Aboard the Serith, en route to Korriban
Kurin Tonaal, Mahree Mis-Ede, Dashara Horizon
Dash’s eyes snapped open. Sweat poured down her skin and drenched her tank top, her figure forced upright from the chill rushing down her spine. This was the fifth time she woke up from her demons pounding at her head. Her breath inhaled while she tossed her legs over the edge, moving toward the refresher. It had a sink over the toilet where she made her best effort to remain presentable. For the first time in a long time, she wished for an actual shower.
She stripped off her shirt to dunk and wiped away the physical evidence. After a few rounds, she made one last purge in the water and wring it off. Removing the sweat it collected, Dash left it to dry on the edge. She tried to determine the day, but her internal clock had stopped long ago. The days and nights melted into lengthy hours without any sort of routine. It all completely vanished when the nightmares began. Despite that, she recalled a lot had happened.
Her telekinesis, while still developing, had improved thanks to Mahree’s lessons. The girl had figured out she was overthinking and distracted her enough to accomplish something. In exchange, Dash showed her how to control and tame her own emotional storm. They still fell short of their desired goals. In the spare time, they learned about each other. While Mahree was completely honest, Dash danced around on certain subjects. Her history with the Exchange being the primary touchy topic for her.
Her figure lowered to the floor. After a few moments, her attention turned to the vidscreens. She wondered how long before hers turned from sleep mode into active. She had watched constantly for the last several days, but due to Mahree’s resistance, the off button had been disabled. Not that it mattered, watching the same vid beat nightmares or fear any day.
Mahree heard Dash as she woke up, no doubt about what she was feeling and what caused her to wake. Should Dash look over, she’d see Mahree sitting in the center of her cell, meditating as she had been doing on and off during their time aboard Kurin’s ship. The younger girl tried to stay calm for Dash, as there were many times Mahree feared the worst, for she wasn’t naive. She knew that wherever they were headed, the experience would not be a pleasant one. She had tried her hardest to distract herself from the subject.
Many times she found herself talking with Dash for hours on end. Sharing each other's past, interests, and various other things. It helped Mahree, in a way. She didn’t feel completely alone anymore. Dash was the one thing in her world that she cared about now.
The younger girl attempted to tune out the recording that played on the video system in her cell. It annoyed her as of late, for there was no way to turn it off, and she even found herself dreaming about the damned thing while she slept. It seemed to play constantly, as long as Mahree didn’t make it play herself.
“You alright Dash?” the girl asked. She knew it was a silly question, neither of them was “all right” in their current situation. But she wanted to comfort her one and only friend, the only one she cared about; the only beacon of light that Mahree could turn to in their dark situation.
Dash’s mind pulled from the holovid debate. She blinked then turned to the next cell, catching the girl looking at her. Her eyes shifted down to hide the guilt she felt. For a moment, she stayed quiet and inwardly seemed to debate something. She broke the silence with a smile.
“Yeah, I am. Just a nightmare is all. How are you holding up?” She made sure her voice was soft but reassuring. Even if the slight wavering betrayed her. Her leg stretched out as far it could while her other curled underneath her thigh.
“It would be so much better if we could move around instead of sitting here all day.”
"Well, if I told you I was fine, I'd be lying." Mahree admitted, retaining her meditative posture while she spoke with Dash. Mahree returned her head forward as she closed her eyes again. Her nostrils flared as a long sigh left the girl.
"I'm trying to stay hopeful." She continued, her eyes kept closed as she focused hard on what she felt. A slight smile formed with her lips as Dash nipped at their inability to move very much. "I agree. But it's also given me some direction on meditating since this is one of the few things we can
do in here."
“I’m still trying to form an escape, but I ran out of ideas to try. I’ve poked the cage a few times. All I got for my trouble was being shocked so direct attacks against it were is a no go.” Dash forced herself to chuckle at the thought. In truth, it was anything but fun.
She bit her lip as she leaned against the bed in thought.
“I figured it was a good idea to learn about where we were heading. It seems our ‘host’ isn’t against that.” She thumbed at the holovids.
“Some of it is interesting, other pieces are propaganda. It’s not easy telling which is which, but if you pay attention, then you can feel it out.”
"Our host can tell me whatever he wants. The Sith have their faults, as do the Jedi… I'm not taking anyone's side." Mahree muttered, attempting to ignore the holovid that continued to play in her cell. "I don't want to play their game… I won't." The girl continued, finally breaking her meditative pose and looking back over at Dash. Mahree relaxed a little, her body starting to feel stiff and sore at the constant meditation she had put herself in.
The younger girl was trying to be strong. It was quite a difference between the first day she had been captive, to now. Mahree was afraid of returning to that first day of feeling helpless and with nowhere to go. Dash was the only reason Mahr acted to strong now. If they were going to get through this, they'd have to get through it together.
“I am pretty sure, he’s not saying the Sith are perfect. According to him, Sith are more open about their flaws than the Jedi. He’s even pointed out some are cruel or worse.” Dash stated calmly, eyeing the screens from her peripheral vision. She was relieved when it remained silent.
“You do realize these things are on a time cycle right? We’re given about 8 hours of rest per day, which you can use to determine when to avoid it while it plays. I can’t promise something won’t stick while you sleep through.”
Her figure bounced a bit against the bed before she continued.
“The bad part about our situation, we might not have a choice. The vids show the Academy overseers won’t care if we resist or don’t follow the lessons they teach. Their main goal is to make Sith or kill the weaklings. I’m not going to give them that chance. Are you?” Her tone sounded hard, but warm enough to not sound demanding.
“I’m not going to be someone’s pawn.”
Mahree didn’t say anything further on the subject, but she also did not directly confirm nor deny what Dash asked. Mahree had no rhyme or reason to her meditation. At the moment she preferred to meditate when she was feeling strung or frustrated, feelings that came and went as she sat in the cell and thought about her future.
“Mahree. One thing I learned on Nar Shaddaa, following the flow allows you to live long enough to break away. Those who failed at it were often dead in the lower levels. I don’t want to see you become another corpse.” Dash attempted to pour more reason, in a different way. She couldn’t say purely what was on her mind. Saying the truth put them in a far more dangerous situation than now.
“And I don’t want to see you become a Sith killing machine.” Mahree retorted, although quietly and not as harsh as she thought she sounded. “What happens if we just give in and follow the flow? How do you know you’re not going to lose yourself in their influence? How do you know they won’t do something to you to make you think being a Sith is your purpose in life?”
It was probably apparent by now that Mahree was frightened. She didn’t know what to expect, she didn’t know what the Sith would do to her or Dash. Would they even see each other after they left the ship? Was there some sort of mind tricks or scare tactics they’d use to persuade her or Dash to obey?
Dash inhaled, her head leaned down onto her chest as she considered her words.
“First, you’re speaking out of fear. Fear of the unknown. We don’t know what they do at the Academy, but we have an idea for their motivations. At least, the ones they want us to know.”
She pointed to the vidscreens. As if on cue, it came on. Her hand reached out and she inhaled, her hand clawed as if gripping the knob. With a quick twist, it turned to the vids over the Academy.
“Second, knowledge is power. The more you know, the better chance you have to keep your wits. When you know what to expect, it’s easier to see the lies and manipulations.”
Dash adjusted herself up onto the bed, feeling pain edging into her body from her posture. She let her leg dangle down as she continued.
“Finally, they aren’t the first to try to change me. I survived the first time and I will survive this time. Have faith in me.” She gave Mahree a small, reassuring smile.
Mahree didn’t respond to Dash for a few long moments, listening to her friend as she explained her thoughts. It was true, fear was edging it’s way back into Mahree’s heart. Fingers traced the scar that was healing well on the side of her head, most of her short hair hiding what was slowly healing.
Mahree had told herself she wasn’t going to become close to Dash, which is why it had taken the younger girl so long to open up to begin with. She was afraid of losing someone else she cared for. There was a difference between losing her mother and the thought of losing Dash, for this time, Dash really was the last person in the universe she cared for.
The silence didn’t reassure Dash very well. She frowned, biting her lip in thought and looked about the cell for ideas. Nothing came to mind at first causing her to wing it.
“Look, things look hopeless right now. I wish they were better, but they aren’t. The best we can do is prepare ourselves and work together. If we’re smart about this, things will work out.” She sounded confident, though inside she wavered and questioned it herself.
Mahree didn’t say anything further to Dash. She nodded, showing her friend that she was listening, but trying to show confidence in the face of the unknown was proving more and more difficult the longer Mahree sat in the cell.
The fear of the unknown was strong and unavoidable.
Kurin had observed the two prisoners, primarily from other sections of the ship through the surveillance systems. They were unfortunately still refusing to accept their destiny, but at least the criminal was properly perusing the vidscreen. They lacked a lot in motivation, unfortunately. He had no doubts they would seek to escape Korriban, so he would have to notify the Overseers to keep an eye out for just that.
The odds of success were not high, but there was no need to be cocky about their limited chances. Thankfully he would be able to pass them off soon, so that he could get back to his more usual business. There were still revanites to hunt. They spread like the vermin they are. Which reminded him of a lesson his master had taught him: ‘Never let your guard down.’
He always kept to that rule. Too often people suffered for not following it. With that in mind, he thought about the future of his cargo. They clearly did not want to remain at the academy. Perhaps he should suggest to the overseers that they keep them apart, that they find ways to play them up against each other? It would be better for them to experience such at the academy than to do it afterwards. At least it was organized at the academy and rarely led to deaths. If they survive the trials ahead, he could say for certain that they will not find the rest of the galaxy nearly as forgiving.
There were many ways of making things difficult for them should they somehow either manage to flee the academy or simply try to do so. Tattoos marking them as Sith acolytes. Implanted tracking beacons. Shock collars. Those were just some of the means. Each overseer had his or her own favorite means. He had also heard that sometimes some were released to give the Republic or Jedi false intel, but that was a rare thing, only done with the approval of powerful Sith, if not a member of the Dark Council itself. He rather liked thinking about these things.
Dash scratched her nose. She stood onto her feet then checked the sink, her shirt still pretty wet. She shot it a disapproving look before she crawled back into her cot. Her head turned to her rapier. It leaned against her bed and unused. What she wouldn’t give for a stress reliever right now. She regretted her last one had been with the black market merchant who eyed her up like a nerf steak.
She exhaled then looked to Mahree. Her lips opened to say something when a loud clunk caught her attention. Dash’s eyes snapped to the metal vents, her horror flooded her face at seeing the slots open and thick yellow gas pouring in. Immediately she was on her feet with wide eyes. Frantically she tried to think of what they did to trigger a reaction, but nothing came. They simply talked.
Her attention turned to Mahree’s cage to see the same thing happening to her.
“Fuck! What the hell did we do?!?” Dash snapped as she went for her shirt.
Sitting in the center of her cell, meditation was one of the few things Mahree spent her time with now. That, and talking with Dash.
Eyes closed, breathing slow and controlled, the girl didn't really know what she was doing, but the act of meditating helped to calm her nerves.
Mahree heard the vents start to hiss, eyes opened to see the thick yellow gas pouring out from the system. The young girl started to feel the effects almost immediately.
"Dash!" Mahree yelled, standing quickly and looking to her friend. Moments later the girl dropped to her knees, a hand over her mouth as she started to cough. Her vision quickly started to darken, tears filling her eyes as darkness took her, her body falling to the side and hitting the ground, motionless.
In her haste, Dash’s arm slapped the force field. A warming hum happened before energy surged into her. She crumbled onto her hands and knees. During her fall, she managed to grab the wet shirt. She pressed it to her lower face and hoped it might buy her time. It wouldn’t. Already she felt the familiar weight of the gas’ effect pin her down.
Her eyes turned to Mahree. The girl crumpled into a heap, defenseless and succumbed to the gas. Dashara’s heart pounded. It thumped harshly in her chest and the familiar heat rushed through her. Gradually her vision flickered into a red tunnel. She shoved herself up with all her fading might. An enraged scream rippled through her chest. It spilled out into the air, followed by all her force power possible. She shoved it right onto the floor underneath her. She hoped to make a dent.
Even with her rage, it didn’t seem to work.
It even failed to burn the heaviness in her limbs away. She wanted to lash out and fight, but she couldn’t. Her body began to lower onto her side. She managed to see the other cage filled by the gas as her thoughts apologized.Sorry, Mahree.
The world went black.
The hiss of the gas was not audible outside the cells, nor could the sound as the two acolytes collapsed to the floor be heard over the natural sounds of the ship operating. However, Kurin could see it all on the cameras and turned off and vented the gas the moment he confirmed that it had taken effect.
“It is time,” he said to Iris and Kira, waving for them to enter. Kurin turned away from the cameras as the two female crew members quickly stripped the two acolytes of their clothes and belongings, having been told to search the two thoroughly to ensure that nothing would be smuggled into the academy. Afterward, they were to dress them in standard acolyte clothes consisting of black pants and tunics. Until they were delivered to the academy where fabricators could manufacture correctly sized boots, they would have to remain barefoot. As they would be delivered in their current unconscious state, that was of no import.
Only when that had all been taken care of and each had been fitted with a basic stun collar did his two crew members return. The collars would be removed on arrival at the academy but would keep them from waking up early. About twenty minutes later the ship emerged from hyperspace and the complex process for gaining safe entry into Korriban space began.
Ideally, he would have let the two remain conscious a bit longer, but with recent security concerns, the Second Defense Fleet had instituted stricter regulations, requiring him to have his entire crew on station for the process. Thankfully, with everything and everyone prepared for this, there were no hiccups in the processing of their landing approval.
On the way down to the planet’s surface, he sent the standardized message to the academy to notify them that he had two older acolytes for transfer. He could transport them over to the academy himself, but he seemed to recall that the Overseers preferred to take care of that themselves. Their few belongings were packed in a crate that would be sent along with them, as would the data cylinders with his reports on the two.