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A step back, for a leap forward

A loud, high pitched, beep echoed throughout the cockpit of Adron’s borrowed Freighter. Pulling his head from the console, he glanced around the panels curiously, trying to find the source of the beeping. Finally, he realized it was the alert from the Hyperdrive, signaling that he had almost reached his destination. After turning the alert off, he rubbed his eyes a bit, recovering from the unexpected nap he had taken. Looking up to the flashing lights of Hyperspace, Adron worked to stifle a yawn.

What the hell was he doing? He asked himself, leaning back in the pilot's chair with a searching gaze. With the revelation that the Emperor of the Galactic Empire was a Sith Lord, Adron had been shaken. Yes, he had professed loyalty to the man, but once again he had been tricked by the Sith.

He hated being made a fool of.

He needed time to think, to reflect. He had done much over the past few years to put himself in a position of influence, but he was not a single step closer to taking back what was stolen from him. In reality, it felt like he was farther than ever.

The freighter gave off another series of beeps before the flashing lights came to an abrupt halt. They were replaced with the sight of a large orb, obviously covered in a lushful terrain. Felucia.

No one knew he was here. Not Lady Kay, not the Grand Moff, not his apprentice, not even the Emperor. Because he was not going here for any of them, he was going for himself. His eyes took in the scene around the planet. There didn't seem to be any Sith patrols in the area, however he was not intent on testing his luck. Immediately Adron worked to bring his ship into the planet’s atmosphere.

Strapping himself in, he prepared for entry, not sure how the rather outdated freighter would handle the planet’s thick atmosphere.

A rush of wind and heat came over the viewport, causing the sight to be distorted. Rather than rely on the window, he turned to the radar, which showed his distance from the ground and any objects he should be wary of. It was not long before he had breached the upper atmosphere and was leveling the ship out. Exhaling silently, he glanced down to the thick treetops that his the jungle below.

It was years since he had visited Felucia. As he looked around the trees, searching for any signs of something familiar he realized something. He hated this planet.
 
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Location: Felucia

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The passenger quarters of the light freighter by the name of the Somnambulist were not quite what she had become accustomed to. When she’d first left Eshan she’d taken one of the less used Loronar E-9 Explorers that her father had gifted her years before her departure. Once upon a time, she’d wanted to become a diplomat that traveled the stars, securing trade routes, and making sure that their people wanted for nothing.

That changed when she entered their local military school and outpost. Larinkáoi had given her everything she needed to survive and to provide. Eventually, she just stopped striving for a dream that could never be. It was a lesson in avoiding futility. Thusly, rarely had Srina used the ship before, preferring terra firma, over drifting aimlessly through space. It had been small, but clean, and filled with little things that reminded her of home. Holos of her family. Of her infant niece.

All of which she had essentially abandoned to keep them safe. She wasn’t strong enough to defeat an enemy that arrived offering a marriage that would spell the end for everyone she loved. Even now, with the training she had sustained, she was uncertain. It was frustrating for one who typically did not know what it was like to lose. All that being said, the Somnambulist had the integrity of a rusty tin can, strapped to a hyperdrive and some rockets. When they snapped back into realspace the ship shook so hard she was certain it was about to fall apart.

It was no Ferocity, that was for sure. However, it was small, discrete, and easily missed. There was no possible way that she could bring an assault freighter into territory that belonged to the Sith Empire without starting some sort of incident. It was flagged with CIS transponders and her own personal code that would transmit her name. She could have temporarily removed it, however, she didn’t want to run the risk of arriving with a weapon that severe. This Empire seemed not to think anything of the Confederacy one way or the other.

Srina aimed to keep it that way.

However, she could not ignore the Force. Her visions had begun days, weeks, prior. She felt inexplicably drawn to a place she had never been. It was located closer to Eshan than she had been in quite some time. Part of her was tempted to sneak down to her homeworld, but, the rational part of her knew that it was not yet time. Eventually, the pull of the Force became too difficult, too blinding to ignore.

Moreover, she had begun to see [member="Adron Malvern"], nearly everywhere she looked.

At first, she thought it the strange connection they seemed to have formed, but he never spoke. He was simply there, and then, gone. Not for the first time she thought she might be losing her mind. Then the little Echani realized that these disturbances were quite similar to that which had first led her to Coruscant. Denying it, or rather, ignoring it was not an option.

With that in mind, she informed her Master that she would be away for a few days. Likely, he would assume that she was departing the safety of Ryloth to maintain relations with their allies. How unhappy he would be, to realize that she was not headed toward the Galactic Alliance or the Silver Jedi, but following the High Moff that had nearly killed her on Tatooine. He would be furious if she died. Even more furious, if she lived, and he found out about it after the fact.

The trip through the atmosphere of Felucia was a nightmare. Generally, Srina wasn’t bothered by space travel, but she her stomach was definitely turning when they departed near a small farming community. The spaceport was less of a port and more of an overgrown space to park one starship at a time, but, it served her purposes. The Somnambulist would be leaving in two days. That meant she had forty-eight hours to find what she had come for and to leave before anyone figured out she was there in the first place.

Acquiring a landspeeder was the least of her worries. She hadn’t just dropped on an unknown planet without doing any research. Rancors, gelagrubs, and all sorts things awaited her in this humid jungle. She had a vague idea of what plants to stay away from and what herbs could help in the event of an emergency…But other than that, she had to rely on her senses and used the Force to lead her way.

As much as she could, she cloaked her true presence, but there was no doubt in her mind. He was here. Close.

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​In the thick of the jungle, Adron had found a clearing to land his ship. Of course it was a tight squeeze, so much so that a few of the larger fauna surrounding the tree were leveled by the descending ship. As he set down on the jungle floor, Adron was quick to power down his vessel. Again, while the Sith seemed to place the planet low on their list of things to monitor, he was not going to test his luck. Better to deactivate all of his instruments so there would be nothing to track planetside.

As the rear ramp to the ship lowered onto the grassy surface, Adron stood with a nostalgic smirk on his lips. It was so amusing. He stepped forward, and with each step he felt as if he was actually stepping deeper into The Force. The moment his boot came into contact with the grassy surface, there was a surge that coursed through his whole body. The Dark Side of The Force immediately swarmed around him, causing his crystal blue eyes to become a muddled brown from the corruption. It hurt. It felt like the weight of the Dark Side was finally falling on him now, and not his enemies. Opening his eyes, he was forced into a halt as shadowy images passed by him.

'Come on bro, you're falling behind!' A high pitched voice called out. It was a voice Adron barely recognized, yet he did remember it. Aric Malvern, his younger brother. Just as he remembered him, a small black haired pre-teen, who now barely reached Adron's chest. The image muddled in shadow disappeared as soon as it had came, disappearing off into the woodline.

"Aric..." Adron muttered, before shaking his head, pulling his arms beneath his black cloak. Bringing the cowl over his head, he followed the pull of The Force, taking him deeper into the forest.

​Moving through the woods, Adron recalled Aric had only come to Felucia twice. Once when he first learned to construct a lightsaber, and again when the family went for a meditative retreat from Serenno.

​The growth of Felucia surrounded him. Taking away the open air that the clearing had allowed. The large tree tops provided ample shade, yet there was a humidity that the Count had recalled having a distaste for. Perhaps it was the noise, the noise that echoed out from ever living creature. Every clicking bug, growling predator, and chirping bird seemed to be sounding off at once making a deafening racket.

​Ignoring it, Adron gave himself to The Force once more, eyeing a tree he recalled from his memories. In the side of the tree was a large cut, that over time had grown weathered over and difficult to discern. Adron ran a hand over the wound, once again feeling the Dark Side rush over him.

'Father will kill you if he finds out you cut his tree.' A stern, feminine voice chided. This voice belonged Diandra, the eldest of the Malvern sisters. As if on response to Adron's memory, a shadowy hand was laid over his on the tree. He could still see his sister's demeaning expression. Judging him for the scar he made to the tree during his lightsaber practice. Shaking the thought away, when Adron returned to normal the vision was gone once again. He hadn't thought much of his family since their deaths. He saw them in visions and had nightmares, but it was seldom he actually took time to remember them in life.

"Because they are dead already." He muttered, as if rationalizing the thought to himself. His family was dead, so remembering them would do nothing for him. He had to remember the anger that fed his vengeance.

​Moving away from the tree he made his way towards the sound of running water that had bled through the already loud surrounding. He forced his way through a crowded brush, his cloak gripped firmly in his hands as he did. The brush parted to reveal a stream, that seemed to flow a few meters west before dropping down into a series of small waterfalls. There were stones in the water, that had been shaved smooth by years of rushing water. As the Force took him this time, it was to be expected he supposed, however this time it hurt more than the last.

'You don't think we really have to keep this up for eight hours do you?' Opening his eyes, Adron saw the shadowy form of his second older sister, Kassa. She sat, cross-legged on one of the stones, a small circle of water dividing the stone from the rushing stream. A technique used for meditation, to build your focus. His father's favorite disciplinary tool.

"I think it was more like six..." He said, answering the shade with a content expression. As the shade disappeared Adron couldn't help but chuckle. Kassa and Diandra looked nearly identical. The only difference being Diandra kept a high hemmed hairline, while Kassa let her Raven colored hair flow freely down to the small of her back. Allowing his boots to fall into the river, Adron crossed, now realizing he was following a familiar path.

​On the other side of the brush, Adron was released into another clearing. This one seemed manmade, yet in the years it had become slightly overgrown. The trees above had grown to hide the clearing from those above.

'This will be our home for the next few days, so get used to it.' His mother's tone was never forgotten. Respectable, yet it held the hints of rebellion in it. A mixture between Adron's demanding and proper tone, as well as Kassa's carefree demeanor. He watched as she strode past her, still holding a smile on her face and crystal blue eyes that Adron could discern even from the shadowy haze that had produced her.

"You always loved this place. I thought it was pretty dumb as a child." He wished he could say it was dumb now, but the training he gained on Felucia had sustained him many times over in war and peril. In the center of the clearing was a small hut, more of a temporary shelter than any actual structure. The roof, if it could be called such, was no more than a grouping of leaves and sticks, thickly woven to create a sturdy structure. At least that was what it had once been. Now most of the roof had rotted and weathered down into the stone walls that it was set upon.

​Adron looked at the structure quietly, glancing around before making his way to it. The interior had been completely ruined. Perhaps at once there had been a sleeping area and a few wooden shelves fastened to the walls. No more, now it was little more than a pile of rubble, the remnants of a fire pit embedded into one of the stone walls.

"The halls of politics-"

"-are far more savage than this jungle." Adron's words were cut off and completed by a voice that now mirrored his own. Avius Malvern did not appear, yet he didn't have to. Adron remembered his father every single day. His father insisted the meditative retreat was more like a vacation, something that normal families had the luxury of. The Dark Side had brought him here, he could feel it, but why?

​Was it merely to rekindle old passions? Or perhaps it had merely been a game The Force had been playing on him.

"This is irrelevant now. I'm over it." He said, more to himself than anyone else. Turning to leave he felt a soft crunch underneath his feet. The crunch caused him to glance down to see what had found it's way under his boot heel. Something, under a layer of grass and mud.

​Bending down, he could see the small flecks of metal, peeking through the growth. His hand parted the muck and foliage to reveal a small metal medallion. His hands scooped it up, while he knelt down into the dirt. Wiping some of the mud from it's face, he could see the emblem of his house embedded on the face of the medallion. At first it was a welcomed token, yet the more he looked at it, the more his emotions stirred. The medallion became clenched into a tight fist as Adron quaked. His breathing grew more rapid as the walls felt like they were closing in on him. He couldn't leave. His eyes became fixed on the medallion, what little of his crystal blue eyes remained was washed away in a sea of sunburnt orange.

​A loud, anger filled cry erupted from the man. The Force was swallowed into him and in one silent moment, expelled. Everything surrounding him was blown away in one large kinetic pulse. The walls, the roof, even the grass under his feet was blown meters away as he let out the roar. Adron, exhausted, dropped to his hands and knees. His eyes fluttered as the Dark Side of the Force was pooled into him, trying to rejuvenate the energy expended.

​He was not over it.

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
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Location: Felucia

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The terrain was difficult on Felucia. The areas that were closer to the small farming communities had roughhewn paths that were a little jagged, but, it was better than zipping around thick tree-trunks in the forest. She wore a pair of goggles to keep her eyes from getting torn up by random debris with a tan muslin scarf wrapped around the lower portion of her face. In truth, she had no idea where was headed in this godforsaken place. She avoided anything that felt like an exceedingly large lifeform and tried her best to steer clear of any encampments.

The people of this world seemed decent enough. Simple, and a little starry-eyed when presented with an Echani, but that was the case for many. Even in more advanced civilizations, they seemed to pause. Regardless, she wanted to leave the smallest impression possible in order to minimize the impact of a possible trespassing. She worked with the Vicelord of the Confederacy, he was her Master, and her dearest friend was the Supreme Commander of the Galactic Alliance. She was very, very careful in every movement she made, doing her best to avoid some sort of incident.

There was no reason for her to be in territory belonging to the Sith Empire. None.

And yet, here she was, chasing down an enemy that had haunted her days and nights since running her through on a nothing world full of sand. Srina had stopped in her trek long enough to check coordinates on her HUD and to rest muscles that grew sore from staying in one position so long. She parked the speeder by a small, trickling stream, and pulled a bota of clean water from her rucksack. She had all sorts of things. Rations, medical supplies, a change of clothes, items for trade, credits, an antidote for Devaronian blood poisoning—All necessities when traveling so far from Ryloth.

It was there, leaning against the speeder, that visions began to play before her eyes. She tensed at the intensity. She watched scenes play of the family Adron had lost in a respectful silence. Not for the first time, she felt something more than hate, not sympathy, but she deeply understood. Srina had been forced from her home. From her world. In her absence, a sister had died, as well as her infant niece.

The High Moff had lost, if the visions were true, so much more. Everything. He had no intimate ties to bind him to his sanity. She had the rest of her family, even if they were far, and she also had the entirety of the Confederacy. There were some she found questionable, but for the most part, she could feel their support. It had arrived in spades when she’d been at her weakest, at her lowest, after Tatooine. Instead of replacing her, or punishing her, they had done everything they could to save her.

Including, calling the Nightmother to use the Spirit Ichor to heal what the Grandmaster of the Silver Jedi could not. Her own Master had pleaded with a Jedi, not as a Sith Lord, but from someone that simply cared for another. Despite their separation by alignment, she had not been able to refuse.

Srina saw a brother, who looked a little like Adron, with good bone structure and a head of dark hair. Sisters, beautiful in their own right, but only half as lovely as the woman she could only assume to be their mother. It was not the first time she had heard of her. His dreams held his secrets, and the Force, for whatever reason, sought to betray them.

Slowly, a little clouded, breathless—the pale apprentice began to guide her speeder through the forest on foot. He wasn’t far. Just a flicker of life, of tightly wound energy, a nexus of dark…Changing. Silver eyes peered through the trees as she stepped away from her swoop to make her way toward a clearing. She parted low hanging brushes in silence, her military training from Larinkáoi kicking in as she disturbed as little as possible, nigh soundless. She was excellent at blending in and becoming one with the scenery despite her natural coloring.

Despite all of that…Truthfully—she didn’t intend to hide for long. A loud cry filled the air and her gaze snapped toward a dilapidated structure. There, just before it, looking at something she couldn’t see knelt Adron Malvern. Uncertain of the situation, the Echani watched and waited, as she moved along the tree line. She was careful to stay just out of his peripherals with her signature squelched as low as it could go. The darkness coalescing in the area, despite the fact that it seemed focused on the High Moff, helped. It would be hard to feel through it. Like maneuvering through air that had become tar.

Moments later, a kinetic wave erupted from him, ripping everything in the clearing from its moorings. She raised her arm defensively and the terentatek body glove helped to buffer it, however distanced, the breath was still stolen from her lungs. She was still shoved backward without mercy, until she raised a telekinetic shield, halting the kinetic force that shook even the oldest of trees.

Just as quickly as it happened—the pressure stopped. The air settled. Srina lowered her arm and looked toward the crumpled man, whom had fallen to his knees, seemingly spent. She peeled herself from the shadows as if she had become them, the soft blues of her fitted traveling dress unthreatening, and almost peaceful. She had worn simply clothing for the venture and pulled her goggles down so that they rest around her neck. She unwound the thin scarf and let it fall to expose her face in full.

Her lightsaber sat in a holster that ran along her thigh. For a moment…For a brief, sinful moment, she debated on dealing with the Imperial as he would have dealt with her. Her hand hovered near her weapon.

His pain moved through the Force, reverberating in her chest, and she pulled her hand away. His loss…It was so strong, so poignant, that it was almost difficult to draw breath. By all means, she should have attacked when she had the chance. It was the smart thing to do. Logical. Only…She could not. She could not fight him this way.

For the first time since Tatooine…She realized that she didn’t want to. Not as she should. Not as an enemy, should.

Srina walked closer, moving into his field of vision, and honestly expected anything. Another telekinetic burst. Another sword through the chest. Another war.

Truth be told, he might think her a vision, simply an apparition. It was how she had always appeared to him in previous encounters. Why would this be anything new? The slender Echani knelt before him, resting in the mud, among the shattered remains of what she could only assume to be his past. Gingerly, she reached out, and let her fingers touch his cheek. The gesture would shatter any illusion as to whether she was actually present or not. Silver eyes were soft, clear, and filled with little pinpricks of starlight. Would she, an Echani warrior, weep for him? “Adron…”

‘I feel your pain.’

‘I feel the darkness.’

‘I see you…’

Srina breathed as her hand moved forward to allow her palm to grace his cheek. Words were not something that Echani were overly dependant on. Actions, spoke far louder. This man was not of her blood. He would need them.

“You are not alone.”

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[member="Adron Malvern"]
 
​Adron had receded back into the depths of his mind. He had to gather himself, had to refocus. It was almost as if his mind was going through a reboot. The noises and flurries of the jungle were drowned out, irrelevant. He could hear the shallow steps approaching him, and as they grew louder Adron parted his cloak, a hand flying to the hilt of his sword. Pulling the blade from it's sheathe, a few inches of metal shining as he looked up to see who was approaching him. Srina. His hair had fallen from place, and was shrouded over his eyes as he looked up to the woman. He didnt speak as she approached, he didn't speak when she reached out for her, and he did not speak when her palm came over his cheek. She was warm, and it had been a long time since Adron had felt warm.

He didn't hear the first words she had said. Maybe it was the shock from what was occurring, or even the confusion on how to react. His hand fell from his weapon as he simply sat there in a moment of silence. For a moment he felt like he was somewhere he had never been, yet it was so familiar. His hand reached up, taking hold of Srina's. He wished he could enjoy this moment, but he knew he couldn't.

"Stop it." He said, pulling her hand from his cheek. "Did you forget I'm the one who stabbed you? If you were smart you would have killed me." He said, his yellow orbs looking up at her with a distancing gaze.

He stood up from his place on the ground, tucking the metal medallion into his pocket as he looked to Srina. "What are you doing here?" He asked, yet his voice sounded tired, resigned even. Pulling his arms back under his cloak, he looked at Srina with an arched brow. "Wait, how did you know where I was?" He asked the question he already knew the answer to. Shaking his head, he held up a hand to halt her answer. He figured by now it was rather obvious how she had found him, however if she wasn't here to kill him it did leave the question of how.

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
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Location: Felucia

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The snow-kissed woman remained still as death when the High Moff covered her hand with his. She could hear nothing but the sounds of the forest and the wind moving gently in her ears. Not a breath, not a heartbeat, from the man before her. Even without words, she followed his immediate intentions as easily as if he had spoken. The hand on the hilt of his sword was plain. It was impossible to miss. Idly, the quiet woman wondered if it was it the same sword that had run her through on Tatooine. Her eyes were keen, as all Echani eyes were, but her memory was fragmented. She couldn’t tell.

Instead of worrying entirely about what he could do, she remained in the present and tried to evaluate his frame of mind. Could he feel her eyes, truly seeing him for the first time, as they picked him apart? The color of his hair, the shade of his skin, the rather fine fibers of the clothing he worse. It all seemed so different. She could feel a mixture of oddly juxtaposed emotions rolling through him like the waves of an ocean. A storm seemed to be on the way. Or, was it already here?

Abruptly, he pulled her hand away.

Silver eyes flickered. He buried his pain, his loss, and hid it behind the dark. He stood to his full height, towering over her as most near-human males did, and slid something into his pocket. Her gaze flickered again. His questions were heard, acknowledged, but whether or not she would respond in full remained to be seen. He could deflect all he wanted. As much as he wanted. It didn’t change what she had already seen. There was a bare, silent moment when she knew there was more to him than the persona he seemed determined to cling to.

Soft footsteps took her forward, expression empty, completely devoid of fear. She would stop moving just in front of him, merely inches away, moonlit hair tossing in the slow breeze. There was a world of words that passed in her silence. Her gaze was damaging. Of all the weapons in her arsenal, it was one of the most powerful tools she had. With a look, just a glance, she could relay the clearest of messages. Her eyes expressed many things now. Distance, empathy, and just a little bit of something that could have been either very cruel or very kind. “I have not forgotten.”

“And if you want me to stop so badly…”, she trailed off softly, voice airy and lilting, as if she were not facing someone that had harmed her in the past. If they were being honest, she had done the same to him, so it wasn’t as if Adron wouldn’t have his own reasons to want her head. She had glimpsed pieces of him, through his visions, behind the veil that clouded him from the rest of the galaxy. He couldn’t take it back. “Stop me.”

“We both know this is the best chance you’ll ever get. My Master is far.”

Srina had all but confirmed she had come alone. She did not have the might of the Confederacy behind her. She did not have the power of Darth Metus flooding her veins. Here, on this nigh primitive world, she was only what she had ever been. A warrior, certainly, but she did not intend to fight him. There were different battles to be won. Those that did not involve a sword, or threats, or any kind of physical damage. “I’m here, Adron. Flesh and blood. You have two choices…”

“Kill me.”, she breathed, letting her hands raise, falling open with her palms up. She wouldn’t be able to reach for her lightsaber in time. Not quick enough to try and block, nor was it likely, that she would be able to evade him while standing so close. Her training made anything possible, but something in her expression would assure him, through the Force or otherwise, that she did not intend to move. “Or don’t. Accept that I am here for myself, for you, and not for revenge in a game of territory and footholds. Our meeting was chance. Our actions were duty.”

“This does not need to be. You don't need to be this way. You don't need to be alone.”

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[member="Adron Malvern"]
 
​Srina's words were met with a scornful expression. Adron was not sure what disturbed him more, the fact his enemy stood before him or the fact she seemed to be here to help him. She mentioned killing her, and immediately, Adron's hand fell beneath his cloak. He pushed himself to his feet, his arm revealing itself from within his cloak. A snap hiss could be heard as his lightsaber emitted a thin purple blade. The Dark Side called out to him, telling him to cut down the woman before him. Clenching his hand around the lightsaber he exhaled, deactivating the blade. "The Force brought you here." He sighed, before clasping his lightsaber to his waist once again.

"What would you have me do?" He asked, arching a brow at the Echani. "Everything I was, was taken from me. I am going to take it back." He promised.

"No one will help me, I have to do it myself. The Sith and their ilk terrorize hundreds of star systems and no one is going to stop them. Even the Galactic Empire won't challenge them, and they claim to be for order and prosperity. What do I do when everything I thought I could believe in was a lie?" Again. He did not need to add the completion of his thoughts.

"When Serenno fell I made a promise. When I took charge of people once again I would do it for their best interest. Now I find out I'm just a pawn in the game of another Sith!" Adron yelled, running a hand through his hair as he moved it from his view.

"It won't remain a secret for long, so I suppose telling you will have little consequence. The Galactic Emperor is a Sith Lord....and I'm the fool he used." It wasn't necessarily that the Emperor was a Sith, that was not what bothered Adron, it was that he had been tricked by the Sith again.

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
Admin
Location: Felucia

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His scorn rolled off of her as if it were made of water. She did not give away if she felt it, or if she even noticed it at all. Contempt or disdain was the last thing on her mind when he pulled out his lightsaber. It lit up the space between them with ominous violet light that gave her fair skin an almost rouge glow. She could feel his indecision. She could feel the Dark Side roll, pulsing around him, with blackness so thick she wondered exactly how it was that he could stand. Did he not feel the weight? Could he not feel it, pressing down on his spine, as if someone had rest thousands of pounds of stone over his shoulders?

Even if he could not...She did. It was nigh insurmountable.

“It did.”, she responded simply when he guessed as to how she had found him. Srina would never be an easy book to read, however, she did not lie. Her words were always delicate in tone but bluntly stated. He put his weapon away, and still, she waited, refusing to budge. The Echani had not flinched when he had threatened her on Tatooine. She would not buckle now. “I told you. My visions are vivid. Demanding.”

He asked what she would have him do and a measured smile crossed her wintry expression. In truth, the edges of her lips were touched with sadness. She could feel the draw of his past. It saturated the very earth they stood on. His promise drew a sigh. He was so trapped, so bound, by what the loss of his family had made him. His pain would not cease while he lingered in a circle of the devastatingly unattainable. “Do you truly not know?”

She paused, ordering her thoughts, listening to his words about the Sith. It seemed that he had been betrayed, time and time again, by those that served the Dark Side. It was curious to her why he reached for it so hungrily, despite the fact that it had brought him nothing at all, but sorrow.

“You are more than you have become Adron. You are more than your history. You are more than a planet buried in Sith territory. More than the memories, the visions, that pulled you here.”

He yelled. She let him. His frustration vibrated in her bones. When he finally got to the truth of the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, elegantly arched eyebrows rose, but she did not comment. If she was being completely honest, she had never met the man, and had only ever heard of him through holovids and wartime propaganda. The fact that he was a Sith Lord? Not surprising, simply based on probability, and basic comparisons.

Nearly every nation in the galaxy was led by someone that was tied to the Force. Why should the Empire be any different?

“Let it die.”

Her words were simple. They’d been stated throughout history books, by world leaders, and by men and women far more important than she was. The man before her was a noble. He carried himself with the breeding of someone that had been born into expectation. He would hate her, the moment the words passed her lips, but she would accept his condescension if it meant that he heard her. “Let the past die.”

Srina approached him again. Ever, closing the distance he made. She held her hand out, waiting for him to see she meant no harm before she reached for his cheek again. What she planned to do was easier with contact, as she was not yet skilled enough to project her memories without it. Aside from his hand, which she could not go for without appearing threatening, the rest of him seemed covered. “Let me show you what brought me here…”

White-gold eyelashes fluttered against pale cheeks as her eyes closed, leaving her entirely vulnerable, but he would see her gaze flickering behind lavender tinted lids as she searched for what she needed. In a blur that seemed to pull her stomach out from beneath her, she shared some of the infinite possibilities that she had first witnessed on Haseria. The sight had nearly broken her Master, however, his Apprentice was used to her cranium splitting open when the Force deemed it appropriate. Srina shared different scenes, snippets of fights, where both Adron and she were pictured.

They weren’t fighting each other. They were fighting together. Defending, protecting, and working in tandem. It had felt impossible, considering she’d been recently removed from medical, and still bore the pain of his attack. The skin near to her collarbone, otherwise perfect, was still discolored, a little shiny, and marred from where his sword has struck her. There was a matching marker from the exit wound along her back. He would see the small Echani move with him, beneath the swing of his blade, to dispatch an enemy that was closing in on his blind spot. Adron would see himself take the head of Yuuzhan Vong that was closing in on Srina, before joining her, in dispatching the rest. “I couldn’t understand it then. To my disgrace, I was still too angry, too humiliated at having lost.”

“But then…You appeared to me. Through space, somehow, you kept appearing. Even then…I could not bring myself to speak of it. Perhaps out of pride. Or, simply, because I couldn’t fathom it. More recently the visions have returned. I’ve felt this before. They will not stop, will not end, until the demands of the Force are met.”

Her voice was quiet as she focused, carrying him through a myriad of things, of battles that had not yet come. At first, she had not seen herself. She had not seen him. But the more they repeated, night after night, it became clearer. Srina held the image of them fighting, back to back, deflecting blaster bolts back at their enemies. Slowly, she let go of the connection, pulling away. Her expression was silent as she took a step back, knowing, that he could just as easily reject what she had shown him.

For all that he had been misled, he could think it a trick, or some sort of Sith magic. Mentalism was one of the first things had learned, but she hoped, that he would feel the truth of her words. Even she questioned it. It was the reason, for a split second, her hand had hovered near her lightsaber when his back had been turned. They should be enemies. They should want each other dead.

Srina did not feel that way.

“There is a world of possibility in you. Perhaps, the day may come, when Serenno is within reach…But that time is not now. Nothing is perfect. Not the Empire. Not the Confederacy…”, she trailed off with an almost wry smile, before it faded, and silver eyes flickered back to his face. He wanted to do right by the people he served. Wasn’t that what they fought for? Every moment? Every day? “And certainly not me…”

“But I will never lie to you. Come with me, Adron.”

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[member="Adron Malvern"]
 
Let it die.

​The words rang through his mind like a song that never found an ending. In his chest, Adron felt a tightening that he could not explain. Perhaps it was just the stress of the day compiling itself on him physically, but he knew better than that. When he turned to Srina again, he held himself up as the man he was. Proud and strong. Pride, how much had he lost based on that notion alone? The debt was climbing, daily.

​His eyes were narrowed at her, disappointed, or maybe even disdain was targeted towards her. "I am a Count." He stated, the words held meaning behind them. To Adron his heritage was everything, his family was everything. "It is my duty to keep the past preserved in the present!" He argued, pressing a hand to his temple, as if his frustrations were rising to his head.

​The Echani approached Adron, slowly and without indication of attack.

​No. If Srina was going to kill him or capture him, she would have done it long before now. While she may not be a Master of the Force, her people knew war in every aspect. No Echani would have stalled out a fight this long, not unless there was something crucial to be gained. Her hand rose to grip his cheek, and his own hand flew to meet it, snatching her wrist. It was a base instinct, and soon after the grip had lost it's tension. Again, her hand was pressed to his cheek, yet it was not an action of comfort.

​Much like their own link in the Force, Srina had induced Adron into a flurry of visions.

​It felt like boiling water being poured over Adron's head. The visions brought an ache as he watched with a stupefied interest. His eyes were sent into a flutter until finally the scenes came to a halt. With a deep exhale, Adron took a step back from Srina, trying to piece together the images he just saw.

"The....Demands of the Force?" Adron asked, arching a brow curiously. Was she insinuating that it was the will of The Force for Adron to help the woman who once nearly ended his life?

​She spoke of his planet. Serenno, a world she had never seen, never known the people. She had never smelled the bakeries of Carannia, or gone swimming in the crystal blue oceans. "Why should I believe you? Why shouldn't we finish what we started on Tatooine?"

Why do you trust her?

​The question was pointed inward, and he let out another audible exhale as he realized that foolishly, he did trust the woman before him.

​He stood silently, for a moment, before looking to Srina curiously. "I....I sense that the Force is purposely keeping me from my planet. Maybe it's punishment or maybe I'm not ready. You speak highly of the Confederacy, can it make me ready to reclaim my home?"

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
Admin
Location: Felucia

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She had wanted him to hear her, and so, it seemed that he had. The pressure in the air between them seemed to change. It grew stronger, more intense, so much so that her ears felt like they might pop. The tension eased vaguely when Adron looked at her anew. He wore his pride like a Medal of Honor and his narrowed gaze spoke volumes. The pale-skinned woman endured his firmly stated beliefs in silence. He would notice that she often listened before speaking to ensure that she had a full analysis of the situation at hand.

Srina was not good with emotion. It was complicated, messy, and imbalanced. The Echani preferred combat or the practical application of arithmetic. Empirical data was what she drew strength from. It was all that comforted her when the galaxy seemed to be at its darkest. Statistically speaking, while it seemed bad, it could always get worse. “You are a Count of a world you cannot presently reclaim. I do not see the people of Serenno as a group easily broken. No matter who controls the space of which they dwell. Likely, they have learned to readjust their lives in order to survive the new normal. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right…”

“Yet nothing in this life will ever be made fair. Your past, in some form or another, will always live in you. It is here. All of your cherished memories will always be here.“, she paused, in order to lay a seemingly delicate hand on the top of her chest, just above where her heart would lay. The white-haired apprentice spoke from experience. Eshan had not been ravaged in the same way that Serenno had, despite it being close from Thyrsian disputes, but she had still been forced away. She had still been forced to abandon everything she loved in order to keep them safe. Selfishly, she wanted to return, but would it help her family? Or would it hurt them? “Yet there are ties that bind you. Self-sacrificing sentiments that hold you captive, trapped, between a proverbial rock and a durasteel wall.”

“That is what must die. That is what holds you back. As your people will adapt—so ought you.”

Her approach was met with an acceptable amount of distrust. She did not expect miracles of him overnight, but he would soon learn that of all the people within the Confederacy to have on his side, he had won the lottery. Srina was loyal to a fault. There was no one closer to the Vice Lord and no one that held as many ties, to as many other nations, as she did. He questioned her wording when her palm fell to his cheek and a wry smile, rarely seen, crossed pale pink lips. “Demands.”

“The Force has a will. It wants. If you are willing listen it will be heard. I tried to ignore it once. It did not end well.”

That was putting it mildly. Her visions, when they were real, true, and necessary seemed to solidify in front of her very eyes. Before she had met [member="Darth Metus"] in person, before she had known his name, his rank, or anything of that nature—she had seen him. Visceral flashes of a ghost that haunted her. Watching her. Waiting. The visions had overwhelmed her untrained mind, to the point where she had searched for him, mindlessly in a storm, while on Coruscant.

Every time she tried to stop it felt like her head was being pried open and molten lava was being poured inside. It had taught her a very, very valuable lesson. Srina did not commune with the Force deliberately. Yet, when it willed, she would be the receiver. “I ignored warnings of looking too deeply in my Master’s memories out of foolish curiosity. That is what led me to see his home burn. To see Mandalore light aflame.”

To see him die. To feel him die. To feel herself die with him. Over and over…

Some called it instincts. Srina might have been a slow learner on occasion, however, she did learn—and these experiences were most definitely a lesson.

From that point, he saw what she had seen. She hid little, only things that did not pertain to him, and let it play as smoothly as she could. Sometimes her memory glitched, her inexperience showing as the vision jumped, before returning to a clear crystalline view. At the end he asked why he ought to believe her, why he ought to spare her, and silver eyes swept across his. They were bright. Clear. “What would be the point in killing each other now? Is there anything at all to be gained?”

“If there is, Adron, I cannot see it. As it stands I have the entirety of the Confederacy behind me. I know every access code, every plan, and every weapon within our arsenal. If I wanted revenge I would have come to you in force. I did not. I do not.”

He surprised her, just a little bit when he spoke next. He seemed curious versus disdainful. How quickly his moods seemed to shift from one to the next. If he wasn’t careful he was going to give her whiplash. The dark-haired noble offered a different scenario. Punishment? Srina wanted to ask what he had done to think he deserved such a fate but it was not her place to ask such a thing. He questioned the nation of which she belonged to, for better or worse, and the slender woman chose her words carefully. They were quiet and sincere. “I only speak of what I know.”

“The Confederacy is not without flaw. There are some things that I do not agree with but such is the nature of a nation that if a self-sustaining war machine. Nevertheless…I do trust the man in charge to act accordingly. You know that he is a Sith Lord, however, he is not quite what you would imagine. He seeks counsel from those around him, from his apprentices, exarchs, and the Viceroyalty. Darth Metus has given up many things to ensure the safety of his people.”, she explained gently, trying to piece things together in such a way that she remained honest, without adding any undo color from her own experiences. “At the same time, he can be brash. He has a tendency to lean toward the absolute. Above all—he is human. Fallible.”

The use of an absolute, more than anything, was the influence of the Dark Side. Though that did not mean he was always wrong. It simply happened. They acted with the best information they had at the time. Sometimes it panned out. Others, it did not. Srina considered the last part of what Adron had spoken and hoped her next words did not deter him. She had spoken that she would not lie, and so, she would not. He had been misled before. She would not begin this new path on a web of half-truths and unnecessary secrecy. Trust had to be earned, however, they needed to begin somewhere. “Please understand…It will not be an easy road if you choose to come with me. I cannot say if the Confederacy can bring you closer to Serenno for certain. I know that the Office of the Vicelord will not approve an act of aggression toward the Sith Empire without provocation. It would place our people in danger unnecessarily. That, we cannot do.”

And so she returned to logic. Math. The one versus the many. The Confederacy would not risk all of their worlds for the sake of one that was too far away to protect in the long run. Their reach was long, growing longer by the day, but that was still much too lofty a goal.

“I believe that we will make each other stronger. That strength, experience, and connections could lead to your home…But I can’t give you false hope. I respect you, at the very least, too much for that. It may or may not guide you toward what you seek but…”, she trailed off, a faint smile crossing her expression before it disappeared as if it never was. “I have seen you fight at might side. If nothing else…I know that is right.”

If there was one thing she knew it was combat. It took trust, faith, to fight the way they had in her visions. To guide each other, to anticipate what was needed before it even became of speck of reality. He would not be lost if he returned with her. Not as she had first viewed him. Not, anymore.

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[member="Adron Malvern"]
 
​Silence fell over the clearing that Adron and Srina stood in. He had been at a loss for words, something that was becoming more and more prevalent. Of course there wasn't much to be said, was there? He was a soldier without an army, a man without a home, and a Count without his House. In the past ten years of his life Adron had been fighting the wind-like shifts of the Force, and each time he was thrown on his ass without a moment of notice. He had always believed he was a Commander of the Force, especially as a practitioner of the Dark Side. It was supposed to be a tool for him to use and exploit. What had he accomplished?

​His eyes fell over the Echani, still silence took the place of any words.

"I don't...." He started, but his words were caught in the bottom of his throat. "I don't know what to do." He admitted. It was as if his mind, heart, and soul were in the middle of a civil war, and the battlefield was becoming his own life.

"I want to trust you." He enthused, his hands spread in a plea as he spoke.

"But why should I? At the end of the day, it could all be a lie. Another lie, to take me farther away from my goals."

​For a moment, there was silence again before Adron's hand went to the back of his waist. He produced a small, thin lightsaber, holding it up at Srina. "Do you know what this is? A few months ago, I made a friend, probably the first one I've made in years. We laughed, we drank, we enjoyed each others company. And now he's dead. I had to cut his head off because he was turning into a monster!" Adron yelled, his hair falling in his eyes as his frustration took over once again. "I'm tired of false paths!" Adron lowered the weapon, running a hand over his brow before he looked up to Srina. "I can't keep doing this....Not how I have been."

​Pressing his hand to his forehead, he smoothed the hair back over his head before shaking it softly. "Just....Just promise me this isn't another lie."

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
Admin
Location: Felucia

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Srina wished that she was better versed in offering succor. She fought for a million reasons, but one of them, was to provide a safe place for those under the flag of the Confederacy. It was her way of a taking a gentle hand to those around her without putting down her weapons on armor. Returning to her duties was no longer a viable option for her on Eshan. Even if she turned around, hopped in the next transport, and went home that very day she could not return to the life she had known. It was no longer who she was, simply, a shadow of the woman she had been.

She would return to her beloved homeworld to right what was wrong. To tend to her family, to see to their needs, but that was all she could do. Echani Command would not accept how black her soul had become. Her time as a Spirit Seeker was over.

“There is no shame in admitting that your path is unclear.”, the Sith Apprentice began tentatively, voice gentle, like a misting rain. There was such a dichotomy between the frigid cruelty of her combat persona and that of her almost considerate day to day routine. She was practical, to a fault, but she was not punishing without purpose. “You have tried your way and it has left you here. Turn your gaze inward for a moment. Look within. Are you satisfied with your life as it is?”

Adron was the only one who could make this choice. Srina could not, and would not, try to make it for him. All she could do was offer him the facts as she knew them, to ensure that he looked at them with open eyes, and a clear mind. Srina held her tongue when he spoke again, recognizing the rhetorical, and his raised voice would have drowned her out regardless. Some part of her could also sense that he needed to let it out.

Srina required a solid training session. Adron, needed to buy his friends earplugs.

The wintry woman did not flinch when he admitted to severing the head of his friend. For some reason, no matter what he said, she could only imagine that the High Moff had done what he needed to do. He was an Imperial. Or, at least, he was. They did not hesitate. She felt something at the fact that he had been forced to harm his friend. She just didn’t know what it was called. “You did what you needed to.”

“I know it.”

He seemed so frustrated. So fearful. The ever-practical woman sighed softly. She had offered all of the verbal assurances she could. Deceivingly long legs, despite her small stature, led her back to the Count once more. It seemed as if all she had done was dance around him. Every time she took a step forward he took two steps backward. Every aggressive movement he made was really only defensive. Little warnings. Reflexive responses.

Srina reached for her side, slowly, and pulled her lightsaber free from the holster on her hip. She tossed it in the air once and let it spin idly before catching it. It was a game. How much did she really trust in her visions? How much faith had she already placed in him? She flipped the weapon two more times before she began to head toward him, but he would notice, that it was pointed the wrong way. “How can I convince you that I speak truly? What must I do?”

She reached for his hand and wrapped it around the hilt of her lightsaber and left the dangerous end pointed at her chest. After that, Srina let go. The silvery woman turned quiet eyes back toward his, focused, and utterly authentic. “I caused you physical pain. I understand. It makes me the enemy in your eyes, no matter the reason, and it will take time to alter that perception. I am many things… But I do not lie.”

“The only thing worth anything, that might interest you, is my life. Feel through the Force. Know my honesty. Know that I speak the truth as I know it. If you feel the slightest bit of a falsehood in anything I’ve spoken…Activate the saber. Remove me from the equation and you'll never have to see me again.”

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[member="Adron Malvern"]
 
​There was another stirring silence, yet this one had run a far longer course than the others. After a few moments, Adron clipped Kei's lightsaber to his waist, his eyes never leaving the woman who stood before him. Finally regaining his composure, he would take a moment to consider his options, of course his decision had already been decided for him, at least that was how it felt. He turned to Srina, approaching her with a newly bolstered tone. "I have soldiers. Soldiers who don't want to play the Emperor's games. Can you promise their safety? I'm not saying they will join you, but maybe you could arrange for their relocation to neutral space."

"In return...." There was a momentary pause before he continued. "In return I will sacrifice all of the Imperial information I am privy to."

"I have conditions. None of my men will be interrogated or held as prisoners. They will travel as civilian refugees." He said.

"Also. I have devoted billions of credits into the Empire's special weapon's division. I have ships, weapons, and prototypes that I want kept safe. If the Confederacy decides to use them, so be it. However I cannot waste my work."

"Is this acceptable?" He asked.

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
Admin
Location: Felucia

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The quiet woman slowly felt the tension leave her muscles as [member="Adron Malvern"] placed the lightsaber back where it belonged. She lowered her own a few moments later, assuming from his stance and regained composure, that he would not be killing her this blustery afternoon. Good to know. When he began to speak she nodded her head slowly and her silvery gaze settled on his. Her wintry expression remained unmoved when he spoke of his soldiers. Internally, it gave her hope. “If the men under your command are willing to submit to a standard interview they would be welcomed. This is not an interrogation or anything that would involve undue force, however, we do have to maintain standard protocol.”

“It can be conducted in a civilian setting to place them at ease. There are new laws they will need to be familiarized with and we would want to provide options for their relocation. It won’t do them any good to start a new life without a place or the potential for work. There are plenty worlds available with occupations that have little political ties to the military where they may live peacefully. You have my word that any Imperial seeking asylum will be made safe.”

Likely, unless they wanted to be known as a defector, also given the option of a new identity. In the case of Adron himself, the young woman found herself touched with a little surprise. Would he truly be so willing to divulge all that he knew? Her soft gaze searched him, seeking honesty, and she found it laid bare. There was something to be said for shifting loyalties but Srina didn’t see that sort of indecision in him. It was different. He was loyal to his men, his people, not necessarily the governmental body in which he served. Likely, because he had been misled so often.

It was both concerning and admirable. She couldn’t decide. Yet, he would be her responsibility when they returned to Confederate space. The small woman couldn’t find it in her to feel upset about it. Somehow, deep down, despite the fact that they ought to be mortal enemies—this man had her faith. It was strong. Perhaps, as of yet undeserving, but strong nonetheless.

“I’m sure that we can discuss the movement of any business ventures. The Confederacy has plenty of space for commerce. And, between you and I—“, she paused, a brief smirk touching the corner of primrose-colored lips, “The CIS will never say no to ships and weapons. As you have seen with our copious amounts of droids they do indeed love their toys.”

With that said he would find his terms accepted. The Sith Apprentice would give him until sundown to get his affairs in order if needed, but after that, they would take leave of Felucia. It held memory for him. Significance. But it belonged, like many things, to the past and Srina would noticeability relax once his rented starship broke through the atmosphere.

The sooner they got out of Sith Empire space the better.

In the nearest neutral zone, guided by coordinates that Srina provided, they would find the Ferocity. It was a Seroth-Class Frigate that was deceptively well armed. A gift from her Master, it held both personal importance, and was often her home away from home. In her eyes, it was more personal to have him on her ship than it had been for him to converse with her through the ether in her bedroom on Ryloth. It was amusing that she felt more exposed in an assault frigate than she had, clad in nightclothes, and injured. “Please make yourself comfortable. Though, I apologize, there is only one seat on the bridge.”

The command throne was sleek, uncomfortable in her opinion, and dwarfed her tiny form. It had clearly been made for someone of a much larger stature. She queued in the correct navigational coordinates and gave the pilot droids control as the engines spooled up in preparation to take them into hyperspace, Once they reached the desired speed, in the blink of an eyes, the frigate disappeared as if it had never existed in the first place.

Srina made preparations from the bridge with the use of the hypercomm to alert Confederate space of their arrival. Visually, no one would know Adron from a friend, lover, or an Imperial. Either way she made arrangements to land in the private spaceport of the Vicelord versus the main terminals she usually utilized. Her mind would be curiously clouded for [member="Darth Metus"]. Rarely, did he hide her thoughts from him.

There was something to said, however, that now, she was strong enough that she could.

When everything settled she would turn to Adron, multicolored lights passing the viewports, along with the sounds of droid chatter in the background. It would all seem rather efficient and the interior of the ship itself would seem nigh immaculate. It was clear that the young woman took care of it and made sure that nothing was out of place. Once, when it had been damaged when she had been aiding the Alliance, she had actually stayed on Coruscant to have it fixed versus letting Darth Metus see his former pride and joy with scorch marks. “We are en route to Geonosis. It would be best, I believe, if we see the Vicelord immediately to dispel any rumors if someone recognizes you.”

Srina paused, briefly, and beautiful silver eyes flickered.

“He will not be pleased to see you at first, however, he will see reason. You have nothing to fear. He cannot harm you without going through me—and that will never happen.”

Truer words had never been spoken. There were many atrocities that the Vicelord was capable of committing. He could kill a man, most imaginatively, from thirty paces away. Yet for all of this power, harming her, was the one thing he would never do. It was the line he would never cross.

“Do you have any questions? It will be a long trip.”

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[member="Adron Malvern"]
 
[SIZE=12pt]A look of uncertainty crossed Adron for a moment, as he considered what his men may go through. Many of them had directly done combat with the CIS, especially his soldiers in the Novacorp. However, they were tired of fighting, tired of dying and being given little more than a warm pat on the back from the Emperor. The in processing was a necessary step to proper relocation and asylum. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]As it seemed Srina and Adron’s business was coming to a close, he realized things were about to change forever. For the better or for the worst, was yet to be seen. Srina led them towards her own shuttle, and during that March Adron had time to contemplate his decisions. If he was going to change his mind, now was the time. Yet as he followed the Echani to her ship, there was not a feeling of regret or unease. If anything he felt as if he could take a breath for the first time in years. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]They loaded onto Srina’s ship and still Adron was silent. The betrayal that was occurring was not lost to him, and a part of him felt a bit of shame for what he now had to do. There were some in the Empire he respected, Caalgen and the missing Grand Moff among them. While the ship rose from the planets surface Adron looked to Srina with a curious gaze. He was wondering if he was making another mistake, another decision that placed him deeper into a pit that he didn't know how to escape. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]The trip out of Sith space was rather brief. Felucia, while embedded was not in the absolute center of Sith space, therefore it was not expected to take much time to leave. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]They were met with Srina’s personal frigate, and while Adron was not particularly impressed he did speak on it. “Not bad.” He remarked, offering a small smile to the woman. “A bit small for my taste. But not bad.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]The interior had a sleek design that Adron could certainly appreciate. It was not altogether foreign from Imperial design, and that at least, was welcoming. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]“Different.” He said, in a tone of acceptance. The purple was certainly a step away from the cut and dry black and white that the Empire employed. Again, something the former High Moff could appreciate. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]Just as they reached the bridge Adron looked to Srina take her seat on the throne. It was almost amusing how small she was in comparison, though he decided not to speak on it. Glancing over to the droids controlling the ship, he narrowed his gaze a bit. “Tin soldiers, lacking a soul.” He said, a common phrase spoken of Droid armies among the Stormtrooper corp. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]“I always believed flesh and blood soldiers were superior to droids.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]When Srina mentioned their destination, Adron was in the middle of roaming the deck, taking an interest in the technology being used. “Geonosis?” He questioned, before turning back to the view port. “I don't know anything about your Master. Short of he's a Sith Lord and the leader of the Confederacy.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]“I tried to kill you. His displeasure is to be expected.” He said, before glancing over to the Echani woman as she asked if he had any questions. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]“No. I think I'm going to go into meditation if that's alright with you.” He said, lowering himself into a kneeling position beside Srina’s chair. Adron knew he needed to gather his strength and calm his mind, or else his meeting with the ViceLord could be a potential disaster. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]Closing his eyes, he let off a brief exhale. He had to believe this would work. He had to believe he was doing the right thing. In only moments, shadows surrounded his thoughts, and he was lost to his meditation. [/SIZE]

[member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
Admin
Location: Geonosis [Golbah City - The Crown] The Citadel
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Srina allowed Adron time to contemplate his final decision, however in the end, he chose to follow. It was a brave choice. Bold. She could respect that. He was unnaturally quiet during the stretch in which it took to make it to the Ferocity. Every time she’d met him before, even on the battlefield, he’d made sure to be heard. She could only assume that he had too much on his mind, and the meaning of the betrayal was dawning on him, leaving him with curiosities. Questions?

About himself or her—the Echani remained uncertain.

“Do I really need a much larger ship when I usually travel alone?”, she questioned softly, her voice sweet to the ear, despite the layer of ice that presented itself. Even when she tried to impress more human traits it seemed just a little off. Too lovely, too eloquent—too much more than the average near-human. He smiled and her lips curved, briefly, before they got settled. It sounded like something [member="Darth Metus"] would say about an SSD. Bigger, if possible, when it came to a starship was always the accurate choice. “It is my home away from home you might say.”

Few people walked the decks these days. Katrine Van-Derveld, her Master, Aryn Teth, and now Adron. A soft laugh escaped her when he commented on the coloring. The assault frigate had honestly come that way. Confederate designs, sleek, beautiful and extremely high tech. Metus had given her free range to change it, but she honestly didn’t see a need, preferring to keep it as is. It held memories for her. Reassurances.

Adron commented on the presence of droids versus organics and the slender woman exhaled slowly from the Command Throne. The presence of so many automatons over people was something that would likely take a little bit of getting used to. When she had first come to Geonosis it had also caught her by surprise. She had difficulties anticipating droids in the same way she interpreted people and they made her feel as if she had a blind spot. Small, manageable, but bothersome. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how many droids we have at our disposal. The very fact that they lack a soul makes them ideal for war. Flesh and blood….Flesh and blood can die.”

Though it was a worthy death, to die for something believed in, the Echani wished to save as many Confederates as possible. Returning them home, safe and sound, after any sort of skirmish or battle had become the biggest victory in her eyes. The small woman had simply seen too much bloodshed in too short of a time period. “The use of droids in such clear excess gives us the opportunity to spare our children. Many of the citizens under our banner are not warriors. It may take more effort, the war may drag on a little longer, and there is a different price… But in the end…What is a nation if not its people?”

He seemed to take interest in the tech on the roaming deck and she let him explore while she checked the systems. Everything seemed to be in order, exactly as she’d left it, but it still felt good to make a few assurances. Silver eyes flickered briefly when he mentioned Geonosis. “More specifically our capital. Golbah City.”

“Much of your opinion on Darth Metus will need to be made from exposure. Some find him intolerable…”, she trailed off as Adron knelt beside her, seeming to settle in, and she smiled a little. He could have rest in the crew quarters or the galley if it suited him. It wasn’t as if the droids were making use of it. “But, with time, I believe you will see him as I do. He is a father of many. More than just to those of his own blood and more than those who have been cloned from his DNA. He is a guide. A mentor, and, a protector.”

Yes. All of that was true. But, he was also a Sith. The Confederate expansion fed the part of him that craved more. He would be brutal when the time called for it. He had even sacrificed the life of his own sibling for the safety of their member worlds. There was a darkness to him, undeniably so, but there was also a purpose and a method to the madness. Srina would keep her word to Adron.

The Vicelord would not take revenge. At least, not any that would damage him severely. The fact that she had his ear, in all things, was common knowledge among their people. The fact that she had gone to meet someone that they had fought in open war, in some eyes, would be considered a premeditated act of treason. Darth Metus would know better.

Srina remained silent while Adron became lost in his own mind. He had come a long way if he felt comfortable enough in her presence to let his senses dull to the outside world. It was one step in the right direction…But that was all it took. Just one step.

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Golbah City was intense after the emptiness of the Ferocity. They entered through the starport that led to the Hub, which was an active bazaar, full of smiling faces and merchants trying to push their wares. Droids could be seen bustling around, very, very busy in their own way. Normally, the young woman might have used the private starport in the Crown—but she was doing her best not to attract too much attention. From the Hub they would take the shiny new light-rail to the heart of the city itself.

There, in the Crown, within the fortified walls of the Citadel would they find [member="Darth Metus"]. Srina could feel him stronger in every moment that passed. He was in a good mood. That was a blessing. The silvery woman passed through security without any trouble and Adron would notice a subtle difference in protocol from the get-go. Whereas everyone else was required to register and sign in—no one seemed to bat an eye at the Sith Apprentice. No one checked them for weapons.

They had no need to. The Vicelord had given her free reign and more faith than she likely deserved. He never had any reason to question her motives and she had always done her best never to give him one. For the first time in what felt like an age, she could feel the edges of her nerves begin to fray. Never had she been afraid to address her Master. Yet, she had never brought someone home, as a friend, who had caused her such pain. Darth Metus was likely angrier than she was.

Two secretaries sat outside the Office of the Vicelord and Srina nodded her head at them as she passed through. Once again, they did not stop her. They did not ask questions. They were working on data pads that projected rapid-fire images into the air before them. The Force Bond between herself and her Master flared to life, warm as it had ever been, the moment she knocked on the double doors. He would no doubt feel the apprehension that stained her relief at being in his presence once more. Wherever he was, she felt safe, even if it wasn't true.

The doors slid open and Srina motioned that Adron stay behind her. Not out in the hall, merely, behind her. Darth Metus would not go through her to get to him. Silver eyes found the burnished gold that belonged to the most important person in Confederate space and she gave him a pale smile. It was reassuring, barely there, but he knew her well enough to read through her layers of ice and cold. ‘Master…I beg your patience. I have brought a guest. Someone new for you to meet. Someone who wishes to join us.’

‘You need not trust him yet...Simply trust in me. Hear what he has to say.’

He would know what Adron Malvern looked like through her eyes. He would know that this was the Imperial Moff that had nearly killed her. Yet, he would know, that Srina would never bring an enemy into their home. She let her memories of their conversations flow that spoke of his character. Of the long-distance vision-calls they had shared, of what had been spoken on Felucia, and of the visions, she had pieced together from Haseia. She showed his tormet at having been tricked by his superior in the Empire. She showed that now was not the time for false truths or delicacy, merely, a time to avoid tearing each other apart. Muad Dib had given them all something to see. So much, that it was impossible to remember it all. Srina remembered this. “My Master…This is Adron Malvern.”

“Adron—Meet Darth Metus. The Vicelord of the Confederacy. He seeks a new purpose, clemency, for himself and his men. I have given my word that they will not be harmed.”

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[member="Adron Malvern"] | [member="Darth Metus"]
 
[SIZE=12pt]Adron’s meditation had done wonders. Along with refocusing himself, he had nourished his body and replenished his lost strength. His eyes had returned to their natural crystal-like blue, replacing the sunburnt shade they had hosted hours before. He contemplated pulling his hood over his head, yet he could hear his father’s voice in the back of his head. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]A Count never shrouds himself in public. We must appear to have nothing to hide, especially when we do have something to hide. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]The thought caused Adron to remove his cloak and leave it aboard The Ferocity. Half of it was matted with leaves and fauna from Felicia anyway, it was more for concealment than style at this point. Clipping both of his lightsabers to his waist, he exhaled when they made their way out of The Ferocity. He glanced back to Srina’s ship, finding it to be acceptable, but not quite fitting for the woman. She needed something more… Refined. Perhaps a Solar Sailor? [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]Placing the thought at the back of his mind, he turned his attention to the spaceport and the market district that sat before it. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]He could appreciate seeing the common folk of the CIS in a torrent of business and apparent happiness. It made him recall Serenno, and for a moment he smiled at the sight. “You're people are happy.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]He did not speak on the observation any more, merely keeping his eyes on the rush of day to day that was occurring. Following Srina to the light rails, Adron was still silent. Though now it was more out of curiosity than contradiction. His eyes fell over everything they could as he absorbed his surroundings. They made their way to the cities central stronghold, and Adron could feel his nerves spiking a bit. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]What was about to happen? [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]They finally docked at the Citadel and Srina led the way once again. When they neared a security checkpoint, Adron thought of his weapons. Would they disarm him? [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]The answer was a surprising no, the security teams seemed to almost ignore Adron as he was escorted by Srina. He knew she was the apprentice to Darth Metus, but what the hell did that mean? What was her role in The Confederacy? The more they walked, the more questions he had, but now wasn't the time. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]They approached Darth Metus’ chambers and he paused. The weight of a Sith Lord’s presence in the Force was enough to give a man pause if he was not used to it. And here, it seemed Metus felt no need to diminish his presence. A silent exhale crept from Adron’s lips as he followed Srina inside. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]Srina asked for Adron to stand behind her, but as she approached Metus, he stood beside her silently, his hands clasped in front of his waist. He stood proudly, and his anxiety was well hidden. A barrier of the Force surrounded his mind, keeping any unwanted intruding at bay depending on the Dark Lord’s skill. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]The man before him was a staggering sight, both in The Force and in the reality that surrounded them. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]As Srina introduce Adron, he glanced over to her, before bowing his head at the man, his eyes never leaving him. He would be respectful, but he would not be submissive. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]“Vicelord.” He greeted, his words immediately being replaced with silence. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt][member="Srina Talon"][/SIZE]
[SIZE=12pt][member="Darth Metus"][/SIZE]
 
A P E X
Character
The Winter of her absence subsided.

Darth Metus felt the alabaster woman long before his former vessel touched down. As the Ferocity sliced through the arid skies, the Sith looked up from the object of his attention. The crimson pyramid within his grasp promptly collapsed in on itself, concluding the dive into the past that had occupied his time. Ever since the events of recent history, Darth Metus had devoted himself to augmenting his knowledge and might. This, oddly enough, was not due to his own personal ambition or desire to ascend higher. But rather, his quest for power was dedicated to [member="Srina Talon"].

Though she seldom shared the glimpses into her past, a decision yet brewed underneath the surface. A decision that would cake her hands in blood. When the day and time came for the Echani to make her move, Darth Metus needed to be ready. He had to ensure that she would not dash her foot upon a single stone - he had to make sure she lived past her vengeance.

Yet in the here and now, the Sith simply set the Holocron down upon the resinwood desk before him and awaited the arrival of his Apprentice. And as the seconds rolled by, her presence was as the rays of the Sun upon a winter frost. With every step closer, Darth Metus felt more...Human. However, by the time she breached the Citadel, her emotions became known to him. Where there was often relief and a quiet joy to be home, there was now a tension. Was she harmed? Was she in danger? A knot formed uncharacteristically in the pit of his stomach.

Then, she spoke.

Her voice, that calming chime, sounded within his psyche as she made her final approach. She asked him...for his trust. Spoke of one who sought to join them. Had he ever not trusted her? Who could this man be that her nerves were as frayed as they were? For a moment, the Sith's mind flew to the furthest extreme - an image of Ra Vizsla flashed before his mind's eye. But before he could even wave away the exaggeration, another face danced before his psyche. This was a man he had never seen before through his own eyes...and yet his heart quickened within his chest. Wrath boiled underneath the surface of his skin.

This man. This Imperial. He was the one who had laid his Apprentice low. He was the one who nearly took Srina out of this world. He was the one who caused the damned debt to that damn Jedi. A snarl dominated the Sith's face as the Apprentice entered his domain. She showed him many things as she approached. Memories that had been the inspiration for the "trust" she had in her adversary. While the glimpses were enough to keep Darth Metus from responding in a manner most...undiplomatic, the scorn was yet present when they finally entered the room.

Darth Metus sat in silence as Srina made her introduction.

The Imperial then spoke. His tone was alive with formality, befitting his origins. Seconds rolled by...and his sulfuric gaze burned from the Echani to the Imperial. From [member="Adron Malvern"] to his Apprentice.

"Welcome to Golbah City."

His voice was thunderous. A vicious beritone that bore the full weight of his malice. He could not shake the image of his broken Apprentice would blaze through their Bond - a shame and agony that he could not shake. He had moved past his weakness, he thought. Forgiven himself as Srina had forgiven him. Yet, as the man responsible was right there...the feeling of wrath came rushing back. But. Because of the place Srina had in his life...the Darkness did not move against Adron Malvern this day. Darth Metus' fingers simply, subtlely, gripped the arms of his seat.

"Tell me why, Adron Malvern, why the Empire is no longer your home. Tell me what has made my Srina...believe in your intentions."

[member="Srina Talon"], [member="Adron Malvern"]
 
He could feel the Dark Side fill the room with a weight that was foreign to him. Adron had been in the presence of a Sith Lord before, but not one like this. He was forced to let out a subtle exhale as Darth Metus' gaze fell over him. It was stern and absolute, and devoid of any sense of mercy. There was no misunderstanding between them. If Srina was not there, he would have destroyed Adron, and the Count was unsure he could stop such a thing. The Dark Lord's greeting was offered with a rather shallow tone, showing Adron was far from "welcome." The tension between them was thick, to the point where the man would have been more comfortable if he could take his own lightsaber into his hand, just in case. Of course, such an action would hold adverse effects, perhaps breaking out in a sudden case of death.

Darth Metus asked questions that Adron was not fully capable of answering, because even he had not yet been convinced on the outcome of this day. "I..." His words were caught in his throat and he was forced to pause, a slight scowl forming at the weakness that was coming from him.

"The Empire was where I lived, but it was not my home." He declared, before his blue orbs found purchase on the form of the man who sat before him. "For over ten years I served the Empire loyally like some damned kath hound. I was promised that for my service I would be able to take my homeworld from the Sith. A lie....One I should have seen through." He admitted, glancing down to the floor before speaking once again. "I don't know what else to do." He admitted, opening his arms in a slow gesture. "Srina offered me a chance to be something more than I was...maybe eventually to become the man who can save his planet. She offered me a home, something I haven't had in years."

"That is why I'm here." He said.

[member="Darth Metus"][member="Srina Talon"]
 
Administrator
Admin
Location: Geonosis - Golbah City - [The Citadel]
Tags: [member="Adron Malvern"] | [member="Darth Metus"]

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The fury of the Vicelord ran through her. It was powerful, expressive, and with or without permission through their bond, his sentiment tried to become her own. She was the lesser of the two. In matters of the Force, she would always be outclassed by him, and she would always be the one struggling to hold back the tide of the Dark. He embraced it. She used it precisely. Only if, and when, she needed it. Though her Master she was every bit the Sith Apprentice that society demanded. Despite her gentleness, her tolerance, the primordial shadows were wrapped firmly around her core.

Silver eyes changed, turning in an instant, from their usual mercurial pools to a tawny gold that bespoke corruption. Oh. Yes. [member="Darth Metus"] was not amused.

He welcomed the Imperial that stood at her back and the hair on the back of her neck began to stand on end. While her Master had played the part of a politician receiving a delegate from another nation, his voice spoke volumes, and she could feel the deep bass of it echo in her bones. She was certain, beyond certain, that even if his secretaries in the hall had not heard, they had felt it—like a storm rolling in.

Her chest felt tight as she waited for Adron to respond. For the moment, her gaze remained with that of her Master, wary of his temper, but trusting all the same. She would not have brought this man to the heart of their nation if there were any lingering doubts in her mind. Had he run her through? Yes. Was he an Imperial? Yes. Did that mean a man could not change? Could not put his past to better use?

‘Have you not done the same…?’, she mentally whispered Darth Metus, her mind a cooling breeze as it brushed against his, doing all that she could, to keep his wrath from consuming his ability to reason. You were not always the Vicelord. The Confederacy was not always your people.’

When the High Moff, or should she say, the former High Moff gave his answer the pale-woman allowed herself to breathe. They were words. Beautiful, but Darth Metus, would require more. Srina reached up and unpinned her cloak, before tugging it off, so that she could lay it on an overstuffed chair that sat in the corner. It was different than some of the other utilitarian furniture in the room. Blue, like a bird egg, and it would soon become apparent that it was her chair in his political domain.

She walked around to the side of the desk and rest her hand on the Vicelord’s shoulder as she always did. Graceful fingers squeezed, just slightly, to gain his full attention. Quietly, she showed him Felucia, including the part where she had invited Adron to kill, and he had refrained. “…All it takes is one…”

One slip, one second, in which Adron let resentment get the best of him and he could have done away with her instantly. The Vicelord had not known where she had gone. Often, she went here, or there on some minor political jaunt that didn’t require notification. The Silvers were far enough, that the length of her trip could be excused, especially if Stephanie Swail had been present. He could have ended her, left her body, and the jungle of Felucia would have swallowed her whole. He had not. “All it takes, to find a better way, is for one man to change his mind.”

“To show mercy when possible. Understanding. We have all done things in times of War that have left our hands stained with the blood of those simply following orders. This is the very same.”, she reasoned gently, without any notion of hubris, or ill-intent. She did not seek to unseat the power and influence of the Vicelord. She sought to make him strong, to make their nation strong, and to pave the way toward a better future. Her lips quirked, suddenly, seeming to find humor in something neither man would understand. “Besides…I have not killed Scherezade for her indiscretions. Though, tempted, truly…”

“Their sins are similar. If I cannot have her head, my Master, you cannot have his.”

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