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Death Would Be A Mercy [Possible Content Advisory]

The Two Who Were One
Writer
The cells beneath the Dark Palace on Bastion were some of the most inhospitable, hopeless locations in the entire galaxy. Devoid of light, they were called the Crypts for the penchant for prisoners to perish under the harsh knife of their captors. Even worse was the rumors that circulated among those that still lived, that the Emperor of the Sith took great pleasure in separating spirit from flesh, and pushing the limits of death itself as he killed and reanimated prisoners thirty times over.

Those that had been speculated to have been subjected to such torment said nothing of their experience, or of anything in general as they huddled in darkened corners, their faces stripped of all life as they stared ahead with lightless eyes.

There was no way to determine the passage of time for the inmates, the walls were featureless and gray and any attempts to coax such information from one of the Dungeoneers resulted in cruel retaliation. You were lucky to escape such a confrontation with only broken bones. The cells themselves were the worst, for they were kept in perpetual darkness as the air grew stagnant and frigid. A single bed jutted out from the wall, but it was nothing more than a slab of cold steel outfitted with an electronic circuit that would shock the inmate into consciousness at random intervals, depriving them of sleep.

It was these conditions that [member="Harper Kade"] found herself in after being handed over to the Dark Lord of the Sith, her inmate serial number inked into her flesh as she was stripped down, violently sanitized, and subjected to a series of invasive measurements, probing, and analysis that catalogued every aspect of her person even down the most minute detail. She was then clothed in a dark orange inmate jumper and escorted to her darkened cell.

There she seemed to languish for what seemed like hours, deprived of sight and sleep. That all came to a crashing end as electroluminescent strips, hidden in the walls, turned on suddenly and without warning, flooding the room with brilliant white light. The ray-shielded door opened to allow a pair of Dungeoneers entrance to the cell, where they roughly manhandled Harper and pinned her up against the wall, cuffing her by her wrists and ankles as she was then shoved out of the cell and into the dimly lit hall. They would guide her, albeit harshly (shoving her to the ground, and hitting her in the stomach with their stun batons when she was too slow to recover), to one of the Crypt's interrogation chambers, which was nothing more than a large thirty foot by thirty foot room with a mechanized gurney at its center, and four drainage grates where the floor inclined down.

She was strapped to the gurney, and then left alone in the room.

Waiting.
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
It had been almost a relief, honestly, when she'd been turned over from [member="Darth Imperia"]'s custody to here. Sure it was awful? There was no denying that. But it was quiet in her mind. She wasn't being pulled a million ways, having things brought to the surface again and again and again. She had been relieved to be left alone. To lie down and rest her cheek on the cool metal. To sleep-

Not for long.

She moved off of the metal cot after the first zap. Perhaps other people persisted but Harper was perfectly happy to assume that would just keep happening. Curled up in a corner, she rested as best she could. The darkness didn't frighten her. There were plenty of other things that could manage that. But the hours in darkness did nothing other than give her a small chance of reprieve. To center. To evaluate.

To think about the people she cared about.

She recited names in her mind. Her mother, her father. Her sisters. Brothers. The members of the Praxeum that she had started to form bonds with. Those friends and friendly faces. Alden. She thought over the lessons- so few- she'd done with the holocron she'd left behind (again, she thanked everything that she hadn't brought it with her). And then again, she repeated the names.

By the time they came to retrieve her, she'd settled herself again. Enough to grimly remind herself that whatever was coming, she would survive it. That there was nothing they could do that would break her.

****

She reevaluated that surety by the time she was strapped down. The guards had been none too gentle, and she ached in half a dozen places. But she'd kept her silence. She hadn't screamed. Hadn't cried out. Just hung on grimly.

Harper tested her bonds, tentatively at first and then harder. There was real regret, once again that she had focused so much on everything other than actually learning the Force.

When the door opened, she tried to look up but couldn't actually see it from where she was and how she was strapped down.

"If you're here to take my drink order it's about time. Gotta say, the service here isn't all that impressive."

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecvpq_b590c

The door opened.

But no light filtered in to pierce the oppressive gloom of the chamber.

It wasn't until there was movement in the doorway, the swirl of a crimson cloak and the deep booming pitfalls of a titan, that pinpricks of light muscled their way in. They were but fleeting mirages, quickly extinguished as the door closed and darkness asserted its dominance.

Yet she was no longer alone. Even though she couldn't turn to look at whoever had entered, there was an undeniable presence that seemed to take up all available space in the room. Slow, methodical breathing and the sensation of ice-cold fingers trailing figure eights up her spine heralded the man's, nay the beast's, arrival. Not only that, but there seemed to be a deep dark wrongness about him as well, as what little light there was in the room was being drawn to his being, snuffed out completely once he had drawn appropriately near.

"They say you were there at Dellalt."

Cruelty punctuated every syllable, underlined by a fierce burning anger that was barely constrained by an immeasurable force of will. Whomever the voice belonged to, it was abundantly evident that they were a being who demanded subservience from life itself. "When my war galleys came to plunder your world, you were there. When they came down from the sky to take your people, you were there. When your people were treated little different than animals, you were there. Yet when they came for you, you had vanished. Yet here you are now..."

The interrogation rack began to move of its own accord, rotating up and around until Harper was suspended at a forty-five-degree angle and face-to-chest with a monster.

Powerful muscle and battle-scarred skin were wrapped in a light layer of black zeyd-cloth, a cape of crimson silk hung loosely from his shoulders by magnetic clamps, and his patrician face was sculpted from crystalized hate. Eyes, darker and more vicious that Harper had ever seen in her life, stared down at her, burning with the illest intent.

"In my clutches."

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
Harper felt the chill, like frozen daggers, slide down her spine. She wasn't particularly strong in the Force, but she didn't have to be. From his words, his presence, the deeply possessive bent of the way he said 'my' as he spoke, there was only a small handful of people this could be. Ice filled her veins and for a moment she couldn't breath.

Because why in the galaxy would she have attracted the attention of one of the Zambranos? Especially the one she suspected it was.

A sharp breath, sucked in deep and hard. And then-

"Water? Light on the ice? I'd take a twist of lemon though if you have it."

It wasn't that she wasn't afraid.

Far from it.

But for all her empathy could be a liability, in this moment?

She was bolstered by it.

Along with the cold, the malice, the threat, there was also his confidence. The ease with which he assumed command and control. That was there across the surface. It wasn't a conscious thing on Harper's part, not a thing she picked and chose. But it made it easier in some ways.

"I can put in my dinner order now if that'll be easier too. I was thinking a nerf steak? Medium rare. What's the vegetable of the day?"

Either he was going to kill her or not. There was a certain freedom in that. And if she could keep him from getting anything- anything- about Dellalt or the Praxeum? She would do that.

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
Slowly, the Emperor approached.

Each step a deep reverberating tremor in the ground that ran up through the interrogation rack and into Harper's bones, and the presence of fear and death magnified tenfold the closer he came in proximity. The rack angled itself until Harper was perpendicular with the ground, the restraints digging at her skin as gravity forced the weight in her body down. By now the Emperor had come within inches of Harper, his massive form bending down until he was eye-level with the smaller Jedi.

Carnifex derisively huffed, blowing hot air right into Harper's face before he backed off.

"You waste your words on insignificant banter." The Emperor had cataloged around four hundred and fifty-seven cases of Jedi utilizing sarcasm or snark as a coping mechanism during interrogation, with only six percent of that number maintaining enough cohesion to continue the act well into the twelve-hour mark. Results after tended to vary but given enough time even the most charming and socialite Jedi were broken down into mute recluses once Carnifex had his fill.

This young woman seemed spry and chipper enough, at least to the point of trying to alleviate the tension with humorous quips and a jovial sense of confidence despite the grimness of her situation. Give him a couple hours, she might be singing a different tune by then.

Carnifex waved his hand, the Force moving gears and hydraulics beneath the floor of the room as a hidden compartment opened and a small table rose to about waist height in relation to the Emperor's gargantuan stature. On it was several clothed instruments and several syringes of various liquids, each of them carrying foreboding labels in a language that Harper most likely had never seen before in her life. He picked one out of almost half a dozen and brought it over to Harper. Inside the vial was several milliliters of a fiery orange liquid that seemed to boil and churn even when at rest, and without any ceremony on posturing the Emperor injected the full dose directly into Harper's bloodstream through a vein in her neck.

After five seconds the first symptoms would begin to appear, manifesting as an uncomfortable tingling sensation that spread out from her neck as the toxin proliferated throughout her veins. That sensation would gradually worsen, culminating with a pain so severe it felt as if the Emperor had dowsed her insides with rhydonium, sparked up a match, and made her swallow it.

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
She told herself she wouldn't.

She lied.

Harper flinched, despite all of her best efforts, when he came down to eye level and huffed in her face. It was one thing hearing about him. It was another thing to be presented with the towering figure in a darkened room, strapped to a table. There was no way to go, no way to back up or retreat. Her hands clenched, wrists shifting against the bonds.

The discomfort for now was mild. Most of it was the atmosphere after all- deliberately designed to be terrifying.

Harper had to admit, they did a pretty good job with it.

The young woman had an awful lot of bravado when she needed to summon it. That didn't mean that it was anything more than just that. Tough, resilient, yes. But she was no soldier. No operative trained in any way. Harper was a farmer. A Jedi yes but in truth? Only in name, and even then for only such a short time. She had no training, no real skill in the Force. No meditation techniques to fall back on. All she had was whatever grit and moxie she came by naturally.

His beginning salvo, the comments about Dellalt.... about her people.... she fought to ignore those, but they settled in the back of her mind like something rotting. Repeating in an echo in the space left behind after she had left the ministrations of [member="Darth Imperia"]. She pushed it aside, but it whispered.

"To be fair, I'm pretty sure any words I say in here are a waste, so I thought 'why not try for dinner?'" She quipped, but from the way she was looking at what he was doing, the growing worry was clear in her eyes.

"Hey, like I told your spooky friend- she needs to learn personal boundaries by the way- this is all just some big misunderstanding. I don't know any Jedi, I've never been to Dellalt."

Harper didn't lie when it mattered. But right now? Lying really karking mattered.

She eyed him hard as he approached with the syringe. Struggling then, wrists working against the restraints. Straining while trying to keep her face calm. Her eyes were what gave her away. Harper flinched, wincing, but the bonds held her tight as she tried to avoid (deeply unsuccessfully) that injection.

"FETHING OW! Look can't we just talk like normal people? I bet you have hobbies or someth-"

It started with a fidget. Which turned into a shift. Her hands tightened, nails biting into her palms. Teeth ground teeth and then she made a sound in her throat. Not a whimper or a scream, but a low whine of pain.

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
Carnifex observed the results, watching with sickening curiosity as the toxin took hold of Harper's body. Purple veins pocked with an orange glow pulsated beneath the sweat-slicked skin, her clothes growing damp as the body attempted to overcompensate with the sudden large uptick in internal temperature as a result of the poison workings its way through her body. Every heartbeat was agony, muscles spasming as they were subjected to horrific contractions, cramps seizing up her limbs as the convulsions started to settle in. Had Harper not been restrained, she most likely would have flailed helplessly on the floor like an oxygen drowned fish.

However, it would begin to fade once it had reached the apex of unbearability.

All that would remain as the poison burnt out in her veins was a dull ache, loss of strength, and the rancid taste of copper lingering in the back of her throat.

Unbeknownst to Harper, all of her sufferings were currently being recorded by hidden sensors built into the room's walls, floor, and ceiling. They were capable of detecting all of her vitals from a distance, and could accurately analyze every uptick and downtick in her condition as the Emperor went about his cruel pleasure. The Emperor grasped another syringe, this one filled with a strangely calming thin blue liquid. Like before he injected the serum directly into a vein on Harper's neck, completely decompressing the plunger until the entire measured amount had been deposited into her bloodstream.

"What is your name."

A simple question, but one that could have dire consequences if she lied. For you see, the new toxin injected into her system was a powerful truth serum that acted rather differently from the conventional means. Instead of lowering her inhibitions, it instead produced painful rashes on her skin whenever she opted the path of dishonesty.

The Emperor was curious about how she'd react.

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
Harper had no words to describe it. She had been hurt before, injured- she'd broken her leg as a child, a finger due to carelessness on the farm as a teen- but nothing could have prepared her for this.

By the time it was ebbing, she was huffing, panting, shuddering against the bonds. She didn't remember her hands curling so hard into fists that her nails and cut into her palms, half moon crescents slowly filling with blood as the pain faded and left her weak and shaking. Held up only by the restraints, she had only just started to catch her breath when the syringe returned, injecting something new into her neck. This time she didn't sass at him, barely even flinched- the pain of that was a pale comparison after all.

The expected pain resurgent however never came.

Maybe it was something to neutralize the first entirely. She had no idea. All she knew was that the pain she'd been expecting to experience again never came.

She opened her eyes, heaving in a deep, shaking breath.

"M-mala." She shuddered, the words coming thick in her throat. Not because she cared about lying but because of the screaming from before. "Mala Renart."

Even before she finished the words, she knew something was wrong. She could feel it, crawling up, starting as heat against her skin. The heat started to itch. And then, to burn. She writhed against the bonds, unable to get away from the sensation, entirely different from the pain before.

"S-Stop it!" She didn't know what 'it' was beyond the feeling of raw fire licking at her skin. "Make it stop."

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
The Emperor said nothing, his face impassive and utterly apathetic.

He laid the spent syringe back down on the covered table, his fingers gently rubbing across the other instruments in his vile abbatoir. The woman in his clutches had broken down to begging relatively quick, which spoke of a lack of properly taught defense against such methods of interrogation. Undoubtedly Lady Imperial had found her mind easy to infiltrate, although there was a distinct difference between the resilience of the flesh and the resilience of the mind.

As an Epicanthix, the Emperor had no power over the dominion of thought.

He could, however, exert authority over the body.

His left hand waved towards the rack, which reclined back until Harper's body was parallel to the floor. Panels in the ceiling receded into hidden partitions as a multi-limbed apparatus emerged from the darkness, a single glaring crimson photoreceptor staring back at Harper with the cold disdain of an automaton. Its arms began to move down towards her body, plucking at her clothes as a precision laser-cutter began to strip away the fabric that covered her skin. The Emperor found that he could manipulate a person's shame or sense of indecency against them in these situations, making their position upon the slab all the more uncomfortable as their bare skin was exposed to their malicious captor.

Such starkness never excited the Emperor. It was nothing he hadn't seen a hundred thousand times before.

"What is your name?"

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
Harper closed her eyes tight as the table moved and the view shifted.

If it had been just her at stake, she might have told him. Just to make it stop. But Harper was far more stubborn when it came to the safety of others than she was about her own self. It wasn't an easy choice. It wasn't one she made with simple conviction, but instead with desperate purveyance and need.

With a name he could do so much. He could link her to Dellalt. To the Praxeum. If the Sith had her family, he could link her to them and drag them into this. It didn't take a hyperspace engineer to figure out that whatever he'd injected her with was reacting to the lie.

She didn't have to lie, she realized. She just needed to not tell the truth.

As long as she didn't lie this, at least, couldn't hurt her.

Of course, that protected her from exactly nothing else.

She blinked into the red glare, the mechanical eye watching as impassively as the sith's actual eyes. This, again, was something she could bear. Insults heaped upon herself were easier. And giving in meant that could change.

"Not Mala Renart," she gasped, as the pain from the initial spike had eased enough to let her speak again. It didn't spike because it most certainly wasn't a lie. "Not Terry Pinnacle either. Probably not Sasha Koan."

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
Harper's world exploded with stars, an explosion of pain blossoming around her skull as the impact of the Emperor's hand yanked her entire head to her left that caused the entire gurney to rattle violently. Several seconds passed, giving Harper only a brief moment of respite and recovery before she was struck across the face again, this time from her left. A final blow left her head nearly concussed, her bones vibrating from the sheer intensity of the Emperor's strength.

"Your belligerence has been noted."

The gurney reoriented again until it was aligned perpendicular to the floor, her restraints disengaging as she was unceremoniously deposited onto the harsh cold floor of the interrogation chamber. Before she could make a move to run or to rise, an ethereal weight heavier than anything she had ever experienced in her lifetime fell upon her back and pinned her to the ground. Though the Emperor had not moved a muscle since he had struck her, there was no doubt that it was his will and his power that was being exercised upon her body. He willed her to levitate into the air, restrained as if by ropes from the ceiling despite the fact that there was nothing physical holding her up.

"There exists within me a great reservoir of patience, but even it has its limits. I aim to see what will be bypassed first, the limits of my patience or the limits of your body."

Suspended in the air, there was nothing Harper could do but watch as her left arm began to twist of its own volition in a counter-clockwise motion, continuing to turn well beyond the point of comfort as the joints and sinew strained in protest.

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
Stars exploded across her vision, head snapping to one side and leaving her dizzy. Breathing in heavily, she started to bring her face back just as the next blow struck. And then again. The room spun, reeling, blood thundering through her ears. It took a moment to even realize that it wasn't all from the blows to her face, and even then only because the snap of the releasing restraints echoed in her ears. She dropped heavily to the floor, just catching herself against her forearms and knees rather than right on her already abused face.

"B-belligerent? For a sith you really don't know the meaning of the word, h-huh? Was j-just answering your question," she shuddered and would have started to rise-

But something did it for her.

It wasn't the first time a Sith had used the Force to treat her like a rag doll. But compared to this [member="Darth Imperia"] had been absolutely gentle.

The joints failed before she did. Up until there, she had bitten down, clenching her teeth with nothing more than a low grunt of pain. But as her shoulder dislocated, followed in turn by the popping of each individual joint in turn, that was where she failed.

"Please, please don't," she begged, pitch of her voice rising.

When the first bone cracked, she screamed.

Somewhere after that she lost track, verged on the edge of passing out but each new snap not letting her until-

"HARPER," she sobbed finally. "H-Harper Kade."

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
The venom coursing through her veins did not react to her final admission, giving credence to her honesty as her arm bent backward at a horrific angle, bone jutting from the torn skin as it twisted and broke with a loud gut-churning crack. Through the agony, Harper would feel the Emperor's malign will relinquish hold over her limb and recede from her body, letting her fall back down to the dirty, blood-stained floor with a heavy flop. Heavy footfalls indicated that the Emperor had walked over from where he had previously been standing to loom menacingly over Harper's body, his leather boots within arm's reach of the mangled woman.

"The transition from dishonesty to honesty is one fraught with suffering, young Harper Kade. I hope you will remember that when the idea of lying to me next crosses your mind."

He waved his hand, and the Force once again seized Harper's body and forced her to stand whether or not she possessed the natural fortitude to do so. She was then forced to stand there, her muscles cramping as the dark influence of the Supreme Lord of the Sith held her in its black iron grasp. While this was happening, the Emperor strode over to his table of macabre instruments and plucked a single scalpel from the dark canvas on which it rested. Turning back around, he walked over to Harper's frozen body and handed her the scalpel, his power over her forcing her to take hold of it in her right hand.

"Now we're going to play a little game, Harper Kade. You're going to tell me everything you know about the evacuation of Dellalt, who orchestrated it, and the names of any Jedi involved. Should you lie, the poison in your body will react as it did before, and if you try to circumvent the poison's effects like you did last time..." The Emperor forced her to hold the scalpel up in front of her face, making sure she could clearly see it despite what pain might be wracking her existence.

"I will have you carve my name into your skin, letter by letter."

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
Harper's eyes closed, a whimper falling from her lips, but there was no removing the after image of the scalpel from behind her eyes.

She wasn't a Jedi. Not in truth. She had not been lying about that to [member="Darth Imperia"]. A Jedi in name only. She had no training. No inner peace to fall back on. Harper was, at her core, a farmer. Tough, sassy, daring yes. But she was no Jedi Master, no Agent trained to hold out against pain and terror.

The strength she had cracked and crumbled. Shaking, nauseous with agony and fear, she told him what she knew. She didn't know who had organized it, the word had simply spread. About the ships. She tried to keep back the names, but the first time he forced her to start carving into her own flesh she broke.

[member="Ember Farseer"]. [member="Alden Belmont"].

For now she kept the Praxeum a secret. He hadn't asked about that, and if he didn't even know to ask then she could keep that safe. As she spoke the names, voice cracking, sob lodged in her throat, she begged them to forgive her.

She wasn't strong enough. I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
He had her now.

She spilled the names of her colleagues, [member="Ember Farseer"] and [member="Alden Belmont"]. No doubt the Empire's agents could draw up some cursory information about the two of them after the Emperor had his fill of Harper's suffering, but names were not enough to satiate the Dark Lord of the Sith. He pushed her up against the wall with his power, pinning her uncomfortably against the metal as his outstretched hand loomed mere inches from her terrified face.

"What else, little Harper. What other tasty morsels are you hiding behind that skull of yours?"

For effect, he slowly ran his tongue across his bottom row of teeth, alluding to a physical hunger for knowledge rather than a metaphorical one. It was known by the Sith that the Emperor was not a cannibal, though there had been instances where he had dined on sentient flesh, however, that was not common knowledge to the Jedi or the wider galaxy. His mystique gave him an edge in intimidating weaker beings, letting their own imaginations and assumptions work against them to his benefit.

"Tell me where these Jedi friends of yours hide, what planet do they skulk on?"

The scalpel hovered dangerously close to her skin, ready to cut again.

[member="Harper Kade"]
 

Mariel Dawnrider

Wing and a Prayer
Character
Harper struggled- but there was nothing to hold onto, no hand to grip to try to force the fingers from around her neck. The iron hold on her was through the Force and with what little training she had there was nothing she could do to break it. Pain shot through her, pulsing from her ruined arm, stabbing through the rest of her and making her feel physically ill, nausea radiating far beyond her core in a sensation she didn't even have a name for.

Time flowed strangely. Experience flashing from being unaware of anything but the pain, to a distance. As if she were only watching this instead of experiencing it. The disassociate moments grew longer and longer, but they had not yet taken over enough for her mind to do what it had to do. To save herself, even if she couldn't save her body.

"I don't know where they are now," she sobbed. "They travel please."

It was true, but not the entire truth. She held back a name, a planet. It wasn't just her friends that she protected now, but the people there as well. She had to.

[member="Darth Carnifex"]
 
The Two Who Were One
Writer
He slammed her against the wall once, a warning.

"Then tell me where they've been, what planets, what sectors?" He pulled her towards his outstretched hand, now physically wrapping his fingers around her pitifully small throat as he applied pressure to her windpipe. The gesture would choke off any reply she might've had to his answer, as was his intention. He stood there, throttling the poor girl for a good minute before he violently tossed her down to the hard metal floor. There was held, again with the Force, as the Emperor placed one of his boots over the back of her left knee and began to apply pressure to the joint with his sheer weight.

"Tell me everything, Harper Kade. Tell me everything and your death will come swifter than most, and you will be spared the sight of your friends being slowly tortured by my hand." He suddenly pressed down, shattering the patella as the bottom half of her leg was pulled out to the side at a grotesque and unnatural angle. Carnifex then reached down, grasping Harper by the nape of her neck and tossed her again to the floor, this time letting her roll along the ground until she came to a stop near a metallic countertop.

"Tell me!"

[member="Harper Kade"]
 
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