Aboard the Serith, en route to Korriban
Kurin Tonaal, Mahree Mis-Ede, Dashara Horizon
At that point, Kurin walked in. He had transferred the audio component of the surveillance to his helmet, so as to catch what they might say on the short walk over. He really couldn’t have them breaking stuff like that. It was bothersome to replace cameras. “Don’t listen to her talk about weight. To the Force, mass is irrelevant. The Force is in everything. It is everywhere.” He stopped midway down the hold in plain sight of the two.
"It's not about the weight Dash-" Mahree began, before another voice interrupted what she was going to say. Looking at the entrance to the cargo hold, Kurin. The younger girl frowned as she slowly began to drop the crate, hoping Dash noticed her arm lower as to indicate her actions.
It was a little irritating, Mahree had hoped they would have been left alone for a longer time. Not only to be able to practice what they wanted, but to talk, just themselves, without any outside influence at all.
The younger girl sighed in frustration as the crate returned to the ground. Hands returned to rest on her knees as she eyed Kurin where he stood..
Dash shot a look at Kurin when he spoke. Her jawline tightened, but she didn’t speak right away. Instead, she noticed Mahree’s force start to drift the crate downwards and followed her lead. Dash fought the impulse to just kick the refresher’s metal side in a fit of anger. She began to lower herself back to the cot, but remained eyeing the man.
Her voice was calm as she began to speak to both of them, “It doesn’t stop my brain from trying to explain it. Repeated phrase start to lose meaning until a solution is found. At least with other abilities I’ve seen, I can ‘explain’ it away to where I don’t think about it.”
Dash continued to look at Kurin, biting back her sarcastic replies, she continued.
“From your sudden arrival, I assume you’re not leaving. So how would you suggest I resolve that issue?”
“Meditate upon it. Learn to feel the Force in everything. Then learn to master it, make it serve you. When commanded appropriately, the Force obeys.” He sat down in a meditative pose, his eyes open and focused. “Once your attention is sufficiently widespread, you will learn that all is the same to the Force. It is yours to command, not to merely obey.” With mind he reached out to sense his surroundings. Feel the nuances of his ship, his crew and his two passengers. He spread his attention wide, reaching out to seize the power the Force had at its disposal here, so as to show the two what to do.
"I already tried that. The results you saw, speak for themselves. The sense
the force part isn’t the hard part, it’s the part that comes afterwards.” Dash countered, knowing fully what he meant.
“An easy victory does not challenge you. It does not require strength. It requires no passion.” He had no direct advice to give her beyond that. Guiding her through every step would make the victory hollow and weak. “Embrace the challenge. Use that which is at your disposal, no matter if it is anger, passion, frustration or something else entirely.”
Dash sighed. The desire to smack the Sith's cryptic words were there, but instead she controlled her temper. She inhaled as she moved to the end of the bed then stretched across it. Her eyes stared up at the cell's roof before she closed them.
It took a few moments, but gradually her mind began to reach out. In the normal fashion taught to her, small dots appeared. They scattered across the air flowing through her cell, to Mahree, and across the cargo bay. It spread from the air into the crates, into Kurin, Mahree and even herself.
For the moment, her mind was still. Calm and floating. Yes, nothing changed. The 'lights' flowed from source to another, an endless river that continually moved. No set amount settled in one item more than another.
"As I said, this isn't the hard part." Dash commented.
Her hand reached out to touch a crate and began to lift it. Anxiety and thoughts began to fill the back of her mind, getting the better of her focus. The crate stopped rising immediately and began to fall back down.
Kurin could sense her thoughts straying how she was anxious when she had no need to be. “Clear your mind. Do not focus on your worries. You are in no danger here.”
“Think about it like this: We are deep inside Imperial space now. The Exchange do not have power to speak of here and they have no power on Korriban.”
At the mention of The Exchange, Dashara's fear spiked. Her force grip over the crate promptly dropped and crashed into the floor. It took a moment for her to try to control her terror as she inhaled and exhaled, forcing her breath into a steady pace once more. She hadn't realized she had jerked upright now. Her arms crossed over to her chest and her fingers were digging into her skin.
The sound of the crate crashing onto the floor startled Mahree. She had been in a very focused, meditative mindset while Kurin and Dash talked. The Sith interrupting their time alone and teaching had irked her slightly. It seemed they wouldn’t find anytime to be themselves while on their way to Korriban. And upon arriving, who knows how little freedoms they would have.
Mahree opened her eyes and looked from Dash to Kurin, then back to Dash. She was worried for her friend; but the cells prevented much from being done, especially while Kurin was standing there.
The effect of mentioning the exchange had a more marked reaction than Kurin had expected. It had not taken Kira long at all to find the bounty on her. Clearly, someone in that group desired her deeply. Too bad for them that they would not get her. While momentarily tempting to inform them she had been removed from their reach, it would be foolish to goad them.
He would have to notify the overseers about this trait. Fear of this level would have to be trained away. He let his satisfaction radiate out, knowing he had a tool that could be used to assist her in truly embracing the Dark Side. Now all that remained was to find something similar for the other acolyte.
As Dash began to manage her fear, her empathy caught Kurin's more positive emotion. It brought a temporary relief as her concern built up. Her eyes opened, finished with the lesson for now. Her body curled against itself as her arms wrapped about her leg risen against her body. A pitiful shield for comfort.
She tried to swallow her earlier terror before she addressed him, "What are you so pleased about?"
He smiled knowingly. “You revealed what is most likely your greatest weakness at the moment. The thing that you first need to vanquish to gain strength. We are making progress on helping you.”
"Not to be a pain, but I don't remember asking for help." Dash stated as she tried to hide the worry.
Her attention darted to the side of her vision and found Mahree. She was checking that her emotions hadn't spilled out without her permission.
“What makes you think you’re helping
us?” Mahree asked suddenly, eyes opened as she broke her meditative position and began to stand. “Nothing was wrong with us before we came to you. We were two girls living out their lives as best we could. Nothing about making us captive and taking us to Korriban helps
.” Mahree continued as she stood completely and walked towards Kurin.
She noticed Dash’s glance for a moment, but her focus was on Kurin now.
“Why do the Sith think taking someone from their life and forcing them to become someone they’re not is helping?”
“One of you was well on her way to becoming a slave, her family slain by slaving pirate scum. Last time I checked, being a young female slave is not
an enviable or glorious fate.” He looked at Mahree as he said this. “The other has a rather sizeable bounty on her head, placed there by a major criminal cartel.” he paused for a second before adding while glancing over at Dashara, “They really seem to want you back, by the way.”
Dash's arms tightened about her leg at this fact, still trying to ignore her fear. She remained silent for now.
“The fact that you seem to think that being on the run from a criminal cartel is ‘nothing wrong’ is curious at best, worrying at worst. When you add in the situation of being on the way to a slave market in the hold of a pirate vessel to the same condition of ‘nothing wrong’, then I would question your wisdom and sanity.”
“However, your questionable sanity aside, you can both take solace in a few simple facts. Neither the Exchange nor any other criminals will get hold of either of you. Not now, nor after I get you to Korriban. You will both receive training as Sith as imperial law dictates. That training will empower you to control your own destiny with the power of the Empire at your back, rather than leaving you at the mercy of criminal scum.”
Dash let Kurin finish talking. Her attention never left the Sith as he pointed out fact after fact, all cold and undeniable. Save for one.
Her next words seemed to ice over as she spoke. Her eyes fixed, unblinkingly on Kurin, over her knees. They held a determined edge inside. One born from years of living in fear and anger.
"If we survive it..."
She let the words linger, penetrating the air and tossing back a fact she observed.
"In my experience, the best 'cages' are the ones you find yourself creating excuses to never leaving. They don't use physical restraints. Instead, they push toward a certain way of thinking or how you feel about certain topics."
She took a breath in her pause.
"But you know this, don't you? From the conversations, it’s easy to make my own assumptions about the academy. It’s designed to make someone like us follow the Sith ways and align with the Empire. Or die if we fail." Her tone and words subtly accused him of not being fully forward with all
It was easy to see that she wanted to put the Sith Academy in poor light. Probably a result of whatever presumably runaway Jedi she had befriended at one point. He guessed it had to be no more than a padawan if her limited training was any indication. “All who train others, whether they be academies or individuals seek to mold their students. There is nothing unique to the Sith Academy in that aspect. Nothing is ever completely without a cost.”
"And what about the Jedi?" Mahree butted in, challenging Kurin again, "I don't believe that if you train under them, you die. Should I fail they only seek to help you improve, am I right?" She argued. "Why does pain and death make the Sith better than the Jedi? What about that makes them stronger?" She added.
“Those who do not have what it takes to raise themselves up die. We Sith are simply more honest about it than the Jedi. The Jedi have a tendency to banish those who do not meet their exacting standards. That is how the first Sith came into being.” He thought for a moment before continuing, “These days, they are more fond of locking up those who do not take well to indoctrination or who are too weak for their ranks. Some they press into the so-called ‘service corps’, the others they put in prison. Neither give them the rights and freedoms they deserve. Mind you, they have a habit of executing those who stray too far from their precious codes.”
"At least they have a chance, who are the Sith to decide who lives and who dies because someone didn't want to conform to their cause." Mahree retorted, throwing up her hands in anger. "The ones who stray too far sound like the Sith, who deserve what they get for forcing others to conform to their ideals."
“We are the ones who have been subjected to a genocide by the narrowmindedness of the Republic and the Jedi. They tried to wipe us all out after defeating us in the previous war. We have never tried to wipe out an entire species after defeating them in battle.” Kurin retorted. He couldn’t say for sure that no Sith had ever wiped out a defeated species, but he knew that a Sith with such an extreme goal in mind would not have failed.
“And now, the Sith and Empire are going to be subjecting us to their own ideas. The imprisonment or Jedi corps aren’t much different than the situation we’re in and going to.” Dash argued quietly, confirming Kurin was telling at least two truths she knew of.
“It’s the biggest reason I avoided both the Sith and Jedi. If I learn about my force abilities, I want the freedom to do for myself. Not because someone is forcing it on me.”
“Yes. What I am teaching you here will prepare you for it, make it more likely that you will survive, perhaps even come out on top. Imperial law dictates that you must be trained and I am ever a servant of the law.” he had said it before and suspected he would have to say that last bit again. “As for not being much different? There is a world of difference. When the Jedi find someone above a certain age, usually no more than the equivalent of eight standard years, they refuse them any training as a Jedi.” He took a breath. “Members of the so-called ‘service corps’ are denied the title of Jedi, so as to prove to them that they are lesser. We Sith allow all the chance to gain power and become Sith, no matter their age or natural ability.”
"In exchange for service or death if they fail. A rather heavy price to me. Especially when the Jedi Corps and imprisonment doesn't have the risk of death. So we can agree, there's a notable difference."
“Service corps. Not Jedi Corps. As I mentioned, they are denied the title of Jedi. ” When she spoke of no risk of dying, he laughed. “No risk of death? You are not that naïve, are you?”
“It’s the last option unless a Jedi becomes a Sith and danger to others. Jedi are more pacifists than aggressors.” Dashara moved on with what else she was told, her body slowly unfurling from its curled up state.
“‘Danger to others’ is a wide definition that encompasses any who disagree with them and who will not let the Jedi put them in a cell.” He shifted his weight from one leg to the other. “As for pacifists? Hah. I suggest you ask the survivors of Malachor V. The planet isn’t the same after the Jedi fired a superweapon on it.”
"I don't know much about that. I do know, everyone's truth has holes. Jedi or Sith, Republic or Empire. Even those aligned with the Hutts or the Exchange. Even myself because of what I know."
Dash moved her leg over the bed edge as she swung it back and forth. The movement more soothing than the conversation itself.
"So I'm sure there's 'holes' in yours that you're not filling in."
“This is pointless.” Mahree muttered, her gaze aimed at Kurin as a hard glare before she turned and took a seat on the edge of her cot. “No matter what we say, the Sith are always better, is that it? We were lucky enough to be plucked from our terrible lives and taken to Korriban for training. Psh.” Mahree snarked, folding her arms and looking to Dash. “It doesn’t matter what we say. We can’t change our situation here. He’s too hellbent on his cause to change his mind.”
Dash silently agreed with Mahree after the girl’s small outburst. Her head turned to look at the girl, catching her look and giving a small understanding nod. Her attention shifted back to Kurin when the Sith began to speak again.
“I seek to stick to the facts in what I tell you, but the possibility is always there that there are things I do not know enough about and therefore cause incorrect statements, just as there are things you do not know enough about, which makes you state things as truth when it is inaccurate.” He knew well that there were many things he did not know much about, though he had made sure to at least learn general facts about things like what the Jedi Order did and did not do before starting this particular project.
“As for the situation you find yourself in? No, you cannot change that. You will find that it is with Sith as it is with everyone else. Some are good, others are evil. The fact that some Jedi learn to shake off the indoctrination of their Codes is evidence enough that not all are evil through and through.” It was almost fascinating how anti-Sith these two acolytes were currently. He did not want to be them when they came face to face with the harsher overseers of the Academy. “I like to think that I am among the better Sith, but that is naturally my own opinion that is not shared by all. I know I have done my share of fighting, but I have never launched any weapons of mass destruction, nor particularly do I want to. They are far too indiscriminate.”
"At least I can agree with another thing. Everyone is capable of both good and bad actions." Dash exhaled as she let her mind absorb what had been discussed.
The attachment to Neith's stories seemed less firm than before. Dash wasn't sure if it was because the Sith failed to represent the stories or he gave her more reason to avoid the Jedi. She knew good lies always held a grain of truth somewhere. It was just a matter of separating the two.
"It's pretty clear neither one of us want to be here. If we weren't fighting back in some way, it means we became too passive. I doubt that would help us to survive the academy at all."
She looked at Kurin expecting him to correct, agree or something in the middle at her statement.
“Passive resignation will not serve you well at the Academy. You will find that there are many paths available there, of which only a few lead to you having to first and foremost fight on the front lines of the coming war. I suspect that is not the preferred option for either of you, as you do not strike me as typical warrior material.”
"That's what I thought. As for warrior material, it's impossible to tell when I'm locked up. You didn't even give me a chance to fight back." Dash struggled to keep the bitterness to a low level.
"The options aren't really there. Even you stated that our freedom will be heavily limited at first. I suspect, it will only be truly given on two conditions. We become loyal to the Empire and our willingness to follow the Sith way."
Dash guessed the two most logical reasons. She wasn't sure if they are right, but it couldn't have been far off.
"Unless you want to correct me?"
“With an unexpected second passenger on my ship, I did not have time to test your combat acumen prior to bringing you onboard, Dashara Horizon. I would have preferred to test it, but that was not to be. As for sparring now? This ship is not equipped with facilities and equipment for it. Thus your first opportunity will be after your arrival on Korriban.”
He walked a few steps closer. “Do not worry. You will have plenty of time to learn all that you need to know. Though I do hope you will use some of your other skills in creative ways once there. It never hurts the Overseers to be surprised by new acolytes.”
Dash's frown continued. Her eyes watched him step closer to the cage she was in, but she didn't waver from her position. She couldn’t help the tension that rose in her posture when he came closer.
From listening to her, he had a fairly good idea that she would attempt to flee fairly quickly after arrival on Korriban. Had he kept anything around in the hold that might have worked to disrupt the cells, it was blatant she would have tried to use it to break them. He was less certain about the other guest’s initiative for such, but suspected she would not stay behind if given an opportunity. Of course, getting out of the academy on Korriban wasn’t too hard. Getting off the planet? Not nearly so easy. All departing ships were checked carefully and landing required authorization that very few non-Sith ever got. Getting away from the system would be even more difficult.
The amount of defenses on Dromund Kaas might be greater, but the defenses on Korriban were all of newer make and higher quality. And that did not even begin to take into mind the orbital defense grids and fleets. He broke out of his musing thoughts. “If you want better options for your futures, then I would recommend this: Make yourself useful to the Overseers and any Sith that might decide to evaluate you. Use the system that is in place to benefit you, rather than trying to fight it. Get yourself some powerful patrons. They will provide you with greater opportunities for the future.”
Mahree refused to listen to Kurin any longer. She didn’t want to hear anymore about Korriban, about the great opportunities the Sith would lay in front of them. The young girl took a seat back on the floor, sighing in frustration as her eyes closed tight and she took a meditative position while she sat. She let the two continue on with their conversation, and instead turned her focus to her emotions, preparing herself for what would eventually be their arrival in Korriban.
Dash felt a bitter, angry flood her heart at Kurin's recommendation. Her eyes hardened from her earlier softness, proving she had began to relax during the conversation. She had her hands on the cot’s surface. Her fingers curled, gripping the cover before she exhaled. She released her fists and a small, forced chuckle escaped her lips. She could already tell Mahree was done with the conversation and she couldn't blame the girl.
"That's seriously funny. Especially when your advice is the same type I got on Nar Shaddaa. I'm curious... how much research did you bother to do on me?" She expected that he didn't look beyond the bounty.
“I? None.” he really hadn’t done the research. That had been taken care of by one of his crew. He decided not to tell her anything more right then. He certainly did not plan to reveal everything he knew.
Dash digested the information, suspected she should've selected her words more carefully. A year's worth of freedom and indulgence was the price she paid for letting her skills become rusty.
"At least that's one more thing I learned today. At this point, I suspect we are keeping you from focusing on better things. Or do you just enjoy our presence?" Dash thought better than to comment on Mahree’s obvious desire for his absence, instead attempting politeness to send him away.
The snarky attitude was poorly hidden, but at least the girl made an attempt to hide it. She would need more training to succeed at it, but that wasn’t his problem. “There is only so much that can be done during an extended hyperspace journey. If coming in here keeps you from useless attempts at destroying things that do not belong to you? Then I will keep coming in here.”
While he didn’t say it, he did think again on how they would eventually come to see the opportunities they threw away with their contumacious attitudes. Their loss, not his. He would simply keep monitoring them.
Dash sighed. She knew she did a poor job of hiding her dislike at him being here, but she didn’t see the point. With Ikle, she did to avoid abuse. Kurin didn’t do much save be a smartass back to her. Truthfully, the reaction just encouraged her attitude and she knew it.
“As you pointed out, there’s only so much that we can do. Not much space to move in here and I get restless. Especially when I have no options.”
She bit her lip before she continued, “If I
promise not to break anything, would you not feel the need to come in here all the time?”
“Potentially.” he replied enigmatically. Chances were high that he would come in again over the next few days. They were also high that these two would not keep from considering to break things. Next time he had to transport prisoners, he would definitely transport them in an artificially induced coma... Or cryogenically frozen.
“I guess that’s something." The lack of a definite yes or no disappointed Dash slightly, showing in her statement.
It was fairly clear to Kurin that it would not be productive to stay around right then, but he did not depart immediately, watching the two silently for a bit first, just to make it clear they couldn’t force him to leave.