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

“Do you want your inhaler, Master?” Shakka asks. The estate is slowly disappearing behind us. Ahead of us lie the forests and further away the massive highways the great Leader supposedly built and which almost no Humanist Party Comrades will ever get to drive on. Most of the convoy is ahead of us, but two groundcars filled with guards drive behind me.
“You do not look good, Master.” Is that concern? Or is the Twi'lek just testing to see whether I’m vulnerable?
“Focus on the road, slave.” End of discussion. “Keep up with the convoy.”
“Very well, Master.” Yes, she is annoyed. It cannot be helped. The hierarchy is clear. “Where are we going?”
“Hope Falls.”
There is that tell-tale pause. “Understood, Master.”
“What do you know about it? Tell me the truth.”
“Which truth would you like to hear, Master?”
“The one the Propaganda Ministry will not tell me.”
“I’ve never been there...but I know people who were. Who got out. Not that I know where they are now. It’s old history.” Briefly, she glances to me, giving me a meaningful look before her eyes return to what’s in front of her.
“I won’t make you divulge their names.” It is not a lie. It feels strange. Being honest, that is. “Continue.”

“A few years ago, after the rapture, a man called Lysenko came to Hope Falls. He was one of your Vaderite bigshots. Head of science, whatever. Anyway, being a ‘superman’ he knew better than everyone and decided he could use his mystical mumbo jumbo to create super-crops. What happened? The food was tainted. Humans were poisoned, and we were blamed for it. The locals lost entire harvests, so there was famine.”

“I never heard of that.” I frown slightly. The story goes that Lysenko died when a slave sabotaged his aircraft. Now it looks awfully like the government quietly got rid of an embarrassment. “Lysenko’s treatise on alchemy was required reading at the academy.”
“Yeah, well, maybe he’s good at making monsters, but he doesn’t know anything about crops, Master. But I guess it’s not politic to admit that a Vaderite did wrong.”
“Never use the term Vaderite in the presence of a Vaderite,” I chide her. The Disciples really do not like the word. They consider it disrespectful to the Chosen of the Great Sith’ari. They are good at finding things they deem disrespectful. “Hope Falls is behind on its quotas. Lachesis has been sent to...motivate its inhabitants.”
“With whips and graves. And you are supposed to help her, Master.” It is a statement of fact, not a question.
“It is what it is. What do you expect? She is a member of the Dark Council – who hates me simply for not having the right bloodline. The order comes straight from Leader Eisen.”
“I expect nothing, Master. You are my owner and I am your property. That’s why you saved me. My place is to obey.”

Your place is to obey, that is all. Lachesis’ words echo inside my head. I shudder involuntarily. This is silly. I am doing what I must to stay alive. It is also in Shakka’s interest. If it were not for me, she would be dead or in a camp. I do not even know these people. And they are xenos. None of this matters to me. None of this should matter to me. One day caring is going to get me killed, and yet it is the one thing that separates me from them.

“I, um, saw what happened with the Darth woman. I understand it must be difficult being inside this machine given your...situation, Master,” she says gently. What’s her angle? What secrets does this blue-skinned creature hide? Her face is a mask and her eyes are on the road. It is truly a sorry state of affairs that the being I am the most honest with – which is not saying much - is my Twi’lek slave.

“And it is within your interests that may situation remains as good as possible. Otherwise you would suffer.” Shakka gets the message and falls silent. There is that look in her eyes. What does it say? I already suffer. Those scars on her neck were not inflicted by me, but I wear the same uniform as those who did, and I have kept the collar on. She will have to accept it. Her kind is fated to be someone’s property regardless. She is best off as mine.

The trip is long. Though I fight to remain awake, I feel myself dozing off. Sleep is neither pleasant nor peaceful. Achilles, all golden mane and cruel green eyes, visits me in my dreams. He was the pathetic boy-king who thought himself a dragon, trying desperately to be the butcher his father the Supreme Leader was. The one Firemane killed when Maysaf was turned to dust. He stands before me in his ridiculously gaudy alchemised, golden armour. “Leave her face, I do not wish to look upon ugliness in my palace,” he snarls just before my gown is ripped and his armoured goon rains down blows. I scream, and he laughs.
Then we are standing before a dozen heads on empty spikes. They belong to so-called traitors, civilians who protested against his cruelty, and a servant who showed me kindness. “How long do I have to look?” the apparition of me ask, struggling to remain calm.
“As long as it pleases me,” he declares. “After I have crushed that degenerate fop Eisen and the mongrels of the Dominion, I will reckon with the outsiders. The cowards will pay for father’s murder. It is said that some Force clones have a bond that allows them to feel each others’ pain light years away.” He grabs my arm roughly enough to bruise.

“Maybe I will test this theory. Then when your template returns, I will kill her. And give you her head as a present.”
Maybe I have gone mad. Or my template’s fire has risen in me. I look him in the eye, and say: “Or maybe she’ll give me yours.”
For just a moment, he is frozen. Then his fist rams into my face. I spit blood. “Never mock your Supreme Leader, mongrel. Ramon, educate her.” I am forced down, and the whip strikes. In the end, Elpsis did not present me his head. His own foolishness undid him when Eisen’s men stormed the gates.

“Of course you’ll be fighting in the vanguard. How foolish of me to think otherwise. They say my template destroyed the Grand Inquisitor herself, and she is only a mongrel clone. You are the Sith’ari incarnate.” A howitzer blew him to bits, as Eisen tells me. Maybe she can give me Lachesis’ head. Or I will present it to her. A foolish thought. I have only myself.

My eyes shoot open. We are still on the road, but the convoy has slowed down. Vehicles are coming to a halt Then I hear shouts from afar. “Stop,” I order.
“We’re too exposed out here,” Shakka cautions me quietly. I find myself agreeing. But she obeys as she should.

Upon disembarking, I see that Lachesis has left her luxury limousine and is standing at the side of the road. “What is the meaning of this?” she thunders at a Weequay troop transport driver.
“The engines have broken down, I think, my Lord,” he speaks hastily.
“You think or you know, xenos?” a black-clad goon sneers at him, baton in hand. Electricity crackles around it. “This groundcar was constructed by human engineers. Maybe you’re a saboteur...”
“No...I can fix it, sir. I just need...”
“I would think a saboteur would be less inept. We’ll continue onward,” Lachesis cuts him off with a wave of her hand. She looks at the guard. “You, make sure he does his duty. If not, punish him.”
“It’s made by Destiny Engineering, isn’t it?” I speak softly. “I’ve heard rumours about their methods being...faulty. Criminal leeches.”

Lachesis scowls at me. “I will ask you for your insights when I deem them useful,” she says through gritted teeth.” But then we both feel the palpable shift in the Force. Premonition screams inside my mind. Quickly, I hasten back to the groundcar even as Lachesis gets back to hers and barks commands.
Opening the door myself, I get back in the passenger’s seat. “Drive. Fast. Run them over if you have to,” I order, slamming the door shut. She kicks the engines into gear. Then we hear the roar of aircraft. Someone yells, “It’s the Dominion!” Even as vehicles try to clear the road, flak tanks level their heavy guns at the sky. The whirlwind of rounds comes too late.

Our groundcar has not gotten even remotely far enough when the enemy aircraft shoot past the convoy, unleashing cannon fire and missiles. Shakka races as fast as she can, but the convoy is too large and the road too crammed for her to manoeuvre much. Then there is a noise like a thunderclap. No, it is closer to a quake. The ground trembles. My skull hits something hard. Pain spreads through my body.

Wake up, Kyriaki. There is blood and my head is spinning. I push through my haze, and realise the transport has been overturned. A window is broken, and I can feel a shard digging into my flesh. I taste copper on my tongue. Another vehicle has apparently crashed into our transport. Thick smoke makes me cough so violently that it hurts in my chest. “Slave...Shakka.” The Twi’lek does not respond. Her head had been slammed against the steering wheel. Quickly, I cut myself loose and do the same for her. Fires are spreading around the groundcar. I hear the aircraft diving down from the sky for another strafing run.

Shakka is coming with me. The door will not open. Smoke invades my lungs as I gather the Force inside me and force it open. Shakka is not heavy or even that tall, but I am not strong. Carrying her out is a struggle. Rounds hammer the road. Fire licks at my robes, seeking purchase on my body. Fabric burns, but fire cannot hurt me.
The Force roars in my mind and I bolt, willing the ethereal energies to give my weak body the strength. My groundcar goes up in flames, being ripped apart by the explosion. The force of the shockwave slams me into the ground, with Shakka in tow. But I’m alive – bruised and battered. I look up to the sky and see the aircraft are turning away. Many vehicles have been ripped apart or ignited. I look to Shakka, still unconscious on the ground. There is blood – too much.

She is badly hurt. I check her pulse. It is weak. No, she is not dying. I will not allow it. I hear a pained groan coming from nearby and turn. It comes from a guard. He bleeding badly and has lost a leg. He is already at death’s door. He is not one of mine. I reach out with the Force, and shadowy tendrils sprout from my hands. He groans even louder as agony grips him. He struggles to form words, but fails.
His eyes are pleading, but I do not care. He does not need his life force, but my slave does. Ruthlessly, I seize whatever life energy he still possesses and draw it out of him – and into her. “Awaken,” I growl. The guard spits blood and takes his last breath of air then slumps. A moment later, her eyes flutter open.
“Master?” she groans.
“It’s alright. You’ll be fine.” The attack craft seem to have turned away. There are corpses and broken vehicles everywhere. I believe I recognise the Weequay driver among the dead. I do not care. Sadly, Lachesis being among the casualties is too much to hope for. The monsters are never the ones on the chopping block. Her limousine, however, is a wreck. It gives me a measure of satisfaction.

“Clear the road. Send word to high command. The Jedi think their petty raids frighten us, but they will rue the day they struck against the Imperium. We will retaliate,” she thunders. “Where’s a functioning transport? Our mission does not allow for delays!”
This kind of incident is not uncommon. The Dominion and the Disciples periodically launch air strikes or shoot tactical missiles at each other. In any event, the Dragon Lady’s gaze falls on me. “I see you survived, Kyriaki. Stop coddling your slave. If she is defective, she can be replaced.”
I get to my feet. My legs feel wobbly and my head hurts. Blood is dripping down my forehead. Something hot and sharp has dug into my flesh. But I stand. “She is my property – and under my protection.”
Lachesis’ gaze is icy. “Lieutenant,” she thunders, “have you found me a groundcar that is still presentable?”
“Yes, ma’am. The captain’s. He got mowed down but...”
“His sacrifice will be honoured by the fatherland. It will suffice. Your pet,” she addresses me, “will ride in the truck. If it gives cause for offence, it will suffer the consequences. You will come with me.”

I nod, and without further ado she has stormed off. Next to me, Shakka has managed to get to her feet. “What did you do to me, Master?” she asks quietly. There is a measure of concern in her tone. “I felt...something. It was like...”
“I kept you alive.” There is no time for explanations. I take a breath. “I’ll see you when we disembark. We must be very careful now.” She opens her mouth, then closes it and nods obediently. We part ways. She climbs into the truck, while I head for the groundcar. It is quite a comedown from Lachesis’ limousine. Speaking of which, she is already sitting on the backseat with an impatient scowl on her face. In the Force, she feels like a barely contained wildfire. I open the door and sit down next to the driver – a human soldier. We take off, passing the wreckage and the corpses.