"For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse.
This is not your destruction.
This is your birth."
Nathem Estate, Dromund Kass: 3660 BBY (7BTC)
It was a long journey from Kaas City to the Nathem Estate, yet it was one Nikholas was familiar with. Once, every three weeks the man would take his speeder and drive out along the rough path to the stone mounds that marked the beginning of the estate. From there it was another few minutes until he reached the main house, which, unlike the durasteel buildings in the city, was made of natural stone. A few yards away from the main house sat the green house, with glass made of an array of colors to accentuate the bright colorful plants inside. From his initial tour many years ago, he was aware of the in-law house, and servan homes scattered behind deeper in the jungle.
Not many people could live out in the jungle so openly, with the deadly creatures and dangerous wildlife lurking about, but if anyone would do it, it was Retired Chief Medical Officer Nathem, who valued his privacy more than his sociability. The state of the art security system kept his property safe from intruders, and was a deterrent for anyone thinking the remote estate was free for the taking. And for those stupid enough to still try, the steward of the estate, Far'sha was a deadly fighter despite his age who would get rid of any who wished harm on the master and his child.
Nikholas dismounted his speeder which he parked a few hundred yards from the main entrance and walked slowly up to the door. Far'sha opened the door before Nikholas reached it, his bright yellow eyes staring him down, figuring out if he was a threat. The old pureblood’s crimson skin was littered with age spots and wrinkles, his cheek tendrils and bow stalks hanging low with age.
“Hello Far'sha, I believe the master of the house is expecting me.” Nikholas said, raising his arms to show he had no weapons. The old pureblood man grunted and opened the door wider for Nikholas as he ascended the stairs.
Nikholas paused as he reached the threshold at the sound of splashing water, squealing giggles, and a low growl. He turned his head slightly, resisting the urge to search for the cause of the noise, but kept his eyes on the steward who’s eyes narrowed at him, warning him silently to not try to look for the child. He sighed, and bowed his head submissively at the older man, before continuing his way into the house.
The heels of his boots clicked against the hardwood floor as he was lead to Nathem’s office. It was a quiet home, with only the sound of thunder rolling from outside. Far'sha held up his hand, ordering Nikholas to pause, as he knocked on the door to the office and slipped inside. A moment passed, before Far'sha opened the door from the inside and waved Nikholas in.
“Nikholas, glad you could make it.” Nathem greeted standing from his desk.
Although the man had been retired for 5 years, the man never lost his look of dignity. The Retired Chief Medical Officer was a tall man, broad shouldered and firmly built. His hair was combed back, not a hair out of place, but the new addition of gray hairs made their appearance. The neatly trimmed beard was a whim of retirement, as it made him look more noble than before, and in a subtly way, snubbed his watered down pureblood lineage.
“I’m glad to be here, as always.” Nikholas bowed his head briefly, before taking a seat across from Nathem. He wondered briefly, as he always did, how the cold faced, detached man ever was a medic. Especially as the man was easily capable of terrifying a patient.
As was their tradition, Nikholas began to delve into the recent gossip of Kass City, bringing him up to date with the happenings. The retired man rarely left his estate, and each piece of gossip brought a shred of truth.
“And apparently Jadus had taken a lover not too many years before you, he’s determined to train his own daughter, despite reservations from the council.” Nikholas said, quietly gauging Nathem’s reaction to the juicy piece of gossip. When he had heard he was very tempted to slap the idiocy out of the sith, knowing from the history of others who lacked the wisdom of the consequences of taking their own children, and it breed weakness.
“I’m not surprised, every lord wants to train their own children, but few are stupid enough to keep the child shackled to them without having them first prove that they are worthy of the title sith.” Nathem shook his head.
“Are you not looking at having your own spawn trained?” Nikholas knew he was treading on thin ice. The man sheltered his child, one of the reasons he had retired and retreated to the jungles in the first place. All guests were screened by Far'sha and Nathem. And of everyone who had visited, Nikholas was one of the few who spotted the small body and golden red hair in a fleeting moment. However, in the off-handed comments Nathem made, he was able to deduce that the child was force sensitive.
Nathem barely showed any response as he stared with ice blue eyes.
“Naturally, when she’s old enough. For now I will simply guide her, and when it’s time, she will go to the academy with the others, and she will prove whether she is worthy or not.” Nikholas was slightly taken back, though he kept his face neutral. Though Nathem was a medic, the man was no less intimidating and any sign of weakness was sure to be exploited.
“Do you not fear for your child?”
“I fear for her disgrace, if she is to become sith without first proving her ability and bringing shame upon the empire.”
Nikholas had never met a man like Nathem who embodied the sith philosophy of only the strong will survive, and his cold mannerisms enforced that he truly believed that. Shame was now common amongst the sith lords, their infighting caused trouble and disgrace for the empire, leaving them open and vulnerable to the republic attacks.
“Speaking of bringing shame, we’ve lost Hydian Way.” Nikholas said. It was known to the select few that the Empire encouraged the mandalorian blockade of the hyperspace lane. They had even rewarded the Mandalorians and funded their efforts.
Nathem frowned deeply, if they had kept hydian way the republic would have folded in weeks if not days.
“Were the supplies given to Vizla not enough, that she could not even get her people to hold onto one hyperspace lane?” Nathem’s scathing voice cut through the air. The tension was palpable in the office space.
However the tension was cut swiftly when the door to the office slammed open. There had been no warning, no sign of entry until a small, sopping wet child threw itself at Nathem’s legs. At first all Nikholas saw was the golden red mane of hair he had seen from a distance. The child was sobbing, clinging to Nathem’s leg,
“Jaarvek, Jaarvek. M’tye mriajas. Ji zmogus gimto niant.” She sobbed as she held up the the body and head of a doll.
Nikholas sat in shock. Though he was aware of Nathem’s pureblood lineage, their line was so diluted by human blood that they had no outward appearance of the lineage except for the high cheekbones that Nathem bore, and the clawed nails. Yet it was a rare thing to hear the sith tongue spoken so freely, especially by one as young as her.
Nathem sat forward, taking the doll from her hands and inspecting it. White stuffling falling from the seems that once held together the head and body. The fabric was slightly frayed around the head, twigs and leaves visible, and overall quite wet.
“And how did this happen?” He asked the child in common.
“Yundoks Mielis” she answered in a chipper voice.
“Qyȃsik tarnas j’us berniuk” He sighed the language slipping from his tongue in a familiar way. “Go get my medical supplies and bring it here.”
The little girl bobbed her head and took off out of the office. The two men sat in silence as Nathem picked at the debris, shaking his head.
“Yundoks Mielis,” Nathem started, glancing up at Nikholas, “Little Darling, is the name of one of the Yozusk on our property that my daughter took a shining to. She treats the damn thing like a pet, even tried to bring it in the house at one point.”
Nikholas opened his mouth, to speak but the streak of red hair passed him caused him to fall silent as the youngling pushed a large medical kit into her father’s lap. Nathem took it willingly and pulled out thread and a needle, setting to fixing the doll like it was in surgery.
“Be polite to our guest.” He told her offhandedly, not glancing up from his work as his daughter slowly turned to Nikholas. She shuffled over to him, not meeting his eyes.
“‘Ello, ‘m Medria.” she greeted softly, her posture shy and reserved. For such an energetic child he was surprised for a moment until he realized the likelihood of her meeting anyone who did not live on the estate.
“Hello Medria, My name is Nikholas, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He leaned forward, hand held out to shake hers. She stared at it warily before reaching out her small one to shake it. His hand dwarfed hers, leaving her to only grip his pointer finger, and her pale complexion made his own seem darker. It took a second longer before she looked up at him in wonder. SHe moved closer to him until she crawled into his lap. He shifted back, unsure what to do with a child, as she pressed her hands against his chest to lean close to his face. Her eyes were wide and bright, crystal blue like her father’s with tinges of green and gray.
“You ‘ave pretty eyes.” she whispered, her voice maintaining the lilt found in most Kassians and in those who spoke the sith language.
Drakaryba, Imperial transport: 3653 BBY (0ATC)
“Jaarvek,” Medria whispered, tugging on her father’s sleeve. Her unease grew stronger as they shuffled forward in the line leading into the transport ship Drakaryba. After 11 years of retirement, her father agreed to be redeployed to a system that was suffering from repeated attempts of Republic occupation. Since the deployment could last years Medria was to accompany him as a few naval families did. It was often requested that families would be deployed as well, and transport ships such as the Drakaryba were used to move the families and a few important officials from base to base.
Unlike the rest of the civilians boarding the ship who dragged multiple bags after them, Medria and her father took little with them, each had only a single over the shoulder bag with a few necessary items stuffed inside.
“Jaarvek,” Medria whispered again with a little more force.
“What is it child?” He asked his focus still on the slow moving line.
“I have a bad feeling. Let’s go home, they can fight without you.”
Nathem stopped midstep just below the ramp. His eyes flared as he gripped Medria’s elbow and dragged her away from the crowd. He knew her tepedation on leaving the house beforehand, and summed it up to her nervousness of being outside the estate for the first time, however, she also knew to mind herself.
“Watch what you say child, you speak of treason. You control your fear, not the other way around.” he hissed and she cowered away, curling in on herself. It took a minute before her father relaxed his grip and slowly placed his hands on her shoulders. “Medria, it is our honor to serve the empire in whatever capacity we can. We fight for the empire, so we must do what we can, no matter the personal sacrifices. I have skills that are a service to the empire, and they need my skills. One day, you will have skills that will be of use to the empire, and you will serve too. If you are afraid, channel it. Use it, focus it, bend it to your will, and turn it into something productive.”
She swallowed heavily and nodded, eyes downcast. Her father sighed, and took her hand in his, leading them back to the line as the last few shuffled into the ship.
It was uncomfortably crowded. Leaving the two of them to sit elbow to elbow with strangers in the middle of the ship. Medria curled up against her father, as he pulled out a datapad from his bag. She peered over his arm, reading along with him. It was a historical novel, about the military tactics used during the Jeci civil wars. She slowly started nodding on, eyelids heavy somewhere around the endar spire.
“Medria,” her father shook her awake. She jumped, startled, blinking wildly at her surroundings. Slowly she looked up at him, trying to figure out why he woke her from a good rest. “We’re coming out of hyperspace soon.” She yawned, jaw popping slightly as she stretched and straightened in her seat. It had been a long journey, a few days to get there, all cramped in uncomfortable seats surrounded by strangers. Medria felt increasingly cold, deep in her chest. She shivered and turned to her father.
“Jaarvek, something bad is going to happen.” She whispered, doing her best to not scare the other passengers. He looked at her, eyebrows raised in curiosity.
“What do you feel?” he asked.
“Cold… no.” She paused pulling at the feeling. It wasn’t cold. “It’s not cold, its hot, burning hot, so hot it hurts stronger than when I shoved my hand in the bowl of ice and salt.”
It was then she felt it, his concern, fear and worry. He slipped his arm around her shoulders as he discreetly reached into his bag. It was a subtle move, as he slipped a small blaster pistol into her hands, so subtle, no one around them took note. She felt herself quivering as she stared wide-eyed at her hands. A blaster, her father was expecting a fight.
The tell-tale sign of exiting hyperspace came, and immediately after the transporter shook and lights strobbed. Amongst the other passengers there was a shout of surprise.
Whispers started up, curious in wonder, accusatory, fearful. There was so much fear, Medria could feel in pulsing around her in the air. Blaster fire could be heard in the hallway, screams and shouts from the other seating area. The passengers in the same hold as them jumped to their feet, rushing towards the back of the ship to the escape pods.
She pulled at her fear, holding it tightly to her. She could hardly stop trembling, but slowly her fear of her life turned to anger.
How dare they? How dare they. They board her ship. They kill her people. They want to kill her, her father. Their ship wasn’t even a military ship, it was a transport, and they say that the empire was cruel and murderous.
Medria stood straight next to her father, pointing her blaster at the hall. The first republic trooper was unfortunate enough to be in the line of sight of her father, the next was hers. She fired, and fired, and fired, until her pistol clicked and nothing more came out.
Her father grabbed her shoulder and pushed her down, hiding behind the seats. He took the pistol from her hands and switched out the magazine with another charged one. Medria was the first to jump back to her feet, pistol aimed. She didn’t even register it, before a bright flash of light blinded her. It suddenly felt like she had hopped into the pond on the estate in the middle of the cold season, where it was all covered with a thin layer of ice. She couldn’t breath.
Medria forced her eyes to open, and found her father’s chin above her, sideways, and the wall moving steadily
“Jaarvek?” She whispered confused.
“Don’t worry,” He said, the knot on his throat bobbing. Then she realized, he was carrying her, and the wall, was actually the ceiling. The ceiling dipped as they entered a new room and her father gently placed her down. There were gasps, strangers murmuring.
“Give her medical attention.” he ordered and Medria sat up. Leaving, he was leaving. The her arm was weak but she reached out and grabbed his arm. His eyes softened slightly as he cupped her cheek.
“Remember Medria. We fight for the empire, with whatever skills we have to offer. Until the time comes where we can prove that our sacrifices strengthen both ourselves and the empire, we are worth nothing. Prove your power and might and the empire will reward you, just as you reward the empire. Channel your emotions let them strengthen you, and one day, you will be the glory of the empire.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and darted out just as the room just as the doors slid shut. The room shook as the realization that she was in an escape pod came to Medria. Her eyes widened and she tried to sit up, only to have someone push her down gently.
“Let me tend your wounds.” a male voice said, as someone hurt her arm. She hissed and withdrew from the person. Her arm was on fire, nerves electrified. She looked at it and saw peeling skin across her arm, and her shirt melted into the wounds. Horrified fascination filled her as she numbly moved her fingers, trying to confirm that the arm was her arm.
The republic did this to her.
Medira was in a mood, more so than usual, though the pain in her body was enough of a excuse. She bit back the growls in her throat when Bon, a civilian with minor medical history, tended to wounds that went from mid thigh all the way up her body to her face. But it was all so numbing. She could hardly feel anything but the pain, and it clouded everything. The pod shook making contact with another ship. Her heart rate increased and she felt more aware than before.
The doors to the pod opened with a hiss and on reflex, Medria drew her pistol, aiming at the opening doors, praying they found sanctuary.
The first thing she saw was a blaster, pointed at her, and then as it lowered she noticed the crisp lines of the imperial uniform. All energy left her body in a swift moment, and the arm holding the pistol clattered to the ground.
“Sir-” someone next to her said.
“See to the injured.” the officer ordered before looking at the group. Medria brushed off the soldier who moved to her side, using him instead, to pull herself up to her feet.
“It’s uncommon for an escape pod to be met with such aggression.” she said, eyes locked on the officer.
“Yes, the republic has scooped to new low tactics. They’ve filled escape pods with…” he paused glancing at the worried looks of the rest of the civilians. “However, it is nothing you need to worry about, you need medical attention, please go with Henriks, he’ll escort you to the medical chambers.” the officer turned to leave when Medria grabbed his shoulder. She followed the man into the dark hallway.
“If you won’t tell me what is going on with the pods, the least you can do is tell me what happened to the Drakaryba.”
The officer froze and faced her slowly. The moment was filled with her heart pounding in her ears.
“It did not survive the republic’s attacks. It’s gone, completely.”
Her heart dropped deep in her stomach. The cold crept up her spine.
“And the other survivors?”
“There were no other survivors.” he whispered.
Time slowed to a stop as she tried to find the familiar feeling of her father, but it was empty. Everything felt cold and numb. She glanced down at the pistol, her father’s pistol.
“Point me towards the enemy.” It was a subtle order, but facing the man who was quite a few years, she was facing a man her equal.
“You’re young, and you’re injured.”
“I’m skilled and they murdered my father. Point me towards the enemy and let me serve our empire in this way.”
The officer appraised her for a second before sighing.
“On one condition, you must stay at my side at all times.”
“Agreed.” she held out her hand. Her father had told her on multiple occasions, to shake one’s hand upon an agreement, it seals the deal.
The officer’s hand was large and warm. The calluses from holding a blaster were rough against her smooth hands. She could feel it, she could trust this man.
Each shot was precise and well measured. Each squeeze of the trigger released her anger, rage, and sorrow. 5 down, 15 down, 40 down. She never stopped, she couldn’t. All she could feel was the cold rage at the fact that they killed him. They killed her father. They made her an orphan. They injured her, disfigured her. She was alone.
But she wasn’t alone. The steady presence of the officer next to her was a reminder, she wasn’t alone.
He was protecting her, killing those she missed.The whole ship was filled with blaster smoke, but the silence of victory hung in the air.Medria slumped against the officer, the adrenaline of battle slipping from her.
“It’s over.” she whispered.
“It’s over.” he agreed softly.