. She immediately reinstated Lana as minister of Sith Intelligence. Lana’s diplomatic skills proved invaluable in negotiating the treaty and regular communication regarding the massive monetary tribute to the Eternal Throne. It sickened her to negotiate with the man who had taken Nox. But Acina was right in persuading her to work with The Zakuulan diplomats, even traveling to Zakuul. Through these monthly interactions she had learned much about Arcann’s leadership: his disregard for his own troops, his distrust of those close to him, how he had murdered his twin brother. Over time, it became clearer to Lana that given his paranoia, Arcann must keep Nox very close to him at all times, perhaps on his personal ship.
“Lana! Are you deaf?”
Acina stood inches away hands on her hips, bearing a concerned expression that didn’t at all match the annoyed tone of her voice.”
“Sorry, Empress. I was lost in thought.”
“Don’t Empress me, we’re alone. Why do you insist on living here? You can afford your own space, It’s too painful a reminder.”
“I feel close to her here” Lana shrugged, defeated.
Acina stood beside Lana looking out the window toward her own apartment. Her expression saddened at the priming of her own memories.
She thought of Ashara. Andronikos and Ashara contacted her almost immediately after the attack on Marr’s ship. Lana was furious at them for abandoning Nox and Acina urged them not to return to Dromund Kaas until she cooled off. They tried to tail the Eternal Fleet, but the speed and cloaking were too advanced to track. Then the fighting between factions started immediately. Acina knew given Ashara’s Jedi history, she wouldn’t be safe in Kaas City. “You can’t come here; you’ll be labeled spy or traitor.” She’d told her.
“Well I’m not welcome in the Republic either” Ashara argued.
“You should go to a non-allied planet, and an uncontested one at that, like Voss, just until this blows over. I’ll come for you.”
It was a lie, and Acina knew it, but she couldn’t bear the thought of her being in danger.
“Why don’t you try to find her? It’d be easier than finding Nox at least.” Lana asked sensing her thoughts.
“And say what, “Hi love, remember me? Sorry I’m a bit late, but I’m the Sith Empress now, wanna shag?” “I’d be as dead as the others if I brought back the Outlander’s apprentice.”
“We’re pathetic.” Lana chuckled wearily.
“Yes, well time flies when you’re at war and rebuilding a poverty-stricken Empire. But I think of her, often. Thankfully she disappeared before my hair started to turn gray, she’d die if she knew how much older than her I really am. Better she remembers me in my last clinging moments of youth.”
Acina had a point, the war and responsibilities had aged her quickly, but also matured her.
“I think she would like you better now, she has an old soul.” Lana mused.
“Well at least I still have all my original parts.” Acina cocked an eyebrow at Lana’s metallic right hand.
“I lost it saving your ass as I recall.”
“Yes, well when we finally find Nox, maybe don’t offer a handshake until you’ve had time to catch up. Can you even feel with that thing? Do you have other attachments? Wonder what it would be like to-“
“Shut-up. You have such a dirty mind. Yes, it feels just fine, it’s actually quite sensitive, and force energy flows through it more freely.”
“On Ilum, I thought we might not make it. It was the perfect place to ambush both factions.” Acina said.
Lana and Acina traveled there during the war to have the Gree examine the salvaged Eternal Fleet technology. It was there they’d met Vaylin. She snapped the necks of 10 Imperial troops with a flick of her arm. Then she telekinetically ripped a scrap of metal from a combat droid and flung it towards Acina’s head. Lana dove to strike it away with her saber, but the velocity tore her hand off, still clinging to her saber. Vaylin laughed, amused. But she spared them.
“It’s not often you see that kind of loyalty. Bravo. You can live, for now.” These were her parting words to them.
“I still don’t understand why Vaylin isn’t running the show.” Acina said. “Her command of the Force, it’s unfathomable.”
“Yes, I have many questions about her. I’m meeting Koth next week he has some information and a possible contact within the Knights of Zakuul. But he says it’s complicated.”
“I’m sure it is if it involves him. I don’t trust him Lana. I also see the way he gawks at you.”
“You’ve only met him twice. I’ve known him nearly a year. He’s certainly never implied any romantic feelings.” Lana replied defensively.
You really are clueless when it comes to men. He’s also too fond of the Emperor and won’t listen to reason.”
“That’s true, but the Emperor is dead, and he despises Arcann and what he’s done to the Zakuulans. We’re on the same side.”
“He’s also a defector, how do you know he won’t take off on you when things get heated. And the Emperor, is he really gone? Is it even possible?”
Lana didn’t like considering this, especially its implications on Nox. Time and again she returned to her vision on Voss, Nox possessed by the Emperor. She hadn’t shared it with anyone, even Acina. But she didn’t have to.
“I know you worry he may have possessed her. Don’t deny it, I’ve had the same thought. Perhaps the fear of that is why Arcann carbonized her rather than killing her, not wanting to risk being his next vessel.”
“I know her, she would resist him. The Emperor requires a willing host.” Lana defended.
“I agree completely, but how long can she resist him in such a weakened state? I suppose it’s possible, Revan did until the very end, even as it fractured his spirit in two.” Sensing the conversation could go no further, Acina changed course. “Just be cautious with Koth, with what you share with him. This contact he wants you to meet with, I’ll wager it has some personal benefit for him.”
“You’re probably right.” Lana said. "He is a bit self-serving, but I trust him."
“You really need to get laid Lana, just not with him.”
“That’s foul, you know I’m not attracted to men.”
“You’re not attracted to anyone, except Nox. But you could give a little to a friend in need, and we were good together in that way.” Acina winked at her and drew a smile on one side of her lips.
“We were, and I feel the need to point out the irony of you questioning Koth’s intentions while making a pass at me.”
“I’m nothing if not straightforward.”
“You really are.” Lana laughed. “And for what it’s worth, it is nice to be desired. But I could never betray her that way.” Lana bumped her shoulder against Acina’s and leaned the side of her head against hers. Acina put an arm around her waist and squeezed her gently.
“Guess I’ll go find an apprentice to mentor, then.”
“You’re truly horrible.” Lana laughed as Acina turned to leave. “Thank you for cheering me up, you’re a good friend, Empress. Have fun, whatever you get into.”
Lana drew a bath as she did most evenings. Soapy bubbles billowed in thick mounds around her chest. She dimmed the lights and laid with only the intermittent lightning of Kaas illuminating the room. She allowed a memory to raise from her subconscious of the time she and Nox made love in the shower. They were both injured and exhausted, but the need for one another outweighed all else. She pictured herself face against the refresher wall, Nox behind her entering her with quick, deep thrusts of her fingers. The memory initiated longing. She slipped her left hand between her legs, feeling the slickness between her lips and the viscous difference between her wetness and the water surrounding her. She lightly circled her clit, trying to picture Nox. Ever since the disruption of their connection she had been unable to do so, her memories being replaced with Nox’s perspective. So She acquiesced to that image, Nox fucking her, the water rolling down her back, her own hips and ass bucking against her, the sensation of her pussy tightly gripping her fingers. As she held this memory, she slipped her fingers Inside herself, letting her legs fall to the sides of the tub. She fucked herself with deep quick thrusts, pressing her thumb against her clit. She held her breast in her other hand, the metal hand warm from the bath and pinched her nipple, tapping and kneading it. For just a moment it was as if she was both of them, Nox pleasuring her, and herself relishing in abandon. She released her breast and gripped the side of the tub with one hand, plunging into herself with the other. Shimmering bubbly water sloshed around her, spilling onto the floor as she came in spasms, leaving her fingers inside herself until her muscles relaxed around them.
How long had it been since she’s allowed herself this pleasure? She hardly ever touched herself, seeing even this as a betrayal to Nox and the hell she was going through. As lost as she felt since their connection was broken, there was something enlivening about the memories she’d been flooded with when Nox severed it, as if she’d been infused with Nox’s passion, strength, and longing. The transference gave her a renewed sense of self and resolve.
Chapter 19: Reunion
Ashara and Andronikos reunite after three years and contemplate pooling their resources and resourcefulness. We learn how each has passed the time. Has their mutual attraction grown or diminished in the time since their last meeting?
“Damn tea houses, can a man get a real drink on this planet or what?” Andronikos announced his arrival in typical gruff and macho fashion.
Ashara sat in meditation, her back to the entryway of her sparsely appointed flat in the Ambassador Commons of Voss-Ka.
“Andronikos?” She squealed springing to her feet. She ran to him embracing him tightly. He picked her up swinging her around as she wrapped arms and legs around him.
“Now that’s a welcome.” He said.
“It’s so great to see you. How did you find me?” She practically squealed.
“Three years, I know. I meant to find you sooner. I got wrapped-up in the war, then when both factions crumbled I set out to pick apart the fleet as best I could on my own. You look older, I mean beautiful but, wow.”
Ashara suddenly aware of being wrapped around him, peeled herself away, but clung to his shoulder.
“And you have hair.” She said running her hand along his dreadlocks pulled back into short ponytail. “I like it. You look like a real pirate.”
“Sweetheart, I am a real pirate.”
“Well let’s get you a real drink” she beamed up at him, gently tapping his chest with her fist.
“You seem happy, relaxed even.” He remarked.
“I’ts freedom. For the first time in my life I am free. Free of the Empire, free of the Republic. I go where I want and do what I choose. But don’t get me wrong, it’s been a long journey to find peace with myself."
She retrieved a bottle from wooden cabinet, setting it firmly on the bar.
“You have a bar?”
“Uh huh. Surprised?”
“Proud is more like it.”
Ashara laughed, a carefree sound filling the air.
“We don’t need glasses do we?” She asked winking.
“God, you died and were reborn the woman of my dreams.” He teased.
“I thought I was always the woman of your dreams.”
Andronikos was floored. Who was this confident woman before him? To his surprise, he felt shy, perhaps a bit intimidated. He blushed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It’s just so wonderful to see you, and I am much more comfortable in my own skin than I was back then.”
“Fire whiskey?” He stated picking up the bottle. “Where’d you pick that up?”
“Hutta, a few weeks ago. It was a gift from a family I helped. Their son had been jailed by Arcann, for refusing to join the Knights. Luckily, I got to him before he was transported back to Zakuul. There is no help for anyone detained there.”
“So you’re a freedom fighter, a liberator.”
Ashara turned up the bottle taking a long swig and passed it to Andronikos.
“So, wife, kids,... husband?” She asked.
“Hell no. While you were finding peace with yourself I’ve been pretty much driven by anger and revenge the past three years. Doesn’t make me a very eligible bachelor. You?”
“No, I don’t stay still for long enough to make ties. I keep my place here, but I’m away for weeks and months at a time. And I am not settling down with anyone from this planet. Voss are a wonderful people. But their stoicism, what an integral cultural aspect that is for them, it’s not appealing to me romantically. There is a surprising influx of off-worlders, especially since Voss avoided occupation by the Eternal Empire. So, I get lucky now and then but nothing steady, not since Acina."
“Now you sound like a pirate.”
“Acina helped me, my time with her was liberating. It transformed me in ways I can’t explain. I guess she opened my mind to a different path. A path of my own, not light or dark, but somewhere in the middle.”
“Have you seen her at all?”
“No. At first I didn't understand her sending me away. But she was right to keep me away from Dromund Kaas. It was selfless of her. I would have followed her in a second. She’s the Empress now. I’m glad for her, but I could never be tied to the Empire, and she knew that." Ashara paused for several seconds, agitating the whiskey bottle swirling it in small circles and staring vacantly at the amber liquid. " How did you escape?”
“It’s a long, boring tale involving a waste freighter and weeks of eating rotting garbage while floating in the Outer Rim”.
“Well you cleaned up incredibly well.” She remarked,coming back into herself.
Ashara passed the bottle.
Andronikos downed several gulps of the whiskey, unsure how to respond to what he thought was flirtation.
“Remember the last time we drank like this?” She asked. “I gave you a blowjob after we hooked up with those Mandalorians.”
He almost spit out his drink.
“I guess you did have a wild streak, even back then.”
“I was clueless. And you were so gentle, not wanting me to make a decision I would regret.”
“You were still finding yourself. I didn’t want to BE your regret.”
“You are though. I regret not having been with you. The chemistry we had, it was really something.”Ashara said.
“But you said yourself, Acina was a life changer for you. If you’d been with me, that never would have happened.”
“Excellent point. To no regrets” she offered, raising the bottle. She took a sip and passed it to him.
He downed the last drops. "Speaking of regrets, We drank this whole thing.”
Ashara smiled and Andronikos took in her full beauty. She had faint lines under her eyes. Absent was the pensive uncertainty, the measured emotion of the young woman he’d known. She was now a bold, confident woman, open and present in the moment. Her golden breasts peeked over a grey tunic. Gone were the traditional robes, replaced by form fitting black pants and calf-length boots. But she still wore the same curious and searching expression.
“I see you checking me out.” She said winking.
“You’re just so beautiful, inside and out. It makes me happy.”
“Well tell me, about your journeys, and do you see Theron at all?”
“I do yeah, from time to time. He’s all business though, very little time for socializing. Still he makes a point to keep in touch and I appreciate it. He’s still keeping up with Beniko and her search for Nox. Beniko fell apart, had a real breakdown. She’s relentless in finding her. I’ve kept my distance from all that though, I know she’s pissed with my involvement in her disappearance. I ended up on Corellia of all places. I did the run for a couple of years and took a lot of risky jobs. It paid off though, got a great ship off a defecting Agent, a Phantom. It’s fast and stealthy. Did a lot of upgrades and that’s been pivotal with sniping down Eternal ships. They’re unstoppable as a Fleet, but when they are out solo or in twos or threes it’s like shooting down Korslugs. The Fleet must really be endless the way Arcann sends them out solo into Wild Space. He has no regard for his troops.”
“Makes you wonder why they follow him.” Ashara replied icily.
“I think it’s fear. My hope is that if enough of them die, they will mutiny.”
Ashara nodded pulling another bottle from the cabinet. “Corellian wine, since you’re feeling nostalgic?”
“Why not. It’s great stuff. Booze and ships, that’s Corellia.”
“Ok, we have to drink this from glasses otherwise we’re just barbarians.”
Andronikos chuckled at her. She clinked two tall stemmed chalices from under the bar. She had he most graceful movements of any woman he’d ever seen. She poured their glasses half full with the plum-colored wine, lightly carbonated, tiny bubbles released from the sides trailing up and popping. “Are you hungry? I have your favorite.”
“Seriously, how has no one swooped you up?”
“It’s a crime isn’t it?” She said with a coy smile and a wink. “Baskange fritters, coming up.”
“I can’t believe you remember that.”
"Well I fed you for like five years almost every night."
The cooking range clicked on in a hiss of gas. She pulled a wok-like pan from its hook and drenched it in oil. She retrieved a vacuum sealed package from the cooling station clicking it open with her foot and poured the contents into the pan. The fritters hissed from the heat.”
“Were you expecting me?”
“No, I eat these all the time when I’m home. I always think about you when I make them. They keep forever so I make large batches and freeze them.”
Andronikos drank while watching her cook, he looked around her home but didn’t move not wanting to pry.
“You can look around, get to know the place. Bathroom’s behind that curtain, bedroom is through the archway. And before you ask, yes I have a bed. There are in fact some beds on Voss.” Andronikos chuckled at her remark.
Seeing her glass was low he topped it off before sauntering around the room. There was a meditation rug with two hovering datacrons in front of it, one light one dark. A mound of pillows rested against one wall with actual books stacked on the floor, ancient looking texts. A communication terminal and metal chair beside a wooden desk with scrolling legs completed the arrangement of the main living space. He peered through the archway to her bedroom.
“You can go in there; I promise there aren’t any embarrassing or dangerous things. At least not out in the open.”
He widened his eyes at her playfully.
The room was lit with a traditional fire sconce. A circular bed in the center covered in a patchwork of animal fur. Her saber hung on the hook of her belt draped over the sconce. There were holophotos sprinkled on the wall. One of Nox and Ashara, another of the old crew, and one of him curled up beside her on his bunk in the Fury. He stared at it for a long time. He thought of how they napped together sometimes on the ship. Back then he thought of her as more of a little sister, someone needing his protection.
“I see you found it.” She said suddenly standing beside him. “Nox gave it to me. It’s one of the few things I still have from that lifetime. Dinner is served.”
As they ate she questioned him about his trade runs in Corellia. “What’s the weirdest thing you transported?”
“Oh that’s easy. Assassin droids.”
“Doesn’t sound that weird.”
“Wait, you gotta hear the whole story.” He began, and she instantly knew she was in for a good one, his brow furrowing and a half smile creasing his eyes.
“So this supplier was sending companion droids to Beksar the Hutt, like six of them. They were what you would expect, for pleasure purposes. I really didn’t want the job because of Beksar’s dealings with Arcann. He’s a real piece of shit. But this Nautolan approaches me asking me if I want to make some extra credits. Turns out Beksar sold his brother out to the Knights for selling trade routes to rebel fighters. So he reprogrammed and weaponized the droids to attack when they were propositioned.”
“So, you delivered killer sex droids to a Hutt?”
“Pretty much. It was a blood bath. We put a camera in one of them so we could watch the whole scene.”
Ashara bore an expression of half-delighted disturbance. “I heard about that. That was you? Beksar oversaw all the Trade routes for the Eternal Empire. That must’ve been quite a blow. Well done, Andronikos.”
“I could tell you a dozen more stories like that, but it’s not like I was doing the same thing as you, I get paid for doing a job.”
“So you’re saying good deeds don’t count if you are compensated? You always do this, cut yourself short, dismiss your own goodness.”
“Yeah I do, but that’s not what I’m trying to say. I’m tired of doing jobs, tired of revenge, I want to just help people for the sake of it, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Ashara stood silent for a moment then took Andronikos by the hand and led him outside.
They stepped out into the ever-orange twilight of Voss evening.
“What do you notice about the sky here?”
“You mean the orange glow? It never fades, even at night, it’s like a haze above the sky. Is that from the moon being so close, reflecting off the atmosphere?”
“Yes and no. The planet is surrounded by a force field, tiny reflective particles that do indeed reflect the moonlight. They have a unique reaction to certain spacecrafts. Eternal Fleet ships cannot pass through, when they attempt, they simply burn-up. Those Knights we saw here, they arrived on captured freighter ships. The Fleet cannot come near the planet. This is why Arcann didn’t send more troops to retrieve the map, it wasn’t possible. He probably also didn’t want to call attention to the defensive efficiency of whatever that is.” Ashara said indicating to the sky.
“What is it exactly? I mean did the Voss create it?”
“No one knows. The Voss know little of their own origins, having evolved from the Gormak, a fact which most deny. The Gormak were corrupted centuries ago, by the Sith. So much history, just lost. But this impenetrable field makes Voss a sanctuary for those rebelling against the Eternal Empire. Voss have no interest in war with Arcann, being unallied with either the Empire of the Republic. But they do believe in the freedom of other planets, independence being highly valued. Therefore they welcome unallied ambassadors who stand against the Eternal Fleet.”
“How’d you find out about the forcefield, or whatever it is?”
“A Voss commando, Ceva-Jalen. She travels with me from time to time when the military allows, which is more frequently since the Eternal Fleet occupation, a shield bunker being constructed on Pel-Ki Ridge.
“Wait, I thought you just said the atmosphere was impenetrable. How’d they get through the forcefield?”
“The Gormak shuttled them in on freighters and they occupy an area in the marshes long held by their kind. Arcann promised to aid them in defeating the Voss, giving them their planet back, annihilating the Voss. But that isn’t his goal, just a ploy to position a Star Fortress above Voss. If he succeeds it won’t matter that the Fleet can’t land, Arcann can attack the planet using a fully functional sky fortress.”
“I’ve seen the one above Nar Shadaa. It’s massive. The threat of a beam that could wipe out the entire moon pretty much ensures full compliance.”
“I have to stop them from completing the Fortress above Voss, wipe out the shield bunker before it is operational. I could use a good partner, if you are interested.
Andronikos rubbed his forehead and stifled a yawn.
“I’m so sorry, here I am going on and on. It’s getting late. You must be exhausted. You should get some rest.” Ashara said, wrapping an arm in his.
“Yeah, I should get back to my room in the Enclave” he said reluctantly.
“Nonsense, you’re staying here.”
He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him him off, leading him back into her home.
“It’s not up for discussion. I got you drunk and talked your ears off. We can talk more tomorrow. It will give you some time to consider a partnership.”
She ran her hands up his strong shoulders and cupped his face.
“I don’t need time, there’s no one I’d rather have by my side. But I do have a question about this partnership. Any ground rules?”
Ashara furrowed her brow and pulled away. “You’re the one usually setting rules, as I recall.”
Andronikos grabbed her arm firmly and pulled her back to his chest.
“Well I see you as a woman of both experience and confidence, so let’s just say I no longer feel the need to protect your innocence.”
“Meaning we can’t cuddle sweetly in bed?” Ashara teased him.
“Sure we can, unless you have something else in mind.” He said cocking an eyebrow.
“What gave me away, the way I wrapped my legs around you when you arrived?”
“Yeah”, he chuckled. “That was unexpected. Do it again.”
She braced her hands over his shoulders, lifting her legs up, tucking one ankle beneath the other behind his back, legs around him as requested, perched high on his hips. He slipped his hand around her butt to support her.
“Like this?” She asked. “I like it up here." She draped her arms around his neck hugging him. "But honestly I wondered if you would still be interested in me after all this time.”
“Oh, I’m interested.” He said. He thought of spilling his guts, she was the one that got away. He thought of her every day since their parting, wishing he had not been nursing heartbreak of Nox and held back by his own cautiousness. “I’m very interested, no rules.” He added.
Holding her butt in both hands as she smiled down at him, he was hard in seconds. She began to speak but he needed no further direction. He kissed her, parting her lips only slightly, pulling her downward from his hips so she could feel his excitement. She tightened her legs around him, pressing him against her, feeling his cock’s pressure through his pants. His readiness matched hers. She dove into his mouth with deep kisses that practically begged of her desire.
“I’ve thought of this moment a million times.” She said between kisses.
He backed her up to the bar and perched her on the end of it. She reached back and slid plates and glasses crashing to the ground, then leaned back on her elbows, kicking her boots off as she opened her legs to him. He peeled her tight black pants off as she lifted her tunic over her head with frantic breaths. Her sex glistened like molten gold. He beheld her for a moment then bent to kiss her thighs, tugging off his own shirt and fumbling with his belt and pants buttons. He took in the scent of her sex mixed with her rosewater perfume. Then he kissed her upper thighs pulling her legs further apart. He kissed and licked the side of her entrance in long strides, tasting her, teasing her. She stayed up on her elbows watching him relish her.
“I want you, now.” Her tone was commanding.
Andronikos pulled her toward him, dangling her ass above the end of the bar and entered her halfway. She was tight but eager for more. She gasped slightly. She had accommodated longer, but his cock was so thick and upturned this was a different sensation than ever before. “Mmmm.” She uttered. Andronikos usually eased into sex but sensing her need he thrust into her almost fully. She grabbed his hands resting on her hips and gripped them tightly.
“Do we need a safe word?” He asked half-jokingly, but the sentiment of his care was evident.
“Absolutely not.” She said, wrapping legs behind his ass and pulling his full length inside her. She exhaled a shuddering breath. He slowly thrust inside her. She was a silken glove around him. He had never been with a Togruta before, and it was different than being with a human. Small ridges just inside her stimulating the underside of his cock threatened to make short work of his debut performance. He tried to steady his breath and slow his pace as he fucked her. But she was having none of his refrain. She reached up to hold onto his forearms as he thrust into her supporting her butt with his hands gripping underneath. Their eyes locked in a surprisingly intimate exchange.
“I’m sorry, its been a while. I want it to last.” He said between quick breaths.
“Don’t you dare apologize, this feels wonderful. Just let go and enjoy it", Ashara said with an impossibly sexy voice.
He slowed his pace, running his hands over her abdomen up to her breasts. They bounced against the tips of his fingers. He closed them around her breasts gripping them gently. Her body acquiesced to accommodate him, her wetness enabling him to glide in and out of her more freely. Her breaths quickened and she tightened around him. He circled her clit with his thumb, and she writhed against him gasping and shuddering, clawing his forearms. Her pleasure easily sent him over the edge.
After gasps subsided and heart rates returned to a normal pace, Ashara rose, looking at him with sleepy, sultry eyes.
"Lay down in my bed and I’ll draw you a bath.”
He smiled and silently complied. Ashara ran an overflowing warm bath with salts and oils, selecting woodsy scents, and lit a lamp. She untied the heavy curtains that separated the bathroom from the bedroom to afford him privacy and laid out an over-sized robe for him.
He slid into the water, inhaling the aromatics and cupped water to his face. “I could get used to this”, he thought.
As he relaxed, he mused about Ashara’s obvious care for him. “Could this finally be our time?” He wondered. Feeling his stubble, he longed for a shave. As if reading his mind, she appeared in the doorway with a single bladed razor.
“I kinda like it, but I know how much you hate needing a shave.”
“You’re the best.” He said.
It was probably all the alcohol, but he felt comfortable slipping back into the familiar shared close quarters with her. Sensing his ease, she sat cross legged beside the copper basin, watching steam rise from his head and arms. He looked at the blade with uncertainty.
“Let me.” She said rising to her knees. She shaved him, slowly and gently in long smooth strokes from his throat to his cheeks, leaving just a slight shadow of mustache and goatee.
“Keep a little pirate about you”, she whispered.
“You wanna shave my head for old times sake?”
“No, I really like your dreads.” She said curling a finger in one of the locks. She moved in to kiss him very lightly, almost innocently. A kiss of true affection, of friendship and missing, of true caring. The intimacy of the moment was rare for him, and he wondered if it was for her too. He’d been with many women in the past three years, one night stands mostly. Women seeking physical release, a temporary escape from boredom, even the occasional fling with Theron. With Theron there was friendship and definitely a mutual respect and connection. But with Ashara, there was something deeper, something vulnerable, a connection that didn’t need words. It was undefinable. How had he fallen more in love with her after three years apart?
She rose and winked at him, leaving him with his thoughts to finish bathing.
When he returned to her bedroom, dry and thoroughly relaxed, she lay with eyes closed, curled on her side, an arm draped over the edge of her bed, a pillow and place behind her with the cover pulled down for him. She wore a short silken gown, it’s edges barely reaching the base of her butt. He climbed in behind her and slid fully against her, wrapping a lanky arm around her waist and squeezed her gently. She exhaled a sigh of contentment and reached down to squeeze his hand.
Chapter 20: Boom
Lana and Koth visit Arron Prime with a diminutive but mighty ally. A future ally is discovered, at least most of him.
Lana stood on edge, waiting for Koth to materialize from the sandstorm. Arron Prime’s terrain, like its climate was unforgivable and she worried he may have landed off-course or even crashed due to the lack of visibility. As usual she had planned ahead, arriving two days earlier to avoid the worst of the forecast. Also as usual, Koth had apparently waited until the last minute. The tiny village where she resided consisted of mostly Jawa peddlers, but to the east were a few camps of Tusken Raiders. It was easy to see why these races had migrated to Arron Prime, being already adapted to the harsh desert landscape of Tatooine. But Arron Prime was split down the middle with a massive mountain range of unstable volcanic activity. Hundreds of miles from its equator the ground shook from the frequent eruptions, spewing cooled lava chunks onto the rooves of the makeshift village. When the ground shook, one had only minutes to find shelter and avoid being stoned to death by flaming hot rock shards.
Before earthquakes and volcanic activity rocked the planet, Arron Prime had been a temperate planet, lush with a bustling economy based on mining talthorian. The metal was lightweight yet strong, with great resistance to heating and cooling making it an ideal material for starship fabrication. Over years, the planet was mined carelessly into instability. The resulting quake nearly split the planet in two, and Lana envisioned the similarity of mass genocide on Ziost. It would have been sudden and entirely devastating. Presently, only the Jawa and Tusken resided there to mine and scavenge what remained. Talthorian was being used to construct the Eternal Empire’s Star Fortresses. She and Koth were there to determine how it was being supplied and hopefully to disrupt the supply. Lana was fond of Jawa and but she knew that the practical solution would be to collapse all the mines likely resulting in many deaths. She lamented this outcome having received such hospitality from them.
The ground outside her shelter shook violently, and she retreated inside. “Dammit, Koth where are you?” she muttered. She wore heavy armor and a dark wig, having passed herself off as a bounty hunter seeking a bounty on a Tusken clan close-by. The Jawa happily received her, welcoming an enemy of their foes. Koth would be joining her as a fellow bounty hunter. Her lightsaber was stowed in the booster pack at her back, and its absence at her hip was unnatural. She habitually passed her hand over her waist to grip it before having to remind herself it was not there.
Rumbling shook her domed shelter. Followed by sharp hissing. Smoke engulfed outside as Lana fastened her gas mask over her face and backed away from the doorway.
“Shit, shit” came the familiar voice followed by a heaving dive onto the shelter floor. Seconds later the pelting of rocks and barely solid lava chunks clanged on the roof and ground outside. Koth dragged himself to his knees looking up at her with brown eyes barely visible from the cracked visor of his helmet. He admired her clinging silver mercenary suit.
“Now that’s hot.” He greeted her. “Outside, I mean”, he added with a smile.
“You’re late.” She scolded him.
“You’re early.” He replied. “Besides, its such a lovely planet, I figured you would want to do some sight-seeing.”
“I assume you have a plan?”
“Of course, wouldn’t be here without a plan.”
Lana cast a doubtful glare.
“Ok well maybe not a plan per say, but a general idea. Get in and out quickly and avoid the flaming hot rocks.”
“That’s your plan?”
“Simple and Easy, best kind of plan.” Koth said confidently.
“And your source? When or rather will she be joining us?”
“Not here, on Zakuul in a few weeks. I’m still hammering out the details.”
The ground quaked again. A Jawa scampered through the doorway pitching himself barely inside.
“ Are you alright?” Lana asked offering her hand to lift him to his feet.
“This ones with me, meet our secret weapon. Blizz, Lana, Lana, Blizz.”
The tiny mercenary chattered excitedly.
“Blizz here is an explosives expert and a bit of a pyromaniac.”
“Boom, hee hee” Blizz added enthusiastically.
“Well then it’s a pleasure.” Lana managed, her confidence falling by the second.
“Lana, you head to the Raider camp and cause a diversion, draw as many away from the mine as you can. We’ll take care of the mine.”
“And the boiling rocks coming every few minutes, what do you propose we do about those?”
“You’ll be fine, just keep your suit on, and your helmet.”
Lana scorned at him. “And you and your friend?”
“Come on, this hard head, I’ll be fine. Trust me, we’ve got this.”
“It’s your funeral”. She said locking the steely helmet in place.
Lana studied the camp from beneath a rocky overlook a hundred meters away. Four guards and a large shelter of scrap metal. How many could fit in there, five, ten? “I hate fighting in close quarters” she thought. She needed an element of surprise to draw as many out as possible. So she waited for the next quake. It came and the four raiders standing guard hurried into shelter for cover. Fireballs pitched overhead whistling toward the ground. At that moment she fired a poison gas shrapnel dart into the shelter, then hunkered down under the craggy overhang. The explosion wasn’t immense but it was effective. The Raiders coughed and gasped, wailing like boars. Instinctively, they stumbled outside only to be pelted by steaming lava drops and stony projectiles from the eruption. She fired on three crawling Raiders until they stilled. When the smoke cleared she caught sight of the exodus from the mines. A herd of Raiders rumbling toward the camp. Then came the cries of Jawa enlivened from the ruckus and taking the opportunity to lay siege on their foes. As she rose to join her tiny comrades a deafening explosion swept her feet from under her and sent her into blackness.
Lana groaned and rolled to her side. She tried to take stock of her body seeing every part of her tinged in an orange glow, even the ground and air around her gleamed. Then she caught sight of it, a massive geyser of lava spewing hundreds of feet in the air from a crater. The downstream careened straight into the mine entrance. Two black shadows moved toward her, one tall, one short.
“You didn’t even get to use your lightsaber.” Koth joked helping her to her feet.
“Did you make that?” She asked pointing at the geyser.
“No, he made that.” Koth replied noticing to Blizz.
“Boom” said Blizz.
“A neutron cannon.” Koth explained. “Perfectly positioned, that lava will fill the mine up. It’ll take weeks to stop spewing, months to cool then they have to dig it back out again.”
“Most of them died from the lava, we picked off the rest, and our little friends helped. Well, the ones that weren’t knocked out like you. These Jawa hate Arcann, they’re more interested in mining for gems, they don’t mind the extra work as long as they don’t have to compete with the Raiders for mining rights. Admit it, it was a good plan”.
“Let’s get out of here.” Lana said.
Blizz chirped in protest and scurried toward the Raider camp.
Koth shrugged, “Hey, a Jawa’s gotta scavenge.”
“You scavenge, I’ll bury. We should try to make this appear a natural disaster. So the Jawa don’t get blamed for it. I’ll need to recover the dart and bury the Raiders hit by blaster fire and shrapnel.”
“Just toss them in the lava.” Koth said. “All that pressure relieved from the geyser, shouldn’t be any ground quakes or eruptions for a while, relax.”
Koth’s cool confidence irked Lana, mostly because she knew he was probably right.
After piling up the Raiders corpses she flung their bodies with Force energy into the lava river along with her mercenary suit. She latched her saber back to her side and momentarily clung to the chain around her neck. Nox would’ve loved this adventure, the humor in the tiny Jawa with his pyrotechnics, the poor planning and impossible odds. This humor was typically lost on Lana, but she smiled in the delight that Nox would’ve felt by it all.
“Lana, check this out.” Koth called.
She crunched through soot and pebbles back to the encampment. Several Jawas chirped and laughed rummaging and bickering over seized weaponry. Koth held aloft a golden colored droid head and leg.
“What is this?” He asked.
“An HK unit, or part of one.”
“Think it’s worth keeping?”
“It is missing some parts, but Acina has quite a collection, so yes it could prove useful.”
“Well these guys don’t want him, so spoils of war to you and Acina.”
“Are we done now, Koth or do you want to settle down here and grow old with a Jawa?”
“You’re no fun.”
“It was a good plan.” She half-smiled at him.
“I brought you a present.” Lana said stepping from the elevator into Acina’s apartment.
“From that burning rock of a planet? Forgive me if I don’t get too excited. But it’s good to see you.
“Go on, open it.”
Acina released the lock on the transport case and peered in.
“An HK unit, these were all destroyed in the last war, and incinerated. I can’t believe you found, well most of one. It’s incredible.”
“I’m glad you like it. Do you think you could rebuild him, or will you just add him to your hoard?” She asked gesturing around dramatically at droid parts stacked floor to ceiling in the foyer.
“Yes, I admit I have a bit of a problem. This is what happens when one becomes an old spinster. You’re better with fabrication than me but I’d quite like to reprogram him. He would be an excellent bodyguard for you. You need someone watching your back if you insist on traveling with that slimy turncoat Koth Vortena.”
“That slimy turncoat found him and thought you would appreciate him.” Lana countered.
“Hmm”. Acina growled. “Well that settles it, I can’t possibly keep it for myself. Still, it will need upgraded morals and manners. HK-55’s were rather unruly and disagreeable. I think we could turn him into a fine gent for you, unless you prefer a female prototype, I could add some other functions.”
“This is why people don’t do nice things for you. You never accept a gift graciously and you insist on inserting lewd remarks.”
Acina laughed. “No, people do lots of nice things for me. However most people don’t argue with me, not because of my remarks but because they fear I will annihilate them. But not you, you’re cross with everyone. It’s what I love about you.”
“My disagreeableness?” Lana chuckled.
Lana looked at the ground, unsure how to respond to the compliment.
“Come, dine with me.”
After dinner the two drank and swapped stories of the previous months. Lana had been delayed in her return to Kaas City by diplomatic responsibilities.
“I can’t believe he sent me to Arron Prime to investigate the incident.” Lana said.
“It does seem more than coincidental” Acina grinned wickedly.
“That was you, you set that up?” Lana asked with pleased surprise.
“Well I wasn’t certain how thoroughly you had tidied up. I don’t doubt you, but Koth is reckless. I simply told the Eternal Emperor that you had extensive knowledge of disaster appraisal what with your experience on Ziost.”
“Genius, really you are. I could kiss you.” Lana said, the wine going to her head.
“You could, but you’d hate me in the morning.”
“Forgive me, I drink too much these days”, Lana added with a tone of reluctance.
Acina changed the subject. “What of this source Koth has promised for months?”
“I’m afraid the delay is mostly my fault. I’ve been so tied to diplomatic duties. But I take consolation in the fact that even those mundane tasks are aimed at finding Nox and ending Arcann.” Lana’s gaze vacated to a faraway place.
“What is it, do you sense her?”
“No, not exactly, not like our mind connection. But something else. It’s like sometimes I feel as if I’m seeing my experiences through her perspective. At first it was just memories, but over time it’s progressed, like I become her or I have her insight. But to answer your question, Koth’s source is a Knight named Senya. She was close to Valkorian and apparently Arcann too, but she absconded during the Galactic War, and she’s hellbent on overthrowing the Eternal Emperor. Like you, she hates Koth because of some disagreement. I’m not privy to the details, and Koth is vague and touchy about it.”
“Yet he arranged a meeting for you?”
“More like a negotiation. She has a bounty out on him and I’m meeting her as a potential tipster. I’m tasked with convincing her they can be allies working towards the same goal alongside me.”
“So she thinks you’re going to help her kill him but you’re actually there to play peacemaker. This sounds like a terrible plan. I should go with you.”
“You are much too conspicuous Acina, you’re the Empress of the Empire. You can’t be seen with an enemy of Arcann. I disguise easily, and I am not well known. I can fly under the radar even on Zakuul.”
“Then bring her here. We can meet in the privacy of Kaas City.”
“Privacy of Kaas City, Acina are you mad? There are eyes everywhere. We’re basically an occupied territory.”
“Then smuggle her in directly to my or Nox’s dock.
“Sure. I know we’ve never met, and I’ve been galavanting with your sworn enemy, but let me smuggle you in to Kaas City for a clandestine meeting, just trust me.”
“All right, I concede your point.” Acina relented.
“If the meeting on Zakuul goes well, maybe then I can convince her to come here and meet you, smuggle her in as you say. We meet in a week.”
“The four year anniversary of Arcann’s rule”, Acina noted somberly.
“Yes, marked by an extravagant party, but we’re meeting in the Old World. Senya can’t be near the Spire or the celebration, she’s wanted. Still, I will make an appearance at the festivities at some point, just to have a look around.”
“Well you’re in luck, I will also be in attendance.”
“Just keep your distance. I must blend in with the people and I can hardly do that with the Sith Empress At my side. I will call you if I need you, I promise.”