As a rule, I don't utilise torture much. Nor do I make a habit of rounding up prisoners to be shot. Not because it is 'unethical'. An action is 'good' if it achieves the desired end cleanly and efficiently. Moralising about it is self-deception. However, there are more efficient ways. Living bodies and minds can be recycled via processing. It has the beneficial side-effect of giving me their knowledge, without having to rely on interrogators who might enjoy their craft too much and focus on inflicting pain for the sheer enjoyment of it. Far, far more effective to simply process captives to find out what they know. It does, however, have its place in certain instances, as is the case now.

I lead the trainees down a sterile corridor. For some absurd reason, they have started calling themselves the Acolytes of the Revered Shadow. Stupid name. One of my siblings must have come up with it. Thalia probably. She is a bad influence.
"Where are we going, ma'am?" Nakara asks curiously. "I've never been down here before."
"Is this where you turn people into robots?" There is a note of suspicion in Adara's tone.
"Just you today," Dram tells her, causing her to glare at him.

"Enough," I state flatly. "The processing centre is not on this level, and none of you are going to be processed. This moment is all about you."
"What do you want us to do?" Nakara speaks.
I stop my stride as we reach a heavy blast door, and turn to face her. "To make a choice." The biometric scanner scans my eye and the door opens with a hiss. Inside there is a clean, almost sterile room. There are tables with various implements of torture and violence, along with cells.

"What the hell...," Rufus starts, then stops. I can feel him stretch out with his senses. His eyes narrow. "I know that presence."
"So do I," Adara says darkly.
"Step forward. Look at the figures behind the force fields," I order them. "Then take a moment to think. And make your choice."

One by one they do. Varying emanates from them - anger, hatred, smugness, satisfaction, shock. Often more than one. Iroa, a Cathar who used to be a loyalist of the Empire, is the first to speak. His eyes show his hatred. "We can do with them as we like?"
I nod curtly. "Yes." I glance at Nakara and beckon to her. "You first."
"Yes, ma'am."
I lower the force field and we enter. "Tell me the prisoner's name and how he wronged you." I already know his offence, of course. But I want to hear Nakara say it.
"Saren Anoleis. My instructor at the Sith Academy. He beat and starved me."
"What do you have to say for yourself, Saren?"

Like all other prisoners, the instructor has been shackled. A collar around his throat keeps him from accessing the Force. He has been stripped of all power. There is a bizarre looking mark on his forehead. I assume it has some significance in his atavistic cult. "I put you through the same training as every other Acolyte. The strong rule, the weak perish. By running from the field of battle, you've already proved you don't have the strength of a true Sith." He looks at me. "Traitor, the Sith will not let you get away with this. I have powerful..."

"I have contributed more to the defence your archaic Empire than most Sith Lords. As far as anyone knows, you died at Ziost. Make your choice, Nakara."
She looks at him intently. I say nothing, giving her space. "You are not Sith, Master. You wear the trappings of a Sith, you fight like a Sith, but this can be imitated. A Sith breaks their chains. But what you drilled into our skulls was to be mindless drones of an apathic emperor," she says coldly.

"But you were useful for one thing: awakening me to the Force, and making me realise I want to forge my own destiny." She turns to me. "I'm moved on from him, but he may still know things that can be useful to us. Process him."
Good choice. "And so it shall be."
"You weakling," he hisses. "I will not endure the ignity of..." An HRD hauls him up and drags him away. Within the hour, he will have been purged of organic weakness.
Nakara and I leave the cell. "Dram, you next."
"Gladly," he says with a smirk. I notice the crowbar in the Zabrak's hands, but say nothing.

The cell contains a Twi'lek about Dram's age. He is looking worse for wear and restrained, but has not been hurt unduly. I gather that is about to change. "Dram, thought the Sith did you in. Serving robots now, huh?"
"I survived and became stronger," the Zabrak declares boastfully. "Shame for you."
"You're the same, just with a different boss."
"Tell me the prisoner's name and how she wronged you."
"Alask. We both led street gangs on Commenor. Then he betrayed me and left me for dead." He lifts the crowbar, testing its weight.
"Hey, we can work this out," Alask pleads pathetically. "It was just business. Nothin' personal. We can..."
"No one screws with me," he declares. Then he hits the Twi'lek's lekku with a crowbar. Again and again.

No emotion crosses my face as I watch Dram vent his anger until the Twi'lek's face is a mess and he's stopped breathing. "Are you finished?" I ask at long last.
Dram takes a breath, smiling. "Yeah, I am." He shoots the dead prisoner a contemptuous glance. "See you in hell, Alask."
"You did not let sentiment hold you back. Good. But that was excessive."
"He had it coming."
"Let your emotions rule you, and they'll become a chain around your neck. Be the predator, not a beast. Rufius, you're next."

The next prisoner is a woman. She's still wearing her grey uniform, though it looks a good deal less pristine now. There are some bruises on her face. "Tell me the prisoner's name and how she wronged you," I state.
"Livia Waegner, she forced me to join the Sith."
There is no recognition in her eyes. "Who are you? I don't remember any of that."
He gets in her face and grabs the back of her head, forcing her head forward until they are nose to nose. She struggles in his grip.

"My name is Rufius Marrow. I'm from Bastion. My family tried to protect me from the Sith. They wanted better for me than to be their slave. But you tracked me down and forced me to join. You threatened my parents with execution!" She struggles, but he wraps his hand around her throat. "Do you remember now?"

She gasps for air, choking. "I...I remember. It was a...job. I had a...quota to fulfil. I didn't make the rules..."
"You just follow orders," he finishes. "Just a quota? I went through hell at your blasted academy. And for what? The Imperials sacked the planet. My family died, while I was sent off to fight a pointless battle!"
"I'm...sorry for your loss. But it's not my fault. I didn't kill them..."

He lets go of her throat and punches her in the face. "I could do all manners of things with you. But none of them will bring my family back," he looks at me. "Put her to work in the mines or something. Give her all the dirt jobs no one wants to do and crappy food, but don't hurt her."
"A curious choice."
"It's mine," he says firmly, not wavering.

"Indeed. Make sure mercy doesn't become your chain. Take her away." He will bear watching. "Adara, you're next."
The Twi'lek girl walks with purpose when we enter the next cell. The prisoner is a woman in the uniform of a Sith security officer. Adara is composed, but I can see the wrath bubbling beneath the surface. Her fury is cold. "Tell me the prisoner's name and how she wronged you."
"Andressa Yularen. She killed my family," she says coldly.
"They interfered with your Sith training, didn't they?" I ask.
"Yes." She focuses her gaze on the prisoner. "Well, any last words?"
"Go ahead, do what you have to." No begging, no last minute attempt to defend herself, no dumb pomposity. The prisoner does not waver. At least she preserves her dignity, unlike some.
"Look me in the eye. The face of a Varn is the last thing you'll ever see." The Twi'lek pulls out her dagger and slices the captive's throat without further ado. She severes the carotid arteries in one go. Good girl. Clean, efficient and quick.
She stares at the corpse for a moment. "Leave one nexu cub alive and the sheep are never safe." Then she looks at up. "I'm done."
"You did well. Iroa, you're next." And so the last of the Acolytes join me. I can feel the hatred roilling off the Cathar as I guide him into the cell.

"How the tables have turned," he hisses when he enters, looking upon the prisoner with yellow eyes filled with violent intent. "I believe the last time we met you called me sub-sentient trash."
Somehow, the prisoner still manages to look pompous despite being in restraints. "You savages never learned to respect your betters." He looks at me and his tone changes abruptly. "I don't know who you are, Miss, but if you send this beast away, I'm sure we can work something out."
Pathetic and disgusting. "You are in position to make demands," I inform him frostily. "Tell me the prisoner's name and how he wronged you."
"Andronikos Thales," he snarls. "He made my life a living hell. Beat me, made me do the crap jobs, extorted me."
"I was educating you. Teaching you how to conduct yourself as a civilised being."
Iroa unsheaths his claws. His fangs are bared. "I promised to show you a beast. And I'm a man of my word."
"You're human, like me," the prisoners sputters. "You can't let that thing butcher me. At least give me a decent death at a human's hand..."
"Idiot." I will never understand human supremacism or other forms of organic xenophobia. They are the mark of ignorance.
And so Iroa kills him. Rather brutally. His claws are bloody. "Messy, but it got the job done," I remark. "Are you satisfied?"
"Yes. But I wonder what your motivations were."
"In order to move forward, you must face the past. He was part of that." A droid removes the corpse. It will join the others. There is no mind to harvest, but a dead body can still be recycled.

And so we leave the cell. What happened to the prisoners is irrelevant except in so far as it exposes the psychology of the acolytes. More practical than some silly written test. The apprentices have all assembled outside. "You passed sentence on those who wronged you," I address them. "You made a choice. Remember this: it's not just the action you take that's important. It's how you take it. Excessive violence has its place. But not when a surgical, precise strike is needed - and vice versa. When you take a life, do so with a clear head. Not because life has inherent value, but because a corpse is of no use to anything except a molecular furnace. And when you strike, do not gloat, do not let feelings of mercy chain you or last minute pleading hold you back, commit the act and move on. Dismissed."