[Originally written by Jento]
Chapter 1: Seperation
The rain slowed to a midst leaving only the pale veil of fog hanging above the wet street. A break in the stormy weather was a rare occurrence on the swamp ridden world known as Dromund Kaas. The hour was still early and the usual noise of the city was only starting to stir near the Kaas City spaceport. A slight wind rattled its way through the many terminals and crates causing a sharp draft as the shuttle’s boarding ramp lowered with a thud. One of the guards stationed at checkpoints along the landing pad glanced up and groaned punching up the shuttle’s manifest hoping it was not yet another full load he would have to check off one by one as he’d had to do most of the night.
‘People,’ he thought to himself, ‘Not much different than that last shipment he’d cataloged.’ Thus is the life of one stationed at the spaceport, very little shooting, a whole lot of checking. ‘I’d give some real credits for a smuggler to show up,’ the nameless trooper thought as he started to wave his hand to get the passengers to line up and come down the ramp.
The great citadel loomed in the distance giving either a patriotic greeting to those loyal to the Empire or an imposing warning to those who would defy its grasp. Twin crimson banners could be easily seen on the tall building, even from this distance, emblazoned with the white emblem of the Sith Empire. The perpetual feeling of night was pierced only by the eerie glow of the street lights and buildings further insulating the pocket of civilization from what would be an inhospitable planet. This city was the heart of the Sith Empire and the seat from which the Emperor’s Dark Council exerted his will upon all of those under his influence.
Muratha made her way down the ramp and towards the nearest transport station leaving the baggage and shuttle payment to Alon. She instinctively fiddled with the high collar of her uniform jacket, making sure all was in order. She’d not worn it quite some time having retired from active duty after she’d married Alon twelve years ago, but it still fit well enough and she wanted to make sure that she was as pristine as possible for this meeting. An entire year of planning lead up to this pivotal moment for their family, Alon would never forgive her if anything was out of place. Being ordered to report to Kaas City was considered a high honor, considering the task at hand, and both she and Alon stood to benefit greatly on a personal level if everything went according to plan.
Muratha had met Alon during her time in the service nearly thirteen years ago. A simple solider, but on the rise to soon become an officer, Alon had caught her eye almost immediately. Her tour of duty was nearly up when they had become serious so she’d chosen to remain on base with him once his promotion had gone through and his time of constant transfer was over. Two years after their marriage the twins were born. As the law required, both children were tested at age ten and found to be sensitive to the Force. Due to Alon’s rank they were allowed to bring the children themselves to the “Recruitment Center” where they would be taken to their new lives. Allowed was a polite way of putting it, as they often did to their peers, but it had been a direct order. An order such as this had two possible outcomes, either you obeyed and were honored or you were hunted down and terminated. Either way, the Force sensitive children would end up here at the recruitment center. Her children becoming users of the Force at the Sith Academy, or die trying, was more then she could have hoped for as a mother. No one would ever question her loyalty to the Empire, and never a second though crossed her mind, they would be well cared for and serve out a honored life in the service of the Emperor’s will.
Alon shortly followed her out of the shuttle. His gloved hands held tightly onto that of each of their small twin boys as his wife hailed a transport car which would take them to the center. He looked down to them as they quietly walked along, each of them with a neat tuft of auburn hair and dressed smartly in grey formal tunics. He wasn’t sure what children normally wore when they were taken to the Sith recruiter, but this would have been appropriate attire to any other formal occasion and seemed a fitting match for his own military formal uniform. Soon the automated transport cab arrived and he loaded up the few bags and took his seat. He looked at the twins as they watched the buildings blur by, this would be the last trip he’d take with them, and most likely the last time they’d ever see each other. For most parents this would be a very sad moment, but he couldn’t be a happier or proud father. Both his sons going into the Sith academy would seal his potential promotion for sure, he thought, with a faint smile pursing his lips. It wouldn’t be many years before he was made to retire, and leaving the service as a Captain would certainly ensure both he and Muratha a comfortable lifestyle.
“Lieutenant...” there was a brief pause as the scruffy looking clerk at the front desk fumbled with the terminal in front of him, “Svarthos. Ah yes, I see you records are in order, Sir. mIf you will just bring the children forward I will imprint them and send them in to the waiting area.”
“Very well,” Alon replied. He and his wife had long said their farewells to the boys on the shuttle ride to the city. He knew better than to have an emotional moment in the office in front of the various Sith representatives. He turned and kneeling down, pulling each of their collars back straight, “Jento,” he turned to the other boy, “Scel, the clerk here will take care of things from here on. Go and make the Empire proud.”
The two boys looking up proudly at their father, having been programmed for this moment since their Force testing replied simply in unison, “Yes sir.” Without further comment they both turned and were led away. This would probably be the last time they would ever see their parents and they were both oblivious to the fact that this separation should cause them any concern.
Their father’s eyes followed them until the ebon colored doors closed behind them and the clerk returned to the desk. “If you will just sign the orders here,” he pointed to a datapad held in front of him, “and here, Sir. Our business will be finished.”
With a brief nod Alon took the pad and pressed his thumb to the screen and returned it back to the wiry little man behind the desk. Turning he gestured to the door and escorted Muratha back out to the street and to the waiting transport cab.
Chapter 2: Departure
The two boys sat quietly on one of the many metal benches which lined the dull grey walls of the office. It felt like they’d been sitting there for hours already but they knew better than to stir, so they just sat there swinging their feet. From time to time a random person would stride through holding a report, which they were busily reading and pass through the large black doors giving them a glimpse of the busy hallway they’d been in earlier. Finally a tall thin man emerged from a door at the rear of the office. He had a thinning head of muddy brown hair and his squinting eyes looked as if they were drowning atop the dark circles beneath as if he’d not ever slept in his life. He was neatly dressed in the same grey military uniform all the other people the twins had seen throughout the office and he had a small collection of blue and red squares along his left breast which they knew indicated his rank.
“Jento and Scel Svarthos,” he said plainly peering at them as he held his datapad up in front of his face, hiding his long crooked nose. He briefly looked them over as he read over the report which had been carefully prepared and although it would not matter much, mentioned that they were the offspring of an officer. He lowered the pad crossing his hands behind his back and stood importantly as to portray that his opinion of the two new recruits mattered much more than actually did. His job primarily was to file reports and make sure that everyone who registered got aboard the correct shuttle, separating those who would be departing for Korriban from the ones who would stay behind and be trained here at the local facility. Oddly both the boys in front of him were marked down to be departing the planet aboard the next shuttle along with several others which he’d registered the day before. Groaning as set the datapad on his desk realizing he had to get things moving so they’d be ready for transport or the Captain would hold him responsible, he hated his job.
Turning back to the door he’d entered with he pointed to the pair, “Come with me.” Without a word they rose their feet and fell into line with him, following into rear hallway.
Passing several closed doors with labeled panels they were lead to a large dressing room with a clunky dark blue droid waiting in the center. As the three of them entered the droid seemed to come back to life and light strolled over to them awaiting instructions. The old protocol droid looked a bit worse for the wear. The body panels looked loose in some places and the dark blue paint was chipped around the edges, still it seemed to function well enough as it lumbered over to the waiting boys.
“This droid will measure you for your uniforms. You will get changed as quickly as possible and surrender the clothes you are wearing to it and any other objects you might have brought with you,” the recruiter recited, clearly having said the same line many hundreds of times before. “Once changed you will proceed through the doors in the rear,” he gestured with two fingers and the twin’s head followed towards the back of the room, “and wait there for further instructions.”
After saying his spill he looked down at them expecting the normal flurry of questions about where they were going or when they’d see their parents. He blinked in surprise as they nodded and walked over to the droid standing there with their arms held out straight from their sides as they’d practiced for the last few weeks. Up till this point neither of them had said a word and he was beginning to wonder if they were mute. ‘Well this is almost boring,’ he thought to himself rolling his eyes and left the room returning to his desk and the waiting pile of paperwork he’d been avoiding all day.
After having measured them, the droid selected two appropriate garments and laid them on the bench in the center of the room. The boys had already begun to undress and the droid picked up each article of clothing as it was discarded and dropped in into a nearby collection bin. The uniforms were grey, similar to the one the recruiter was wearing with the exception of the rank pins and a complete lack of pockets. On their feet they wore a pair of lace-less black leather boots with thin black soles. When they arose to leave the room, they were indistinguishable from each other
They waited on the metal bench in the dressing room for nearly an hour before the same droid which had brought their uniforms returned to the room and informed them to follow, which they did without any question, padding along close behind. They were led into a hallway where five other children were standing in a neat line outside a closed set of blast doors. The recruiter was walking down the line with his datapad inspecting each person as he went along. He’d stopped about midway down the line, one of the boys there was crying furiously begging for his mother. The twins leaned slightly to watch, curious why the boy would be so upset to be here. This is what every child did at their age, or so they thought, and when they saw a pair of security guards wisk in and drag the boy off they straightened up satisfied that all was right again.
“And Scel and Jento Svarthos,” he read tapping the datapad and tucking it into a pocket on his pant leg.
“Pardon, Sir,” Scel piped up quickly.
The recruiter blinked but responded, “Yes?”
“Jento and Scel Svarthos, Sir. He is the eldest,” he pointed to his brother. Jento was twelve minutes older, but from the time of their birth his name always came first when listed together.
The recruiter didn’t comment but looked them over carefully, “I see you’ve received some instruction,” he peered at them. “Don’t expect that will earn you any special circumstances. You will be expected to conform to your training routine just as all the others here in line with you.”
Looking up to him they both said almost in unison, “Yes sir.” The recruiter felt a pang of dissatisfaction that they’d not reacted at all to his half-hearted taunt, he turned around pursing his lips and walked back towards the front of the line.
“You will be departing for Korriban shortly. While in transport you are expected to remain quiet and in your seats at all times. Security will be on board to ensure that you do. Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action, which I assure you that you do not want,” he gestured with his thumb towards the door the boy had been taken through earlier. “From this moment on you are now in the service of the Emperor and shall devote every ounce of your being to reaching the utmost potential so that you may one day live up to that honor. Your sole mission each and every day for the next few years will be training your mind and body in the ways of the Sith teachings. You will be tested and tried along the way.” He walked up and down the line as he talked with his hands clasped behind his back making himself feel important. He was talking way over the heads of most of these children being mostly ten to twelve years in age but he didn’t much care. Seeing all these children each week going to the very place he was rejected from many years ago put a serious damper on any sort of good will or well-wishing he might have had if things had gone differently in his own youth.
As the recruiter walked along most of the children were following him with fearful eyes listening to what he was saying but full of questions and fidgeting, but generally staying quiet. It was long before the blast doors slid open with a faint hiss and the thick afternoon air rolled into the hall way. As the line moved slowly outside onto the military landing pad the twins could see the transport shuttle landed in the middle with the boarding ramp down and a pair of Sith soldiers on each side, both wearing dark colored armor and helmets holding a rifle. Although it was noon the clouds above completely blocked any sunlight from reaching the ground, the landing pads lights were on as if it were night, shining brightly on the shuttle.
The shuttle rocked slightly as the engines hummed to life and the craft left the ground slowly turning away from the city and angling for ascent. One of the soldiers took a seat on the end next to the twins and pulled off his helmet wiping his hair which had become matted to his head.
“He told you, you’d have to be quiet for the whole ride didn’t he?” he said with a slight smirk resting his rifle against his knee and looking over to Scel who’d been watching him. Scel looked the man in the eyes but didn’t respond, unable to tell if this was a test or if he was actually allowed to respond. “It’s alright, you can answer me, I won’t shoot you long as you don’t get rowdy,” he added with a chuckle and the other guard on the opposite end joined.
“He did Sir,” Scel replied in a soft calm voice, his hands crossed in his lap carefully studying the trooper’s armor and weapon.
“Well that’d make for an awfully dull trip wouldn’t it Drast,” he looked down at the other solider who’d also taken a seat and removed his helmet. “What’s your name son?”
“Scel Svarthos,” he looked the armor over looking for some sort of rank so he’d know how to address him, but not finding any added, “Sir,” on the end to stick to the protocol his father had drilled into his head.
The man waved his hand, “Drop the Sir, I work for a living boy. The name is Sergeant Loman Kall. I’ve been working this run for the better part of five years, don’t think I’ve ever been called Sir.”
“Sir yes Sir!” the other soilder who’d he had refered to as Drast chuckled giving a dramatic salute, clicking his heels together even as he sat.
Kall rolled his eyes, “Oh please, even in joke that makes me skin crawl.” He shivered obviously to reinforced the fact. Several of the other children were listening and fidgeting in their seat, but he stayed focused on the twins, who both were still quietly sitting with their hands folded. “Been off planet before?”
When Scel shook his head he continued, “I remember when I was a kid, I don’t think I’d even seen a shuttle at your age, grew up in a little heap on the east side.” He gestured towards the wall as if to indicate east even though direction had very little meaning in this windowless compartment where they all sat. “Reckon the old man had to sell half the house just to get me out of that rat hole.”
Chapter 3: The Academy
The rest of the shuttle ride was long silent and uneventful. The troops talked amongst themselves but beyond the first initial interaction with the boys they had lost all interest in them. For a utilitarian shuttlecraft it was surprisingly well performing, the twins didn’t even notice as they entered the atmosphere and began landing. As they touched the ground the vessel lurched slightly followed by the dull clank as the ramp slapped down onto the landing pad.
The boys were quickly ushered into a hangar bay nearly identical to the one they had just previously left. The troopers nudged them along separating them into deliberate lines. It was the last the twins would see each other, or at least so they were told.
They walked forward as a group proceeding directly through the outer doors which parted revealing the dull red landscape in the distance. The air tasted of sand and threatened to suck every drop of moisture from their mouths. Scel felt a momentary pang of disappointment of the scenery from his first and only trip off world but quickly pushed it away. Even at his young age he knew, he was here for one purpose and pretty skies and good times wasn’t included.
Jento didn’t share his brother’s focused view of this planet. It was dull, he didn’t care for the accommodations, and the people seemed already dead. Even though it was normal for Sith building to be dimly lit this place seemed purposefully dark. He said nothing, clinging to his father’s training but he saw no harm in asking a few questions along the way, but he carefully guarded his thoughts, aware that some Sith could sense them.
It seemed like months since they spoke, not just to each other but to anyone. The teachers seemed completely pleased with nods and hand gestures, Jento began to wonder if he'd ever be allowed to speak again or if he'd forget how. In the silence he’d begun to let his mind wander.
"Your ears are frail and do not sense the world around you young one," an icy voice said from a darkened doorway to Jento's left.
Jento froze in place lowering his eyes as he heard the soft footsteps draw even closer. "There is a reason that you remain silent, even more important for you." Jento fought against all his being to turn and ask but the man continued, "There is much conflict in your mind. More than you even realize and about matters you have never considered."
Jento realized that he was no longer holding himself in place but being gripped by what he could only guess was the Force. He didn't care much for the idea of this all powerful Force. It seemed to be the answer to everything regardless of the question or situation. He felt that most of the time questions, which the Force was the answer, made absolutely no logical sense and generally left more questions than answers. He stood there powerless in the invisible grip of whomever was speaking and Jento desperately fought to keep his thoughts under control. He feared it was too late as he felt his body turning all on its own and his eyes focused on the sickly pale grin.
At some point this man most likely resembled a normal human but what stood before Jento could only be described as warped. He looked as if he’d been dead for a very long time but something still driving his body to keep moving and breathing. The only read sign of life were the pair of burning orange eyes which pierced the muted darkness of the room and were focused directly on the paralyzed boy.
The corpse of a man slowly drew closer, his nearly purple tongue wicked his dry lips, making a stark contrast to his pale face. “What makes you think you are worthy of being a Sith?” he questioned Jento who remained silent fighting with all his will to not meet eyes with the older man.
Little did Jento know but the other students had moved around watching, forming a semi-circle behind him, out of sight. At the center of the little crowd Scel pushed his way to the front. His face was twisted in an unpleasant sneer as he looked on. Jento was yet again moving ahead of him.
Jento had been trained for this moment. This moment held both excitement and an element of dread since he knew that the correct answer had to be given or risk being ejected from the academy or worse. Despite the fact that he was still just a child, the Sith Lord knew this boy and his background. Such a well prepared student could be just the upper hand he needed to replace his last apprentice which had fallen so easily at the hands of his rival.
“It is not for me to decide, my Lord,” Jento simply replied reciting the words he’d been programmed with should he find himself in such this situation. He remembered the lesson, ‘It’s far better to play to the superiority of the Lord rather than try to find the answer they seek, if you don’t know it.’ He pushed the memory from his mind, the last thing he needed was this Sith Lord probe further into his mind.
This answer seemed to satisfy the pale face of the Sith Lord as Jento felt the grip on his body fade away, but he remained silent. He tried his best to push out any further thoughts about anything at all from his mind hoping this man would move along and trouble someone else. Seems that wasn’t going to happen today….
Chapter 4: The Accident
Scel squinted in the midday sun as it poured across the vast barren wasteland which is Korriban. He was growing impatient and considering he was waiting on his own brother it made it even harder to remain calm. Yet again, Jento was being given lead of the very same mission group he was assigned, he was beginning to suspect it was all on purpose.
For the last three years he could never seem to get out of his twin brother’s shadow no matter how well he tested or how hard he tried. Somehow Jento managed to gain favor in the sight of those in charge. Shading his eyes with his hand he peered out towards the academy shuttlepad finding no sign of his brother or the rest of the party.
“Where could the lazy bastard be…?” Scel asked aloud to the audience of dry foliage and stones. “No doubt trying to get into the trousers of yet another female cadet,” he answered himself with a slight snort shaking his head. Ever since their fourteenth birthday the twin’s study habits had grown even further apart. Scel being completely focused on his training, trying to learn as much about the Force as he could as quickly as possible. This contrasted drastically to Jento who seemed to now view the academy as an endless supply of lonely females which he found very easy to manipulate and have his way with. Though they still looked very much identical each passing week they were becoming more and more different and Scel loved it. As time went on, he watched how easily Jento manipulated and used those around him to further his own personal goals, his feelings for his brother bordered closer and closer to malice.
Scel hated this planet. He hated the bits of sand that were always in his boots and gloves, the dry taste of the air as the arid wind blew, and the dull landscape beyond the Valley of the Dark Lords which they were often made to journey into. The only thing he liked about Korriban was that the Dark Side was strong here and many secrets were to be found amongst the ruins of the fallen Lords of long ago. One day he would find a way to unlock his full potential and step out from Jento’s shadow.
The dull hum of the academy taxi shuttle whined above as it glided towards the landing pad, silently coming to a halt. Four people emerged all wearing the same black with red outlined uniform as Scel along with a training saber slung across their backs.
“I have been standing here for,” Scel looked up at the sun to further his dramatic statement, “two hours. Where have you all been?” He knew that his question would do no good in undermining Jento’s firm hold of the loyalty of the others of his group but it didn’t make him any less pissed off about standing here for so long.
“Patience brother,” Jento remarked with a calm half grin, his eyes narrowing as he gazed out towards the direction their team was to be heading. “I did not trust we were being told all we needed to know about this cave, so I did a bit of,” he cleared his throat, “research.. with one of the other apprentices. She had a little more detail than we’d been given.” Jento couldn’t help but grin briefly until he saw the still sour look on Scel’s face. Jento shrugged, “What…? She was cute and had information.”
Scel just shook his head and walked off in the direction of the cave. More often than not these caves were filled with all sorts of trouble, usually in the form of wildlife. However, the Dark Side of the Force had a habit of affecting those with weak minds in strange and unusual ways and more than a few occasions they’d had to fight those who’d recently been loyal Sith citizens now driven mad by the echoes of the past.
“I assume your plaything did at least mention what foulness inhabits this cave?” Scel asked with still an obvious disgust in his tone.
Jento coughed again he clearly was trying to get under Scel’s skin. He was after all one of the few people he could never really get to, not that he’d ever try to on his own brother. The full extent of the carefree Sith mentality hadn’t quite taken hold in Jento’s mind and he was still very protective of his brother, even though he hid it very well. Many years ago the same Darth Henkai who’d tried to intimidate him on his first arrival had taught him to harness his natural talent for completely shielding his emotions and thoughts with the Force, a skill Jento had found very useful over the last few years but it drove his brother and instructors crazy as if Jento’s presence in the room was a cold void. Many of the instructors and most likely some of the Sith Lords considered such a skill more of a Light Side ability and shunned its widespread teaching but Henkai did not agree and although he wasn’t officially Jento’s teacher they did have regular meetings in somewhat secret.
“She mentioned there had been a pack of tuk’ata living in the cave for some time, but that’s nothing we haven’t faced before. Isn’t your pal Dren collecting tuk’ata teeth anyway?” Dren was probably Scel’s biggest rival and perhaps the most pompous ass on Korriban. He wasn’t really that gifted with any particular skill, especially with the lightsaber, but he did have a healthy dose of luck which he mistook for the Force.
“Fuck off,” was all that Scel muttered as he trudged off towards the mouth of the cave roughly hewn into a seemingly endless cliff of dull grey stone.
Shrugging, Jento gestured to the others to follow and the group of six headed off in the midday heat. They’d all been here on Korriban at least three years; a couple in the group was a year older but for whatever reason had not advanced to the next level of training. The conditions on this planet were pretty harsh compared to the relative humid tropical weather the twins had been used to on Dromond Kaas, fortunately they spent a great deal of time indoors. Scel seemed fairly oblivious to the arid conditions however Jento pulled at the collar of his uniform along the way hoping to allow some of the trapped heat to escape.
The walk wasn’t far, only a couple of kilometers from the landing site. For some reason they were only allowed to land the academy vehicles on the established landing pads rather than directly at their destination. Jento had once wondered about this since it seemed like a huge waste of time, but decided either the danger from the wildlife or the crazed people who wandered around must have posed a serious enough concern to warrant the restriction.
As they approached the mouth of the cave it became obvious that it was much larger than first described, even by Jento’s less than conventional source. From a distance the cliff face looked to be the same dull stone which was found in the area, but now on closer inspection it was laced with some sort of mineral creating strange patterns. The natural artwork came to a center point right at the opening to the cave causing it to appear to be sucking in the bands of darker material. Jento ran his hand along the rock surface. The stone was much harder than the sandy rock near the academy. A great deal of time would have been required to erode this cave, and he began to feel a little bit of dread about entering. Scel smirked looking back at his brother. Although he couldn’t feel anything from him, it was obvious he didn’t like this place from the look on his face.
The eerie sound of dripping water that one normally finds in caves echoed in the dim light as the small group edged into the entrance. Unlike the air outside, here it was heavy with musty moisture making it feel thick and adding to the creepy atmosphere. The cave floor and walls were completely smooth, almost as if polished by artificial means making it rather slippery to walk along and slowing their progress. Jento didn’t like this at all. If they found themselves in a melee, the slick wet floor could prove fatal if they ran into tuk’ata. Shrugging his shoulders he pushed on taking over the lead pressed against the wall for support.
Despite their fears, after an hour of slow progression they found nothing at all in the murky darkness. This should have been the first warning, but no one really thought much of it and was a bit thankful. Only Scel was a bit alarmed at the lack of lack of wildlife, and he quietly drew his pair of training sabers, keeping them at the ready, just in case. Unfortunately his fears were all too accurate…
Scel kicked the carcass away from him as he stood back to back with his brother, each brandishing their training sabers trying to keep at bay the seemingly endless onslaught of tuk’ata. The group, in the darkness had wandered directly into not just a lair but the nesting area of the matron tuk’ata. Fortunately this was no greenhorn group of acolytes; they had all been in their fair share of encounters which required them to defend themselves. Three pairs were spaced out in the dimly lit room. The shiny floor was crimson with the flickering glow of the training sabers and the blood of the fallen tuk’ata.
“There!” shouted Jento pointing across the room towards what looked to be some sort of table or altar and upon it sat the unmistakable shape of a Sith holocron, slightly glowing. The object seemed to be resistant to the Force as several of them tried to seize it from their current position, but found it was not going anywhere. Jento broke formation with his brother dashing for the holocron.
“Damn you,” Scel scowled dropping back into a more defensive stance now that he was vulnerable and standing in the middle of the room. “Get back over here, there will be time to get the precious holocron after all these vile creatures are dead!” he shouted, falling on deaf ears.
Jento’s lept over a charging tuk’ata pressing ever closer to the mission objective. He didn’t notice that he’d avoided not just any tuk’ata but the larger, much more pissed off matron. She ignored Jento and charged directly into one pair of the trainee’s. Their training sabers swished through the air, failing to injure the ugly beast, however her steel like jaws did not miss its target. She spun around heading for the next pair, tearing them down just as easily as the first.
As Jento lifted the holocron from the dais placing it into his waist pouch, the matron charged at very winded Scel who’s back had been turned defending against a few of the other tuk’ata.
“Scel look out!” Jento cried out, trying to reach out with the Force to project lightning, which he’d never been able to fully grasp, and failed now to produce anything but a foolish looking extended arm, wasting precious seconds. He ran, using every bit of energy to try to close the gap before the giant creature could reach his brother. But… he failed.
By fate, Scel had managed to spin around before the matron could clamp down on his neck, ending him as easily as the four before him. Instead, he managed to swipe at her with his saber, inflicting some minor damage which he followed with a small bolt of Force lightning. He’d taken great pride before now that he could produce such a thing and his brother could not, but seeing the somewhat meaningless effect it had on the tuk’ata he very much wished Jento was able to do so as well. The matron swiped a heavy maw at Scel, knocking him off balance and into the wall.
Just as he hit the ground Jento had closed on the creature and leapt high into the air slamming the ground, knocking the tuk’ata away. He turned and pounced on the beast as it landed on its back and thrust his saber into its neck ending its life. Little did he realize that the crunching sound was not coming from the creature’s last breaths but from the ceiling he’d disturbed in his overly aggressive slam into the cave floor. Scel raised his hand to try to catch the falling stone with the Force but it was too late.
“Scel!” Jento shouted as the debris fell on his brother leaving only the outstretched arm.
Chapter 5: The Powers that Be
The dull echo of footsteps in the hallway outside the office did very little to soften the dark mood which seemed to grip the air. Jento had been waiting for well over a half hour now, but he didn’t dare move. Being summoned by a Sith Lord unexpectedly generally isn’t a good sign, especially with the recent events. As fate would have it he didn’t have much longer to wait, Darth Henkai filed in with two men Jento recognized as some of the Overseers and finally with a woman who was dressed in what looked to be a medical type Imperial uniform.
No words had been spoken as everyone entered and took seats around the large desk which occupied most of the modest sized office. Lord Henkai had taken his normal seat and peered at Jento who was still standing there emotionless and deathly still.
“Putting my training to good use I see,” Lord Henkai commented feeling the cold void through the Force where Jento’s mind and thoughts should have been. “Of all the time in your life up until this day, you should be most thankful that you have your gift. It may have saved your life after what has happened.” Jento wasn’t quite sure what this statement meant and the normal half backwards way that Lord Henkai had of speaking made it even harder.
Jento rarely felt real fear since he’d been in very few situations where his life was actually in danger but he felt the bitter pang of it in his stomach now. The sickly eyes of Lord Henkai were always an unwelcome sight, even now after having seen them so many times, but his deathlike appearance was nothing compared to what he’d just said.
‘Were they really considering killing me for what happened? I didn’t pick that cave, surely they were aware it was infested.. maybe they don’t care.’ Jento’s mind raced going through various connections he’d made, making a short list of people he could call on if things started to really look like they were going to end badly. Jento stood there without a word determined to not let the panic of fear disrupt his concentration and allow someone into his head.
“The task you were sent on was to be the last of your trials before moving on in your studies here, apprentice,” Henkai slowly walked back and forth behind Jento. “You were given a team and your own brother to assist you on the task to recover the holocron which has been guarded by a matron tuk’ata for quite some time now.” Jento heard the words but tried not to dwell on the image being painted.
Henkai paused and Jento took the cue, “Yes, my Lord.” He didn’t elaborate since it was becoming less and less clear exactly what Henkai’s intentions were at this point and a misspoken word could be less than ideal.
Darth Henkai reached out his hand and the holocron sitting quietly on his desk floated over gracefully landing in his palm. “And you accomplished your task, sacrificing the wellbeing of your teammates, even your very own brother. Impressive, albeit a lucky stroke since you no doubt had thrown caution to the wind and had you been in control of your senses you would have returned with everything and everyone intact.” Henkai waved his hand, “However the dead is of no matter, had they been stronger they would have survived. Weakness has no place in the heart of a Sith.” He walked around and sat down behind his desk and placed the holocron back in its case. “However, there was one who did not fall to weakness, your brother Scel. He was quite talkative while under sedation.” Henkai’s eye’s narrow as he continues, “Seems you were the cause of his injuries. What do you have to say about that?”
“It is true my, Lord. As I leapt to attack the matron, the impact disturbed the cave ceiling and it collapsed on Scel,” he spoke with confidence but no heart, simply answering the question. Even saying the words made his stomach a bit sick and he hoped this meeting would not last much longer or he would start to falter.
“I see..” Henkai tapped a finger on the desk, the long fingernail clicking on the smooth surface and it seemed to echo around the office. “Well we shall not mention this to Darth Jadus, since he has become very interested in you today. Seems word of your talent has drawn his notice.” Henkai leaned across the desk, “I don’t have to stress the importance that being noticed by someone of his caliber, nor the consequences should you fail. Do I?” He leaned back looking a Jento tried to read some sort of emotion from his face.
“Certainly not, Lord Henkai.” Even though Jento had very limited experience with other Sith Lords, it was common knowledge that Sith don’t tolerate failure, and since there is a distinct absence of failed acolytes hanging about, it was quite obvious what had been their fate.
Henaki nodded, “Very good,” he tilted his head pressing a button on his desk and a holographic image of a man in an Imperial uniform appeared. “You have been given a unique opportunity today, my young apprentice.” He looks seriously at Jento, “Lord Jadus is very interested in knowing everything there is to know whether that be in or outside of the Empire. This man here is known as the Keeper,” he pointed to the holographic image. “He is the mastermind behind Imperial Intelligence and reports directly to high ranking members of the Sith council, namely Lord Jadus himself.” He pressed the button and the image blinked off and he leaned back in his chair. “Lord Jadus recently lost his inside contact within Intelligence and has selected that you along with your rare talent would be the perfect replacement,” he held up his hand seeing Jento’s mouth open. “And before you comment let me remind you that Darth Jadus selecting you for this is the sole reason that no one has noticed what happened on your mission.”
Jento felt defeated in a way. Sure he would not be killed but this is not at all what he imagined would happen in this meeting and he had mixed feelings now about the whole ordeal. The most paramount feeling now was confusion. He’d never heard of someone in training to become a Sith being sent on an assignment anywhere. Of course that was probably the whole point, had he heard about it, so would Intelligence. He didn’t know much about this Darth Jadus other than he was a member of the Dark Council and was not someone to be crossed, ever. He blinked a few times and realized he’d been letting his mind wander, luckily not far enough to break his hold on himself. He quickly answered, “Of course, Master. When am I to leave?”
Henkai slowly nodded his head. “You realize you will have to keep hidden that you have any ability with the Force, leave in secret all you have learned here, and take on this new life. Of course you have long since been forging alliances and critical friendships almost from the moment you arrived. You will find them useful, just take care that you do not expose anything to the Imperials that they do not need to know.” Henkai slid a datapad across his desk, “Officially you are being dismissed from the Academy and transferred to the military training facility on Dromond Kaas. It is not something common but given your family’s status it is completely understandable. Moff Svarthos will not be informed of any details other than that.”
Jento swallowed hard. He’d not heard his father mentioned in many years and to hear him referred to so easily made crystal clear that he could very well come into contact with the man he left behind so many years ago and he will need to be in control of himself. He nodded in response to all that Henkai had said.
“Very good, you are to leave immediately. Darth Jadus will contact you once you have left orbit to finalize any details. Upon arrival on Dromond Kaas you are to report to the Intelligence office in Kaas City, no doubt reporting to this Keeper himself. He seems to handle things in a ‘hands on’ fashion and after the recommendation that has been crafted for you, he should be quite interested in meeting you personally.” Henkai chuckled lightly. “You will be contacted at a later time with details on how you will report in to Lord Jadus,” he glanced up at the open doorway. “Once you leave this room, you shall not speak of this again except to Lord Jadus or a verified one of his agents.” Rising up from his chair he gestured to the exit, “Do not fail, my acolyte, and remember all that you have learned here.” He turned and walked into the back room.
Leaving the cloak he’d been wearing, Jento stood up and left the room and the rest of the Sith Academy behind him.
The tattering clink of the droid prancing about the medical ward broke the silence surrounding the bed where Scel lay unconscious mostly submerged in a tank of kolto. Parts of his body were now attached to various bits of cybernetic devices, namely his left leg, which was missing from the knee down. His head was encased in a breath apparatus hiding his injuries to his face within the dimly illuminated blue liquid. The droid extended one of its appendages and the kolto drained from the tank. As the still body of Scel was lifted from the tank the droid rose up to full height and began to remove the mask revealing the missing right eye.
Hours later Scel groaned as he tried to focus and found he was laying on a bed in the recovery room. He blinked a few times and reached up to feel his face and his new cybernetic eye which glowed red in the dim light. He tried to sit up but found himself being held down by restraints. Frowning as he looked down and the buckles began to shutter as they were being ripped apart by the Force. Scel swung his legs off the side of the bed and he looked down at the naked mechanical replacement as it touched the floor. Seething, he muttered a single word, “Jento….”
Chapter 6: Dark Lord Rising
Three years later…
Training... one of the few physical things left which still made some sense to Scel. The closer the time for his final trial came, the less he felt in touch with the things which most people would consider normal. When he felt he was losing all touch with reality, time in the sparring arena usually brought him back. Over the last few years he’d been trained in all sorts of saber combat, but dual blades remained his favorite.
Scel looked into the long mirror which hung in the academy bath hall and ran his hand along his smooth bald head. Between his attunement to the dark side and his nasty run in with the ceiling of a cave, his once full head of reddish auburn hair had long faded away. Peering into the mirror at the shadow of what he once was he smiled; glad to see the image staring right back at him. He looked less and less like his twin brother with each passing day. He didn’t hate Jento, well not like one would hate a sworn enemy, but he hated the potential that Jento had. He hated the power that he effortlessly gained over those he took charge; he hated looking like he was second best. Even after Jento’s mysterious disappearance three years ago, the echo of his presence still haunted Scel and made him strive even harder to stand out. He should feel fortunate to have such a focused idea to harness his powerful negative energy towards. It was this very same negative energy which makes him nearly unstoppable in combat or allows him to strike out with Force lightening with a calm outstretched hand. For that reason the resentment stung even more, Jento’s echo still followed him around, but at least it made him powerful.
Glancing into the mirror one last time he nodded and grabbed his training robe and slipped it over his head. He had a match in the arena in thirty minutes and he always liked to arrive early and observe some of the others. As he neared the end of the long hallway to the arena, he could hear the cheers and knew that something worth seeing was taking place. Stepping onto the stairs at the bottommost seats he turned just in time to avoid a training saber which had been separated from the unlucky hopeful who was now holding his hands up in surrender.
‘Weak fool,” Scel thought as he took a seat. ‘Ask for no mercy and expect none,’ he recited in his mind. Seems not all students here follow the same principle of course this was not a death match he was watching, but a good thrashing before giving up would have at least made a better show. He leaned to see around the tall alien which was seated in front of him to get a look at the other combatant. It was none other than Dren, his rival from nearly the moment he arrived on Korriban. Scel gathered from the whispering in the row in front that the other hopeful had offended Dren in some way and they’d ended up here to settle the score. The younger student never stood a chance against Dren in a dual. Few at the academy did.
As Dren stalked off leaving the younger student behind Scel thought more about him. He couldn’t quite remember ever doing anything to cause the rivalry between them. It was almost as if they’d been assigned to be opponents before they’d ever set foot on the planet. There was something else strange about Dren though, he absolutely worshiped Jento. Scel at first thought it was to annoy him since it was no secret that he hated being in his brother’s shadow. But after several years it became clear that it wasn’t about getting to Scel at all. Ever since Jento had vanished without a trace Dren had seemed unfocused and a bit lost, which bode well for Scel since he’d been able to get a few trials ahead of him and now didn’t have to worry about his interference.
Since the fight was now clearly over Scel jogged down to the Arena master and was pleased to find several others making their way there just behind him. He turned around and spotted Harka Vresh, an Iridonian. Harka was being trained in the ways of the inquisitor and was quite effective with his manipulation of the Force. They’d sparred several times before and he always proved a worthy opponent. Scel nodded at him and they both approached the Arena master and before entering the ring.
Scel had become popular around the Academy for his arena matches and whenever word broke out that he was in the ring, a good size crowd would gather. The two entered the arena taking their places in the center. With a bow they both dropped into stance. Today it seemed Harka was feeling aggressive, pounding his vibrostaff against the ground as he charged it with Force lightning. The staff crackled with the bluish energy as he swirled it around. Scel pulled his dual training sabers from his back crossing them in front of his face.
Harka tried to capitalize on Scel’s momentary flourish for the crowd and leapt into the air to strike at him. Scel countered him with his left saber and blasted him with a wave of Force energy, knocking Harka halfway across the arena. As Harka landed on his feet he made another bold move, throwing his vibrostaff at Scel. At the moment that Scel raised his sabers to deflect the oncoming vibrostaff, Harka struck out with a barrage of Force lightening that hit Scel squarely in the chest, knocking him onto his back. This was a critical mistake.
Scel leapt back to his feet, his eyes now burning with hate having been knocked down in front of so many others. He screamed out as he jumped into the air, bringing both his sabers down in a flurry of motion at Harka.
“Ah shit…” Harka didn’t stand a chance, and should have known better, for this is usually how he loses. Scel’s rage was something of an amateur legend around the academy. Harka flinched as Scel’s heavy boot leveled with the bridge of his nose, but stopped as he heard a voice call out from the entrance to the arena. He let out a heavy sigh of relief as there would be no victory today and he grabbed his vibrostaff and made a quick exit. He wasn’t about to escape so easily and Scel reach out with the Force, grabbing Harka by the legs hitting just the right nerve and he went right to the ground unable to stand.
Scel turned, slightly annoyed having lost his chance to publically bring down his opponent in a more flamboyant mannor, but even before he made eye contact he could feel the dark disturbance of the Force that few others here at the Academy made. He knew this particular one quite well, it was the one called Foln.
“Scel! Another day, another victim in the ring I see. I have something to tell you,” Foln called out to him walking toward the center of the ring. This must be important for Foln to have interrupted his dual.
Scel answered his fellow hopeful, “Foln! The man with two eyes, one name, and no priorities. What have you to say?” Scel continued walking towards the center of the ring, sheathing his sabers across his back and extending his hand in greeting.
Foln’s expression turned grave as he spoke, “I killed Administrator Yakkur, Traal’s father. He’s dead in one of the meditation rooms.”
It took a moment for the full extent of what he’d just said to fully sink in. Scel thought for a moment and could recall very few accounts of a hopeful killing an instructor moreover an administrator. Not because they had much skill, in fact it was usually quite the opposite. However, they are very well connected and have gained their position by getting in with one of the Sith Lords at the Academy and should not be crossed lightly.
He looked Foln directly in the eyes trying to see if he was joking but there was no humor there, “Really? That must be the most foolish thing I’ve ever heard of you doing.” He knew there must be some good explanation. Foln had no priorities but he knew how things worked around here.
“He attacked me, so I killed him. I expect that either the other administrators or Traal himself will come to confront me soon.” Such a simple explanation, but with far reaching and grave consequences.
“Yeah, no kidding… So let me guess, you need the Arena then?” It was clear now why Foln was here, he’d come to make his stand. He wouldn’t accept help even if Scel offered and he respected Foln enough that he wouldn’t press the issue.
“I imagine there are few better places to end my stay here at the Academy. Might as well go out with a bang where everyone can see, right?” Foln answered.
Traal was a noisy little piss, always flaunting around his father’s name but in reality he was a sorry excuse for even a hopeful. “Surely you don’t expect to lose to that little maggot?” Scel questioned, wondering why Foln seemed to even have a doubt of his victory.
“Whether I kill him, he kills me, or the administrators kill us both, I sense that my time at this place is soon to be over,” Foln answered with no sign of emotion or feeling on his face or in his voice.
Scel didn’t really care much for this answer, but he didn’t sense that this would truly be the end for Foln, but perhaps his sentence had a double meaning. “Well, I guess this is farewell then. I’ll clean up my ‘mess’ here in the arena; I’m sure he doesn’t want to get mixed up in whatever is to happen next.”
As Scel crossed the arena heading for the still body of Harka, Foln moved toward the center getting himself ready. “Scel, I hope to see you on the outside someday. I figure you won’t be too far behind me; the administrators must know…”
Foln’s statement had more meaning that he could have possibly known. Not only was Scel on his final trial, but he’d been growing more and more weary of being contained in the Academy as the weeks tolled on and his master Darth Kranus was all too ready to set him on a path of destruction across the galaxy. But this was not his battle and if he were to get involved it could jeapordize all the progress he’d made and perhaps even his status he’d worked so hard for up to this point. He turned to face Foln, “This is your fight. Stomp him once for me, though. I look forward to the day where we bathe in the blood of our enemies, Foln!”
He knew that Foln would wipe the floor with Traal if the administrators didn’t come for Foln first. He really wanted to hang around to make sure he had a fighting chance but that wasn’t the Sith way. He grabbed Harka’s still body and heavily slung it over his shoulder walking out the opposite door and out of the arena. As he walked down the hall he passed Traal who pretended to ignore him almost running towards the doorway to the arena, close behind was Darth Thron pulling his hood up over his head. Scel fought hard not to turn around and hang by the door to watch the fight but Harka had been out for a long time now, and really should be seen by a medic.
That was the last time Scel would see Foln at the Academy. Scel found out after that Foln had indeed slain Traal but straight away afterwards had disappeared along with Darth Thron. Just as when Jento vanished, Scel knew better than to ask too many people about it. People didn’t just disappear from the Academy. They were both killed and disposed of, or they are sent away by someone important enough to make sure few notice. Neither is a situation that it would be wise to learn about.
Three months later…
The distinctive roar of the Fury class Sith Interceptor drown out any other noises which might have been heard a few moments before in the modest sized hangar. Darth Kranus had taken him to the far side of Dromund Kaas, to the deep jungle. The two of them were to set out to investigate the disappearance of another Master and apprentice pair which had gone there two weeks prior. Due to the extremely dangerous nature to this area of Dromond Kaas this assignment would also serve as Scel’s final task before he went before judgment was passed on if he was ready to be granted full Sith status. Little did he know that Kranus himself had engineered this situation from the start, even the lost apprentice’s Master had been an opponent in his way to move up the ladder in the Korriban hierarchy. To Scel none of this would have mattered, even if he’d known. He was ready to be done and start his own ascension to power without the Academy walls holding him back. He knew that Kranus would have to be dealt with at some stage but for now was useful and his knowledge of the Force was quite substantial.
There had been no sign of the missing aside from the mostly eaten remains beside a pair of crashed speeders. Scel noticed there appeared to be blaster marks on one of the speeders but Kranus didn’t seem interested in the how’s or why’s only that they’d determined the lost pair’s fate. Scel didn’t really care. Sure they’d had to fight off dozens of large wild animals to finally track down the wreckage but if his Master was satisfied then this means he would soon be able to leave that forsaken rock Korriban.
“Scel, my apprentice, I have known for some time that you were ready to progress on and be judged. But the important question is, are you ready to move on?” It was a rhetorical question, and Scel knew it. Kranus had always spoken in half-truths and partial riddles and Scel found it annoying.
This time Scel knew how to answer this question, having been all too eager several years before and answering impulsively. “Yes, my Master. Unleash me on the galaxy.”
The Fury’s door glided gracefully open and the pair walked down the ramp. Assembled across the hangar floor was what appeared to be an honor guard of hooded figures, their faces all covered. As Scel’s foot touched the hangar floor in unison all the figures ignited their sabers, the crimson blades touching at the tips as Scel walked beneath them. When they reached the end of the path, Darth Kranus turned to face him.
“Kneel my apprentice,” he said reaching out his hand and a lightsaber hilt flew to his hand as Scel dropped to one knee. “You built this saber hilt nearly one year ago and I have denied it from you so that you may appreciate its power and never forgot its importance. On this day you rise as a fellow Sith and its crimson blade shall be a sign to all the galaxy.” Lord Kranus held the saber hilt out to Scel who promptly took it. “And now arise, a dark lord of the Sith.”
As he stood to his full height, he ignited his saber and held it in front of his face, the red blade matching his cybernetic eye. As he switched off the saber, leaving only the burning red eye he said only two words, “Lord Scelestus.”
Chapter 7: The Promotion
Many years later…
Lightning crackled across the hull as the ship fell into the traffic pattern high above Kaas City. It had been six months since their last mission and the crew of the Obsidian Shadow was overdue for some much needed shore leave. Jento, however, would be getting no such break. Not only was he to report directly to Keeper for some undisclosed reason, but he had also received an encoded message that he was to meet an envoy at the Sith enclave. The second appointment made him a bit uneasy. He’d been to the Sith enclave before, always in secret, but even the guards there made him uneasy and brought back memories of his childhood back at the academy.
As the ship set down on the landing pad the door chimed outside Jento’s office.
“Come,” he answered still looking at the dossier displayed on his desk monitor. As Lt. Tam walked in he reached over and flipped off the display removing the image of the young pureblood he’d been studying.
Tam entered the room with her normal grace accented by a dash of military protocol. “Headquarters has dispatched a transport. It should arrive in a matter of moments, Captain.” She was fishing for details which she was quite sure she wouldn’t get but still didn’t keep her from trying. Although she’d been a member of the crew now for over two years ‘need to know’ details were generally all she ever got.
Jento leaned across the desk handing her a datapad, “Very good. While I am meeting with Keeper I want you to take this datapad to a contact in the cantina. He shouldn’t be hard to spot, sandy brown hair, goatee, should be wearing an Imperial uniform. He’ll most likely be seated in one of the corner spots, and may have a young pureblood with him. Just hand him the datapad and he should nod, he’s already expecting these instructions.”
“Yes, Captain,” she answered tucking the datapad under her arm. Why he didn’t just send encoded messages or use a droid for these little deliveries were beyond her. The ‘personal touch’ as he always explained seemed to expend a lot of extra effort. “Would there be anything else, Sir?” She seemed a bit eager, but just like the rest of the crew she had been holed up in this ship for an extended time and even the stormy skies of Dromond Kaas would be a welcome diversion.
Shaking his head, “Negative, Lieutenant. I will contact you when we are to set out, but we should be here for at least the better of the week.” He offered a faint smile, “That will be all, dismissed,” he nodded and rose up from his desk and followed her out.
‘I hate riding in these things... at least when I’m not driving,’ Jento thought as he settled into the backseat of the dark grey speeder emblazoned with the logo of the Empire on the front.
As he stacked his case of datapads the speeder lifted off and speeded through the jungle towards the capital city and onto Intelligence headquarters. Jento knew very few people who actually worked here, and none of them by their real names. As he walked into the main situation room he exchanged a few friendly nods to the Watchers manning their posts and returned the dirty look to the Fixer that nearly knocked into him carrying an antigrav plate.
Without a word he headed to the office in the rear and snapped his heels together. “Reporting as ordered, Keeper,” he announced himself, although he was sure that the tall thin man, who was still looking at the wall of monitors which covered the back wall of his office, had been aware of Jento’s arrival as soon as they’d dropped out of hyperspace.
“At ease Cipher 47,” Keeper said turning around and taking his seat at his desk. He gestured to one of the chairs in front of Jento and continued, “Very good work on Taris, the situation is building exactly as we had hoped.” He reached out his hand as Jento offered the datapad with his official report of the mission. “But enough of that business, I’m sure you guess that I recalled you here for more than just to report in after a long mission.” His expression seemed to darken, “I am promoting you to Watcher so you can continue to function in the way that you have repeatedly displayed excellence. However, I was ordered to do so.” He leaned back in his chair tapping the fingers of each hand together in front of him, “Seems that the minister himself has made some arrangements for your long term assignment. Unlike the Watchers who work here in headquarters, as is procedure, you are to work in the field continuing the guise of a regular military officer with the rank of Lt. Colonel.” He pursed his lips frowning slightly, “I don’t like this, it’s all highly irregular, but it seems I have no choice in the matter. But let me make one thing clear.” He points across the desk, “You still answer to me,” he paused dropping his head and most of the direct nature of his speech, “You are to begin assembling a list of personnel who will serving under you in an operational status. You are authorized to use anyone from any branch of the Empire as you see fit, even contracting if you feel it necessary.”
Having been quiet up until this point Jento preys upon the brief pause to interject, “To do what exactly, Sir?” He’d had his share of strange missions and half explanations, but this was alarming, even for Intelligence.
“I have no idea, Watcher 47. All I know is that this comes some very powerful people, powerful enough that I know better than to ask for an explanation of this rather unusual change of events. The last time I felt this much pressure was when you were first assigned and Darth Jadus was personally involved, seems I don’t warrant that level of direct information this time.”
Jento recalled the brief interlude when he’d first been assigned to and had been summoned to meet Darth Jadus. Even then Keeper seemed to try to block or dissuade any direct involvement by the Sith Lord.
“Very well, Sir. I will begin compiling the list immediately.” Jento picked up the datapad which Keeper had slid across the desk to him.
“Good luck, Watcher 47.” Keeper rose and began to study the monitors on the wall again. “Your ship is having some maintenance done, so you will be here for a few days. Enjoy some rest until then.”
Without another word Jento left the office. He glanced down at his wrist chronometer, ‘Shit… we’re cutting it pretty close,’ he thought seeing only a quarter of an hour before he was expected at the Sith Enclave. Winking at Watcher 2 as he briskly walked back to the main atrium wondering what lay in store at the next meeting.
Much like the Sith Academy, the Sith Enclave seemed not only alive with the dark side of the Force but a bit cold. Jento never felt very comfortable here, unlike when he was around non-Force users he didn’t have to concentrate on keeping his guard up and making sure to shield his thoughts and emotions from unseen scrutiny. It was a draining task to always be so guarded and sitting here in the empty quiet office was not helping matters in the slightest. To keep focus Jento kept reviewing in his head the short list of people he was already considering to begin tracking for recruitment.
He didn’t have long to consider this possibilities before the dull echoes of approaching footsteps came from behind him. ‘Too light and short to be Jadus,’ Jento thought to himself listening. ‘Must be yet another messenger… always these power games here. But still easier to find a foothold.’ His thoughts were cut short as the footsteps stopped abruptly and whispers in the hallway signaled the dismissal of the guards.
The cloaked figure entered the room taking a seat at the massive trapezoid shaped desk. Jento rose to his feet offering a respectful bow, remaining standing until spoken to. From beneath the hood he could see the glint of a smooth mask not all that unlike what Jadus himself wore.
“So… at Colonel now, I’m sure Keeper was quite pleased with himself to feel like he was maintaining some semblance of control,” the deep slightly mechanical voice said with just a hint of sarcasm. “The Master has been quite pleased with your actions.” The figure tapped a metal gloved figure on the desk, “But your assignment is just beginning. You will continue your role in the Intelligence Office, however, the military guise you have been using will soon be expanding, thus the promotion Keeper was instructed to give you.” The man tapped one of the buttons along the edge of the desk and a holographic map of the galaxy snapped into view. “The Emperor has many agents across the galaxy exerting his will and keeping pressure on the Republic. Your experience and expertise will be used to consolidate several of these elements for specific goals the Dark Council has deemed… high priority situations.”
It seemed the man was being extraordinarily tactical in his choice of words. Jento wasn’t entirely certain if this was a test or simply a relay of instructions. It didn’t really matter, he knew this game and it was his lot to play it, no matter which office he happened to be sitting in. “It will be my honor, my Lord,” he simply replied.
“Modifications are being made to your starship so you may receive further instructions at the appropriate time, of the Master’s choosing.” The man dismissively waves his hand at Jento, “That is all.” He sat there unmoving.
Jento, still on his feet, bowed and taking the customary two steps back, turned and left the room heading directly back to the starport. This hadn’t been exactly what he’d been expecting, no threats or demands, just simple instructions. There had to be more but he knew better than to start asking questions, at least of the Sith.
His mind raced as he drove the speeder back to the starport. His previous instructions from the Sith envoy was to monitor certain people of interest that he might be able to use for specific assignments in the future, so the current task of hunting them down should be fairly routine.
As the speeder powered down gliding to a full halt on the landing pad he spotted Lt. Tam loitering at the main hangar entrance.
“Your message has been delivered Cap...” she paused and looked at the slight change in Jento’s uniform and corrected herself with a slight blink, “Colonel. Did you have any further instructions?”
Jento chuckled lightly touching the new pips on his collar, “Things are about to get a little more complicated, Lieutenant, but not today.” He looked at the woman. The fatigue was apparent in her eyes, she’d remained at her helm station for the entire duration of their trip back and most likely hadn’t slept a wink since they’d arrived on Dromond Kaas. “We have a week here, get some rest and enjoy the brief reprieve.” Watching her expression he knew she’d hang around the ship if he didn’t make it a bit more official, “That’s an order.”
“Yes Sir,” she sighed and gave a quick salute. They walked back to the ship together and she slipped into her cabin as Jento headed for the ready room.
The slight tickling of a stray lekku roused Jento from the peaceful rest he’d settled into. He briefly opened his eyes and looked over at the naked form of the blue Twi’lek fast asleep next to him. Annoyed he tossed the stray lekku away from his face, waking the girl with a start.
“Get out,” Jento said swinging his legs off the side of the bed finding the deck plating of his quarters a little cooler than normal. As he stood, the light sheen of sweat still on his bare chest glistened in the faint glow of the monitor on his desk. Lack of sleep during what should have been a week of shore leave had taken its toll on his demeanor, and as he gazed slowly turned towards the woman still in the bed his eyes narrowed.
Kaa-lo was her name, not that Jento had ever asked. “I… I don’t understand,” she stammered in broken basic, attempting to pull the sheet to cover herself.
Jento pointed towards the doorway, “Even someone of your limited intelligence should be able to understand such a simple statement. But let me put it more on your level.” He took a step near her, “Get your blue ass off my ship. Now.”
Cursing in her native tongue and unable to find her clothing she dragged parts of the bedding along with her, slamming the door shut. Jento pulled on his trousers laughing softly as he turned on the monitor and entered in his access code. “Stupid woman,” he muttered as he settled into his chair and pulled up a status report.
On his screen the sickly yellow planet of Nal Hutta appeared along with a detailed status display along the side containing two names. He clicked the one and then the other “Well well, let’s see how appealing our bait was.”
Typing quickly on the small keyboard he accessed the security cameras, cycling through them quickly before rewinding back to the image of a dimly lit cantina.
He watched the feed several times, looping bits, zooming in on sections, and finally Jento froze the image sitting back in his chair. “Excellent, exactly as planned.”
Chapter 8: Reunion
Two years later…
“You incompetent fool,” Jento said throwing his hands onto his desk staring down the holoimage speaking to him. “I don’t care if it takes you the rest of this week to hunt him down. The Empire has invested a great deal of credits into this endeavor and a little worm like you is not going to be the reason it has failed. No more excuses, Private, either find this man or leaving my ship will be the last action of your pitiful military career.” Jento slammed his fist down, cutting the holofeed off.
The week’s reprieve hadn’t been all that restful for Jento, in fact it was probably a great deal more busy than the previous six months they’d spent on assignment. Over the last few days he’d been combing his network of contacts, trying to locate the remaining three targets on his short list of people he wanted to involve in this undisclosed long term mission he’d been assigned. All but one had been found, and he was proving to be quite the challenge. Under normal circumstances Jento would have enjoyed such a challenge, but he was running out of both time and patience.
“He bloody looks just like me, how damn difficult could that be to spot,” he grumbled rising from his chair to head for his quarters. Walking inside he pulled off his uniform jacket and threw himself onto the bed, grabbing a datapad. He shook his head as he looked through the records that were scrolling across the screen. “Even if he was dead there should be some record of some of his activities,” he commented looking at the readout. Reaching the end of the list he threw it at the side table. Not one mention of a Scel… not even a Svarthos of any sort was on the list. He of course knew his own record of being there had been erased or at least buried, but his brother’s records should be there.
Jento rolled onto his side and pressed the com. “Bridge here,” the voice of Lt. Tam called out.
“Recall the crew and begin preparation for departure. We’re heading for Korriban.” Jento answered picking back up the discarded datapad.
“Yes Sir,” she answered.
Jento switched off the com. “Time for a different approach.”
The reddish planet filled the forward windows as the Obsidian Shadow dropped out of hyperspace and settled into a high orbit. The tension was thick across the ship, few non-Sith ever went to Korriban or even entered the system.
Jento stood there looking at the planet. “Transmit this landing code on the Academy frequency,” he said slipping a data disc into the console.
Almost immediately the ship received clearance and they descended towards the starport. Jento turned and walked towards the door. “I will be in contact. Everyone is to stay aboard, if any transmissions are received contact me immediately. I shouldn’t be long,” he said to Lt. Tam before heading to his quarters. He pointed his finger towards a guard, “No one leaves this ship,” and the guard nodded understanding.
The heavy boots clanked on the deck plates as Jento stood looking into the mirror. He adjusted the chestpiece of his crimson armor, the customary attire of any military troops on Korriban. He didn’t want to draw any further attention to his presence than his obviously out of place ship had caused. Grabbing his helmet he looked at it for a moment, then tossed it onto the bed. ‘I’m not wearing that bloody thing,’ he thought to himself as he turned to depart.
The all too familiar dry sandy air greeted him as he walked through the Valley of the Dark Lords. He hadn’t missed this place, the few good memories he had from his training at the academy were tainted by the plethora of negative ones and he didn’t relish their return. The pair of guards at the doorway nodded as he passed, he’d half expected them to ask for identification, still not accustomed to wearing his rank.
As if by instinct alone, he walked through the dark corridors and into his old Master’s chambers. Darth Henkai was seated at his desk and looked up as Jento stood before him.
“So…” the death like image of a man started as he stood walking around his desk. “A lost son of Korriban returns.” He gestures towards the armor Jento was wearing, “Having shed his garments of honor, exchanged for those of the pawns of the Empire, a pity.”
Narrowing his eyes Jento stood resolute. “Don’t patronize me, Lord Henkai. You know why I’m here. I half suspect that you yourself have buried the information I’ve been looking for in order to bring me back to this place so I could stand before you,” Jento pointed towards the floor as he spoke.
“And he’s learned to be strong… good. I’m glad to see that my teachings haven’t been completely forgotten.” Henkai walked back around and took his seat at his desk, “Oh I do I indeed know why you are here. Your friend on the Dark Council was quite specific on my… compliance, with your search.”
“If you ever want to escape this prison of an office, then be out with it. Where is he?” The tone of Jento’s voice didn’t hide his annoyance with Henkai’s demeanor.
Henkai frowned, fighting back a retort. “Scel is no more, my dear Jento. He shed his old name and life as quickly and easily as he shed his Master.” Henkai looked Jento in the eyes, “You are looking for a dark Lord.”
“Lord Scelestus,” a deep voice added from behind Jento, causing him to swing around reaching for his blaster. “Ah ah,” Scelestus shook his finger, pulling the blaster to his outstretched hand. “Blasters are quite dangerous… brother. It would be a pity if someone were to get hurt.”
Jento looked at the pale face of his brother, the cybernetic left eye focused on him, unblinking. Dark veins ran through his cheeks, the “gift” of the dark side. He could see the scars running down the left side of his face, echoes of the accident long ago. “Scel… I”
“Do not call me by that name!” Scelestus spat, throwing the blaster back at Jento. Composing himself he walked fully into the office and looked Jento up and down. “Military armor, so the rumors are true. Not that it has been easy finding out anything about you. Seems you have made some powerful allies during your time away from here, Jento. You are either extremely brave or incalculably foolish to have sought me out.” Scelestus held out his hands to either side, “So here I am, speak. I have little time for the likes of you.”
A bit taken aback, not expecting for his lost brother to suddenly appear, not to mention the changes of his appearance, Jento remained quiet for a moment. “I have need of you… Scelestus,” he made sure to use the proper name this time, despite how alien it felt saying it. “I have been commanded by the Dark Council to seek out persons of interest for a long term assignment.”
Scelestus laughed, “You think you can march in here and take charge of me. I am no longer your little pawn in your power game, Jento. I have made my mark, and my own allies.” Scelestus turned to look at Henaki, as he gestured to the two.
“I’m afraid, Scelestus, that is exactly what he is doing. And unless you want to continue to jeopardize all that you have accomplished thus far, I suggest you drop your theatrics and remember your place,” Henkai said pointing at him. “More is at stake than your little mark on the powerbase here of Korriban, you will affect us both.”
Scelestus’ face twisted in anger, but he fought back the words which came to mind. “My place, my lord, is here among the Sith.”
Jento turned to look back at him, “Sith?! Ha! You are no more than a common instructor amongst a collection those who failed to achieve greatness. You stand there as if you’ve accomplished something when you know in your own heart you have been rotting here in the shadow of the likes of him,” Jento thumbed towards Henkai
Without waiting for a response Jento continued, “Your place is going to be exactly where I tell it to be, brother. There was a long list of possible people I could have chosen, but I sought out you. So you can either benefit from joining me, or you can defy the will of the Counsel and suffer. Make your choice, I will be on my ship. I trust you can find it.” Jento holstered his pistol and walked from the office.
Scelestus began to turn after him but Henkai interjected quickly, “Scelestus, there is much to be gained here. I know you harbor feelings of the past, but use that anger to fuel your power.” Henkai pointed down the hallway where Jento had gone. “He has connections far beyond what you and I know about, or he’d not have returned here. Think, how many fallen acolytes leave Korriban and return alive? None. You don’t have to like what you are doing in order to gain from it.”
Scelestus seethed, pacing at the front of the desk. “Very well, Darth Henkai.”
“Good, now go and latch onto that power,” Henkai remarked standing. “And do not forget those who helped you gain it, unlike your brother.”
The crew seemed uneasy. The unexplained Sith who’d taken up residence in the guest quarters, despite his ghostly appearance, was undeniably their commander’s brother. He’d never spoken of family before, and that didn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. The Sith had not left his quarters since he arrived. His food was delivered and even then he was knelt in meditation every time the door opened.
Jento strode onto Scelestus’ quarters without knocking or fanfaire. “Meditation, thats new. Have you found a path to your center in your years swinging practice sabers?”
Scelestus’ single organic eye opened and shot daggers at Jento, “Is this why you brought me here? To have someone to ridicule?! Don’t you have enough of your Imperial lackies that you don’t need me as a personal whipping post?” he seathed rising to his feet.
“Oh get over yourself. I rescued you from that shithole and somewhere inside that bald hard head of yours you know thats true.” Jento smirked flipping open one of the belt pouches and fished out an access key and tossed it to Scelestus. “Don’t go poking around, don’t go around asking questions, just accept that more is at stake here than you realize,” he pointed at his uniform. “This is not real… you know better than that. Things have been set into motion which will ensure that our legacy will be restored to its former place of power and glory.” Jento pointed at the key, “I trust you want some of that power too… consider yourself a Darth along with all the access that grants.”
Scelestus looked down and at the key frowning, “You pompous ass, no matter how good your connections are, you don’t have the authority to do that. Only a ranking Darth can promote me.”
Jento smiled grimly and offered a wink before walking out of the room, “And that ranking Darth is walking out of your room right now.”
Chapter 9: The Double Cover
“You never mentioned I would be crawling across this stinking mud ball. I want more credits,” the fair skinned Twi’lek demanding pointing his finger in Jento’s face. He was attempting a stare down against the human, but despite his best efforts he didn’t seem to be making any progress against the stone faced agent.
Finally breaking the silence Jento shifted and wagged a finger at Kry’tin. “I’m afraid you have mistaken me for one of the common cartel thugs who operate on this planet. This is not a negotiation. You accepted a contract. You now have two options, you can either fulfill your obligations or you can refuse and never leave this hangar.” Jento gestured and two heavily armed soldiers nodded back moving to either side of the door, their rifles now trained on the Chiss. “You see, this is not a social call, so if we can’t do business…”
“Whoa there, hold on…” Kry’tin eased his hand away from his pistol. “You just need me to watch them. I suppose a few days here is workable, and the money is pretty good.” He glanced back at the troopers just as another pair came down the ramp of the Obsidian Shadow.
“Watch, assist, and report progress,” Jento corrected. “You will be working as a temporary operative of sorts so if I change the plan, you will change the plan.” He tosses a credit chip to Kry’tin, who quickly snatched it out of the air. “This should get you started and pay for the drinks.” Jento turned heading towards his ship, “We’ll be watching, so be sure and keep the holo-recorder you were given on at all times.” He turned just before walking up the ramp. “Don’t give me a reason to return to the surface.” He gestured to the guards and they quickly crossed the hanger and followed behind him.
Wasting no time to get that drink, Kry’tin made a hasty exit. ‘I have a feeling I’m going to regret this deal,’ he thought to himself as he made his way to towards the cantina.
Dromund Kaas, the capital planet of the great Sith Empire, slowly turned in its daily orbit filling the forward viewports of the Obsidian Shadow.
Jento sat lounging on the bridge; his feet crossed at the ankles perched on the edge of the starmap terminal. He’d been spending more time here and less time in his office this past week, ‘brooding’ the crew rumored where they thought he couldn’t hear. They weren’t far from the truth; he had been making plans, or more accurately finalizing them.
Darth Jadus had grown quiet which has become a significant hindrance to the influence Jento had been cultivating over the last few years. He’d made some backup plans and several other connections in many different directions but it was going to take some time to draw them all together into some form of a usable network on his own.
The biggest challenge lately was keeping his brute of a brother from killing off crew members or tearing up the ship while they waited for the storm to clear. In the end Jento had been forced to send Scelestus on his way so he could unleash that pent up anger and aggression on someone else’s ship or crew. Scelestus didn’t really matter right now, Jento needed to get in contact with the people he’d been working with over the last couple years and finally make his move.
“Colonel?” Jento sat up with a start as the voice of Lieutenant Vexa Tamm interrupted the half-daydream he’d drifted into. Her big brown eyes were bleary from lack of sleep and pouring over hundreds of pages of text and searches. Of all the crew she’d been with Jento the longest and he probably shared the least information with her of all of them. If she minded, she never said so, always the dutiful pilot and willing assistant she started out. He’d offered her a promotion several months ago and she flat out refused. Jento found it very odd but accepted her reasoning when she said she was content at the station in which she was posted. For a while he had suspected she had feelings for him, which turned out to be true in a way, just not romantic ones. She looked to him like a father figure, explaining some of the undying dedication and willingness to work all hours of the day and night. In all actuality she was the perfect commander’s companion for an assignment like this.
Jento blinked drawing himself out of the half daze he’d slipped into. “Sorry Lieutenant, what can I do for you?” He quickly pulled his feet off the console, scolding himself internally for being seen so casually lounging on the bridge. He’d never allowed any of the other crew that laxness and he rarely was seen being anything but business. Having served together so long it wouldn’t phase Tamm in the slightness.
She crossed her hands behind her back to hide any sort of apprehension, “Sir, the crew would like to know when we’d be underway. Naturally we would never question your orders but...” she trailed off, the thought she’d be formulating seemed to have dissolved as she said them.
“You’ve not gotten any new orders,” Jento quickly finished her sentence getting to his feet. “Yes I know.” He grabbed a datapad which had been sitting discarded in the pilot’s chair. “We’ve been waiting out the storm down there,” he gestured with a sidelong tilt of his head towards the forward viewport. “But I think we can get underway and here is our first objective.” He handed her the datapad, “Ben Lee, I’ve had my eye on him for a while. We need to make our move before that blasted Watcher 2 gets her claws further into him.” Jento turned to look back out the windows. “Set a course for Nar Shaddaa and engage when ready. While we enroute get in touch with the Chiss consulate on Dromund Kaas and transfer it to my office, we’ve got some business to discuss.”
“Aye Colonel,” She answered and as she quickly slid into her pilot’s chair.
“But Colonel!” Tamm exclaimed immediately blinking herself back into composure as she reacted to what he’d just last asked of her.
Jento paused for a moment. He’d known she wouldn’t like this, but at the moment his options were limited and he needed to make this work. He’d been tracking Lee for long while now, as each day progressed he was getting harder and harder to find on the video feeds and if they were going to make a move they needed to do it now.
“I will be in the room every moment, you won’t be in any danger,” he glanced back at the set of clothes he’d put on the table in front of him. “I tried to select the most modest outfit I could find and still fit into the setting.” He held up the rather skimpy halter top which would reveal more of her than he’d ever seen.
She looked at the clothes and then back at him, “Sir, I am your pilot and at your disposal for any sort of operational type function you need of me. But, I am hardly trained to be a field operative. Ask me to grab a blaster and I will gladly put my life in the line of danger, but,” she took the top out of his hand. “But to dress as a common hussy in that pit… I’m not even sure I could…” she broke her own sentence, “the moment I said something it would be obvious I was Imperial and didn’t belong there.”
“Then don’t say anything, just smile.” He rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t slept in well over two days even though it felt like a week. “We only need to get this audio sensor on the bottom of a glass or table or somewhere close by. It really should be quite easy, I’ve already worked out the details with the bar manager.” What he didn’t mention was how very eager the bar owner was to get a good look at her after having seen her picture. “You know we don’t have another female crew member aboard who can do this.” He pursed his lips looking at her, “I won’t order you to, but I’m asking you for the good of the unit. We need this intel, it could very well be just what we need to get him on the crew. He’s entirely too clean to use any of our normal methods. And considering who he’s traveling with,” he nodding his head towards the holo-image which still displayed the angry face of a Sith, “I would like it to be as civil as quiet and non-violent as possible.”
She looked down at the garments again and sighed, “Very well…”
As she walked out of the room he reached over and turned off the display and tapped in a code on the holo-comm. After a few moment the small image of a dark haired Chiss appeared.
“Ah Major… how very good to speak with you…”
Acrid was the first thing that came to mind as he and Lt. Tamm arrived in front of the café. The dingy yellow sign hanging above the doorway removed any doubt that they’d wandered into the wrong section of town. Jento inwardly sighed again guessing that Tamm was probably a lot more annoyed with him now than when they’d left the ship.
Just as he’d been told to expect, a large Trandoshan blocked their way into the establishment looking at the pair with his dark beady eyes.
“The sky is red over the Meltdown,” Jento said, reciting probably the dumbest keyphrase he’d ever been told to use. The Trando nodded and Jento slipped him a credit slip as the pair walked into the bar and went their separate directions.
Leaning against the wall he watched as Tamm shimmied her way over to the bar. Jento smirked slightly as he saw her reaction to finding out she would need to work alongside a pale skinned Rodian, who’d made no effort to hide that he was checking her out while she introduced herself. After a few moments she nodded and was behind the bar and taking drinks to various tables in the dimly lit bar.
Quickly scanning the rest of the bar he spotted one of the corner tables with an empty chair already pushed out. Crossing the dingy café, Jento slipped into the seat and nodded to Tamm as she passed by, ordering a drink.
Sipping on the poor excuse for whiskey he’d been brought Jento quietly commented, “Shouldn’t be long now…”
After nearly a half hour Jento sat up a bit straighter as he recognized Ben Lee making his way into the café. Lee had entered the bar with the same Sith he’d been spotted with on several of the surveillance vids. Once inside the pair separated. The Sith headed for one of the booths and Ben went directly to the bar getting a drink from the bartender before joining his companion at the booth.
‘Now we just need him to order another…’ Jento thought to himself. Ben didn’t order just another, but three more. Tamm had not been in the right place for the first two, which had put Jento a bit on the edge of his seat. As she carried the drink over, the earpiece crackled to life as the surveillance bug attached to the glass activated.
Jento muttered to himself as he listened. The the pair interviewed various mercenaries and bounty hunters, each one declining when shown the objective. By the time they’d reached the eighth Jento was starting to doubt they were going get what they needed today and would have to do this all over again. He was already dreading having to try to talk Tamm into coming back here after seeing the Rodian bartender smack her on the ass. The dagger look she’d Jento shot him the last time she’d brought a drink almost physically stung.
“If you need to find this Vizla woman, then I am your man,” Jento heard the man say over the com and he sat up to try to get a better look at this new person. All of the others had run the moment they heard Vizla’s name, but this one nonchalantly said it himself.
“I am a man of certain talents, and finding people that do not want to be found is one of them.” From their vantage point he seemed to be looking directly at Ben, which wasn’t surprising since the Sith hadn’t said anything at all in quite some time.
Jento leaned forward and got a good look at the man speaking. He looked a little rough, which explained why the two had started to question whether he was a beggar looking for handouts. Jento wasn’t so easily fooled, something about this fellow struck him as odd and he wasn’t quite ready to write him off just yet. Leaning back he focused again on what they were saying.
“Just wait. I can acquire everything you need to know, and possibly more, in twenty-four hours,” the standing man boldly proclaimed and Jento looked at the other two to see their reaction. Quite the turn of events seeing as how ever other hunter had promptly fled.
“Do I still have your attention?” The man asked after a few moments of silence from the other two.
“That is quite the promise.” The hooded Sith asked, finally speaking. “I trust that you can assure us of your success.”
“I know better than to deliberately cross a Sith. Your robes and your sense of presence give it away. I saw a lot of you guys when I served in the Imperial navy.” Now he had Jento’s full attention. A former Imperial down on his luck in the middle of Nar Shaddaa, ‘Perfect’ Jento thought to himself as he listened. The stood man continued, “Always gave me the chills, but you learn how to ignore such trivialities.”
“And me?” Ben Lee asked looking at the man.
“As for you, I have to assume you are in some branch of the military. Your posture is too practiced, and I don't know too many civilians who would willingly associate with the followers of his dogma. No offense intended.” Jento smirked, listening.
There was a long pause; the seated two seemed to be looking at each other. Jento wasn’t sure if it was in shock or if they were waiting for one or the other to be the first to say something out loud. The would-be hunter broke the silence.
“What I can promise is accurate information in regards to the location of your ‘person of interest’. That is how you put it, right? Within twenty-four hours. You simply will not find a better deal within these walls. You can keep searching for a tracker if you want, but I have never known patience to be among the virtues of his ideology.”
‘Well played,’ Jento thought to himself as he silently watched the seated two.
“Information has its price.” The hooded Sith finally replied. “We must first know yours.”
“Well, that's the catch isn't it? Money is easy, but it rarely lasts, so what I want is a favor. I am sure you have connections within the military, specifically personnel files. I want you to slice into the database and ‘adjust’ something... You see, due to a severe misunderstanding, I was discharged from the Imperial Navy, and all I want is a clean record. Modify my personnel file so that I served my term and left without incident. Do that for me, and I am all yours.”
“Gotcha,” Jento quietly said and looked back down at the datapad he’d been flitting with as he’d been listening. Displayed on the dimly lit screen was the military file and attached reports. The name at the top of the file read: Kalec Falx. Jento quickly scanned through the attached report which had been filed explaining the man’s discharge and a rather lengthy attached letter from what seemed to be a highly disgruntled Captain from his last posting.
Jento glanced back up just as Ben said, “You’ve got a deal,” and smiled at Kalec who handed him what looked like a datachip.
“That should be everything you need to satisfy your end of the arrangement. Then it looks like I will meet you back here in twenty-four hours,” Kalec said sounding rather proud of himself.
“No... You have twenty-three hours, fifty-one minutes, twenty-seven seconds, and the time is still counting. It started the moment you sat down,” the hooded Sith said and pointed to the door which Kalec quickly made use of. The other two left the bar without much else being said.
Pressing his finger to his earpiece Jento spoke, “Tamm, we’ve got what we came here for. You can make your discreet exit back to the ship. I’m forwarding a profile, I need you to setup a tracker on him and find every morsel of information that can be found on the holonet and Imperial databases. Track where he goes so we can keep a tab on Lee and this Sith”
Jento was given answered by what sounded like a distinct huff and he looked up to see Tamm smacking the Rodian directly across the face and storming out of the café. ‘Well… I suppose that is discreet, of sorts.’ He chuckled and picked back up his drink finishing it off.
More than a month passed since they left Nar Shaddaa, the plan had gone off without a hitch. The trouble with successful plans was they were usually followed by long periods of nothing else, without the need for cleanup or the occasional assassination. Lacking the old command structure he’d grown used to, Jento found himself checking in with Imperial Intelligence more often then he’d like and more often than he should have been. It was after all just a big cover, a double cover in fact, since he’d begun playing the role of the dutiful Imperial officer. The Keeper hadn’t sent him out here, in fact he doubted he had any idea where he was or even cared at this point. The feeling was mutual.
One thing Jento had always been good at was networking. It was almost an art form, one which he been practicing since his early days at the Sith Academy. Much like then, these days without Darth Jadus around to stand as the centerpiece of power for all his contacts within the Sith infrastructure, he had to start back from the ground up. Like a house made of pazaak cards, it had to be assembled very carefully without tipping the scale one way or the other or the whole thing would fall in on itself.
He had some natural and unfortunately genetic obstacles. One that hadn’t been any problem while Jadus had been on scene was Moff Svarthos, Jento’s father. Two children entering the Sith Academy had propelled the man’s career much quicker than he could have ever hoped. Flitting from one post to another, each with a bump in rank, he finally found himself with a plush posting aboard an Outer Rim spacedock that monitored one of the major trading routes in and out of the Empire. The simple power game always rode on the influence from the Sith part of society and Moff Svarthos had long been capitalizing on the rank and influence of the most obvious son, Scelestus. It had been decades now since he and Jento had spoken, making it a navigational hazard to be avoided while moving through Imperial space. The Moff didn’t hate Jento, but the influence of a mere Colonel wasn’t something that could help his career. Had he known the full story no doubt he and the elder twin would have been inseparable. But thus… the double cover.
The flashing light on the com panel had been flickering for about a half hour now. Jento just stood idly looking at it. It was from the Citadel, no doubt a minion of someone who’d seized control of the empty seat on the Dark Council. Jento had been seeding the council for months now and they had finally taken the bait, interested in opening a dialog. He’d started to grow used to this directionless wandering they’d been doing for the past several months, but not in any sort of positive way. He hated it. Potentially this next call could either restart the great engine of power or snuff it out and he’d be absorbed into some division or worse off be intercepted and never heard from again. He’d been putting on a good face for his crew and those he interacted with but the dead-ended nature his life-path had taken as of late was starting to eat at his insides. He pressed the button on the com panel, time to make a change.
The crew scurried into corridors or adjacent rooms as the lights began to dim and the holoprojector flickered to life. Within a few moments the image stabilized displaying a gaunt man, bald, with dark circles under his eyes. He seemed to wear a blank expression as he stared at Jento, his dull look accentuated by the stereotypical dark veins zigzagging his face, common to almost all users of the dark side of the Force.
Jento crossed his arms behind his back addressing the holoimage, “This is…” he was abruptly cut off.
“Yes I know exactly who you are, Colonel Jento Svarthos.” The man licked what Jento could only guess were dry and leathery lips by the look of them as he continued, “Although unlike any other officer I’ve looked into, your history is somewhat, mysterious and incomplete. There is, however, a great deal of detail and input from Darth Jadus, yes very interesting indeed.” The man just kept staring at him almost as if he was blind physically.
Jento wasn’t sure if he liked the way this was starting, but it was at least something, and that’s a hell of a lot more than they’d had lately. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, my Lord,” Jento threw in the customary address appropriate when addressing any Sith if their rank was unknown. He hoped they weren’t about to start a little back and forth game some of the lesser Sith were so fond of when they felt they were doing the lesser person a favor by talking to them.
“All in good time, Colonel,” the man said donning a sickly looking grin.
The game was now afoot; Jento stifled a groan remaining silent.
Seeming disappointed that Jento hadn’t taken the bait to comment further, the Sith broke the artificial pause and began again, “As you are most likely aware, there has been a rush to fill the empty spot on the dark council, the very seat that according to these records you have been reporting to. No doubt that explains why you have been hanging around out there around that planet,” the man pointed to the left as if to indicate there was a starmap.
“I’ve been keeping busy,” Jento replied with a slight shrugging motion. “Without any further direction we have been proceeding with the original plan. I’m sure that is documented somewhere.” Jento smirked slightly verbally tossing the ball back into the Sith’s court.
The man frowned briefly but didn’t seem phased, “I am sure my master is fully aware of whatever plans you have been assigned to, I however am not made privy to that, nor do I really care.” It was obvious that he was indeed perturbed.
Jento, growing tired of this conversation, decided to push things a bit further, “Well then, now that that bit of business is settled, I assume this was not just a friendly social call. If you are to be a contact then be so good as to share your name. If not, please put me on the line with the person I should be speaking with. I am rather busy despite what your reports might say of me ‘hanging around’ this planet.”
That sickly grin faded quickly, the man’s nostrils flaring and his expression darkening, “You will remember your place little Colonel. You are speaking to a lord of the Sith and...”
Jento interrupted him, “So, not quite so informed after all. You have no idea at all who I am or why I’m out here. Are you even in any way connected to someone on the council or are you just fishing around for information?” Jento pointed a finger at the screen, “Now either identify yourself and we can continue this lovely little chat or we can end this call right now and I’ll figure out on my own. And I’ll be sure to inform whoever it is you work for just how ineffective you really are.”
The Sith seemed physically taken aback, no doubt not used to be spoken to this way by anyone wearing an Imperial uniform. He started to speak several times, each time pausing as if to rethink what he planned to say. Finally his words sputtered to life, “My name is Lord Attron.”
Jento smiled crossing his hands in front of him, “Lord Attron, now see that wasn’t so hard. Now we can be pleasant and discuss business, assuming you have business to discuss. Please spare me any further threats or none-sense babbling, I have heard it all before.” Jento recrossed his hands behind his back, “How may we serve the dark council?”
Chapter 10: Call of the Watcher
“The Dark Council?!” Scelestus questioned slamming his fist onto the table. “What in bloody hell do you think you are going to do? Just waltz into the chambers on Korriban and have a friendly chat?” He started to pace, “You abandoned every right you had as a Sith long ago.. brother,” he spat that last word before continuing, “They will never listen to anything you have to say. All those little strings you pulled to get me here will be mean nothing to the council.”
“You know nothing of me, Scelestus, nothing!” Jento bolted up from his chair, his normal cool and collected persona vanishing. As he turned, the two ensigns who’d prepared to take notes from this meeting made a quick exit. He strode across the room pointing his finger into Scelestus’ armored chest, “Never forget: if it hadn’t been for me, dear brother, you’d be right down there squandering your life away teaching useless hopefuls, never reaching any of your potential.” He thumbed his own chest, “I am the one who made the sacrifice and answered the call. I am the one who pulled you out of the shithole of a life you’d be living.”
Scelestus looked as if he were about to respond in anger but Jento quickly cut him off. “No, don’t say it... 'you were living the life of glory, of honor, and tradition' there on Korriban. Please… what great Lords in history do you remember who found their glory at the Academy?” Jento paused, “That’s right! Not a one! Here is where the glory is; this is where we make our stake on the galaxy.”
Jento pointed at the display screen showing the dull red planet below them, “The Council plays little power games pitting one against the other, little alliances, stabs in the back. They are paranoid, they always have been. Scared of each other, scared of the Emperor, hell scared of the Empire… always looking over their shoulder fearing a saber is about to be thrust into their back. I am going to go right in there, reach out my hand and take hold of that paranoia, then watch as each and every one of them will hand me a tiny little sliver of their power, just to save face… that’s all I need: one little piece from every one of them.”
Scelestus rolled his eyes at the last statement, “Right… so you, the Colonel, will just demand influence from the most powerful Sith in the galaxy.”
“I’m not going to demand anything, I will offer something. I will offer to watch.” Jento turned and picked up and held a helmet sitting on a rear table. The helmet’s face-shield was silver, mirrored, and would completely obscure whomever might be within. "After all, that is what a Watcher does. If a Watcher offered to find threats to the Councilors' power from within the Empire… paranoid Lords might find that irresistible while the more ambitious members would be powerless to object. A Watcher, who instead of resisting the Dark Council, steps forward and offers his services…”
Scelestus started to retort, but the idea had potential... potential both to succeed greatly or to permanently remove his greatest enemy once and for all. Knowing Jento, though, he’d pull it off. “I hate you,” he spat and stormed out of the room.