((Continuation of the story started here and continued here and here. Told from Kyriaki's point of view))

“It seems that some of the xenos – just a small, but dangerous minority – have taken my unending generosity for granted. Shameful,” Eisen declares with no small amount of camp. “They are lagging behind their quotas. This cannot stand.”
“We need that food,” Marshal Nikator affirms. “Especially for our brave troops, who risk their lives on the front every day while the xenos are safe. They need all Hope Falls can deliver.”
“As does Adlerberg,” Thrul chimes in. “The xenos are to work for us, not laze around. Insofar as they are not productive, they may die.”
“Subversion,” Lachesis hisses. “Word of the...unfortunate incident at Castle Maysaf has spread. It makes the lesser beings uppity. I’ve also received reports about black market dealings. The administrators are not up for the task of maintaining order. It’s time to bring down the iron gauntlet. I would undertake this task, my Leader.”

“You will inspect Hope Falls and see to it that the necessary measures are carried out,” Eisen speaks.
“It will be my pleasure, my Leader Leave it all to...”
“And young Kyriaki will accompany you,” he interrupts her before she can continue ingratiating herself.
I know what inspection means. Purges, mass graves, death. I do not want to go there. I do not want to...be the one to sully my hands more than they are already sullied? It does not matter. “I am honoured by the trust placed in me, my Leader.” The lies come quickly.

“Yes, of course, I will take the child along.” Lachesis looks less than pleased. “She can be my scribe and assist with my inspection.”
“Young Kyriaki will obey your orders and see to it that any measures you deem necessary are carried out. And she will report to me separately.”
“My Leader, with all respect, I...”
“My dear Lachesis, I do not have the slightest doubt in your skill or commitment to our noble cause. But how will our youth learn if we do not give them a small measure of responsibility? I have the fullest confidence in both of you.” Eisen is enjoying this too much for my liking.
Is he trying to get me killed? “I am aware that I have few deeds to my name and have little experience outside of the academy. I look forward to working under and learning from you, my Lord.”
If looks could kill, there would probably be little left of me. “I’m confident you’ll...prove useful.” She sounds like she would have her teeth pulled without anaesthetic. “Do not expect me to coddle you, girl. Among the Disciples, there is no room for weakness. Our way is one of blood and iron.”
“I would not have it any other way, Lord.”

Meanwhile, Thrul casually digs into his cake before washing it down with some wine. He wipes his mouth with a handkerchief. “Most of the xenos are objectively inferiors. But amidst the filth, you’ll find a few with some good human blood in their veins. Do keep an eye open for them. Some may be salvageable if we remove them from the muck and teach them how to behave,” Thrul speaks, as if he was totally indifferent to the tension in the room. Perhaps he just enjoys riling Lachesis up. “This wine is excellent.”

“I make no promises.” Her tone has grown even colder. “Scientific studies show that their xenos nature will win out over the part of their blood that is human.”
“Why thank you, Thrul. It’s from my personal wine gardens,” Eisen grins broadly. He turns his gaze to Lachesis and me. “I look forward to your report.”
“I have a small request. I have a Twi’lek in my service. She serves me as a xenos should. I would take her with me.”
“What use could one of the whores be?”
The smile does reach my eyes. “Where we are going, there will be many of those, won’t there? As my Lord has expressed so clearly and concisely, these xenos are devious and inscrutable. And the Twi’leks are the worst. I may need to the mind of one to understand the mind of another.” I Because I need someone I can speak – relatively – openly with.
“If you think your powers are not advanced enough to compel them to give you whatever information you need...then take the xenos. But you’ll be responsible for its behaviour.”
“Well, then everything is decided,” Eisen claps his large paws. “I look forward to your report. For now, do dig in. You are authorised to make examples, but remember one thing: do not waste economic assets. We can raise the dead, but they make for poor workers.”

My stomach churns. Suddenly, I do have much of an appetite. The others are happily digging in. I take my glass in hand and gulp a good portion it down in one go. Thrul is right about one thing: the wine is very good. But I cannot appreciate the taste. Matters drag on for a while. We turn from serious issues to discussing complete and utter banalities. Apparently Lord Skaer has presented new building plans to the Supreme Leader. Sophiahall needs expansion because of course it does. I smile, nod and say the right platitudes – I hope. Finally, I am given a reason to excuse myself when the slaves return and inform me they have found a replacement for my soiled outfit.

I am led to one of the many rooms of the mansion. The Duros has laid out three outfits on a couch. “Are they to your liking, my lady?” the feline Miraj – what is her species anyway? She looks like a cat that walks upright and can talk. I examine them one by one. “Too extravagant. I am not attending a ball, and even if, I would not wear that,” I remark, then look at the next. “Too revealing.” Some Acolytes, being too weak in mind and spirit to amount to anything on the basis of merit, tried to advance themselves by flaunting their bodies and whoring themselves out to their instructors. Perhaps the willingness to debase oneself for advancement is a merit in itself. I would not know. “This will do.” Simple, elegant, and it does not get in my way.

“I believe lady will look marvellous in it,” the feline nods.
“Do you know anything about Hope Falls?” I ask out of nowhere.
“It is...” the Duros is about to begin, then Miraj shoots him a dark look and he shuts up.
“The Supreme Leader is a generous man to give a city to us after the sins we committed against mankind. The people are content. They have work; they have land; they have guidance...”
I wave my hand. My eyes home in on the Duros. “You’re from Hope Falls.” He nods mutely. Fear engulfs him. Then I focus on the feline. “You’re both from there. And you don’t want to go back.”
“I serve at the Master’s pleasure. He has taken me into his household, treated me kindly, given me a purpose and gainful employment. Now I teach his indentured assets, as he taught me.”
“Evasion is also an answer. You were plucked from it, and now you really do not want to go back,” I shrug. “You’re dismissed. When I leave, pick up my outfit and clean it.” I look straight at the Duros. “Do it by hand. I don’t want it to inadvertently shrink. I’m quite fond of it, you see. Do it well, and I will put in a good word for you.”
“T-thank you. L-lady is m-most kind...”

“There is nothing kind about me.” Finally, I am alone. Quickly, I discard my soiled dress and slip into the black outfit the slaves provided me. Once that is done, I examine myself in the large mirror. I remove the black glove from my cybernetic hand and flex it. The servos hum. I never liked this ugly, metal thing. As part of our training, an Acolyte must shed their right hand, just as The Vader lost his when he battled Tyranus. We close the circle by passing through the same crucible of blood and fire as the Sith’ari and becoming stronger for it. That is the party line. Some Acolytes take it a step further by shedding more body parts to become closer to Him.

Like with everything the Disciples preach, it is about control. They torment us, we torment those beneath us. Once, a group of prisoners was told they would be free if they could escape through the forest. The acolytes were ordered to shoot them. We were graded on the basis of how many kills we’d scored and ordered to bring back a body part as proof. I fired. I am not a martyr. I am not a hero. There are no heroes here. But I am a survivor. What do I want? To survive, and not to lose myself. The first goal is easier to accomplish than the second. The tattoo on my left forearm itches.

When I return, the little session is coming to an end. Eisen is in the middle of regaling everyone with an old war story, when he breaks it off and smiles at me. “Ah, an apt choice, my dear! As much as I hate to part with your company, I trust you two can travel to Hope Falls with all due haste?” For his part, Thrul looks momentarily disappointed. I wager it is because of the lack of skin.
“That will not be a problem, my Leader,” Lachesis assures him and looks at me. A slave slips a cloak onto Lachesis' shoulders. It bears the sigil of a dragon. “Your vehicle will be able to keep up? We have a long trip ahead of us and I cannot room in mine, especially not for a xenos.”

“I’ll keep up.” Looking at Eisen, I bow my head slightly and add: “I thank you for the invitation and this assignment, my Leader. May the Force serve you well.”
“And you, my dear. Now go, my loyal servants and make the fatherland proud. Do be on your guard though.” Against rebels, or other Disciples, I wonder? Regardless, we salute him and he returns the gesture lazily. Then we are off. Outside, a veritable fleet of vehicles awaits us. I can see the merit of having some escort vehicles, but this looks like an awful lot. A very tempting target.

“This is our convoy? Do we need that many, Lord?” I ask.
“Of course we do, girl,” Lachesis declares, like she is lecturing a child. “We cannot let the servants think we are paupers, can we? Bandits abound in the wilds and though the Dominion is preoccupied with those anarchists, they are not shy about launching air raids.”
“I thought our skies were clear and our troops marching from victory to victory over the usurpers.” I probably should not have said that – certainly not in this tone. I could not help myself.

The air feels lot colder between us. I have made a mistake. Her voice is icy and menacing. My breathing feels oppressively heavy and laboured. It is like an iron chain has been wrapped around my heart. I feel dizzy and out of breath. “Girl, if you think me foolish enough to indulge your innocent doe act, you are truly delusional. So let me explain to you in a few words how the world works. Your place is to obey, that is all. Know that you are far from the first neophyte the Leader took a passing fancy to. And you will not be the last. You have no name, no lineage – just cursed genes. If I were you, I’d think of your future for when his interest in you wanes. Maybe Thrul will adopt you as a pet, though I would pity anyone who suffers such a fate. Or the Department of Racial Health will call you in for an interview.”

I sway and my legs threaten to buckle. It is futile to lash out. Her power dwarfs mine by far. All I can do is will my body not to collapse on me. “I...understand...my Lord.”
“Never forget.” She takes off, and I am left panting. My heart thumps inside my chest. At least blood is reaching my brain again. Breathe in, breathe out. There will come a time when her smug superiority turns to ash in her mouth – but not today.
Shakka is waiting inside the groundcar. Wordlessly, she opens the door and I climb in. I take a deep breath. “Follow the convoy. We need to talk.”