A/N: Hello Ladies and gents! The long night is over and the new dawn begins! I also say this since winter is actually subsiding so... goody. I was considering adding more to this chapter, but I felt that honestly, doing what I was planning on doing would ruin the flow of this particular chapter, so I'll leave it for the next one. That said, if it seems like this chapter is a little shorter than the others, I apologize.
No new news to report! Move on down, and enjoy!
My Will Be Done
"I like to think that Naruto was always a close acquaintance of mine, even before we traveled together. Oh, I'd seen apprentice after apprentice march out the Sith Academy's doors and think the galaxy was theirs. For a while, I assumed he was the same. But I soon realized he was quite, quite different. Not to say he wasn't brash, drunk on authority and power and ready to start a fight at the drop of a hat, but he also wasn't like most traditional Sith; I always felt like he never quite knew what he was doing. At least not in the visible, practical sense, but in a more metaphysical manner. It always seemed like he was looking for something... Something just out of reach. Like a word on the tip of one's tongue. It may not have been my place, but I wanted to perhaps be a mitigating agent for him... I wanted to guide him, to represent the discipline he lacked. I also like to think I succeeded."
- Captain Mathyus Ordo, former Imperial Armed Forces.
Gnost-Dural's robes fluttered slightly in the breeze, his three-fingered hands tucked into the opposite sleeve. Today was especially windy, and the large buildings of Coruscant did little to hinder their onslaught. In fact, the giant rectangular things only amplified the effect, as they always seemed to do. The olfactory transpirators in his mask filtered in the stinking mass of beings around him as he made his way to a certain place. This was one of the lower levels of the area, Darkside as it was called, located a solid kilometer under the top layer of the planet's city crust. It was amazing really, how far down one could go. He wondered what the absolute bottom was like? Who lived there? How did they live there? One day he'd have to make time to see for himself. Darkside, the name of the sector now found himself in, was named so because of the lack of natural light that was allowed to filter through the steel canopy above.
It had four main sub-sectors, more like districts really; the Industrial, Recycling, Residential, and Service sectors. From the few favors he'd had to call in, the man he was looking for was likely holed up in Vice Central, the colloquial name for the Service sector. And aptly named too, the place was a literal hive of scum and villainy, though it was kept on a loose leash by it's mob-boss enforcers. It was well known for servicing (as the name might suggest) any arrangement of immoral pleasures. From flesh to fashion, to credits and contracts, this place had it all.
Trailing along behind him was his wary apprentice, Ferra Ven. Human, female, mid-teens, and milky-chocolate skin. Blond hair; short, save for her padawan braid and the shaggy spike of hair that touched the base of her neck. She, unlike himself, seemed to have taken offense with the entirety of the sector. To even be standing amidst the wafting waves of smell and sin offended her more than he could probably guess. She wore a Jedi's cloak, as he did, over her pale beige tunic, her lightsaber hidden safely out of sight, but never far from reach. He knew bringing her along would garner this kind of reaction, but that was precisely why he did it.
She was an older padawan, chosen later than most were. After all, with the influx of students, not every child was Jedi material, and not every child who was was chosen by a master. Those students, called "the Spills" by others (a nasty slur referencing the spillover of Jedi students not untalented enough to live as civilians, but not good enough to be chosen young), sometimes never found masters, and were dismissed from the Order with an apology and promise of a job in any chosen field of legal work; the Temple's form of restitution for their failing them.
Ferra was a capable student, but he feared she was psychologically damaged. As a Spill, she'd spent many waking nights questioning herself, wondering why she hadn't been chosen by a master, even after years of training. At some point, she'd come to the conclusion that Jedi must exemplify every benevolent moral aspect of the universe, so she must also. This stance however, had made her very... jaded, to put it nicely. Instead of demonstrating those ideals, she instead seemed to stand above them. She lacked compassion, as well as the initiative necessary for generosity toward the less fortunate. She was also incredibly naive, having disciplined herself to never think of immoral or evil things. Such ideas should never be considered by a Jedi. And yet she didn't realize that those very things had to be on a Jedi's mind, as they were what the Jedi stood against.
She had promise though, and Gnost believed with his whole heart she was a diamond in the rough. Bringing her down here was his way of exposing her to things she believed herself to be above. It was harder than he'd expected. She'd trained herself psychologically to think a certain way; her ideal, yet distorted view of the Jedi Order. Peeling back that distortion was an ongoing and, frankly, tiring process, but he couldn't leave her be. If she truly wished to exhibit the true path of the Jedi, she needed to change.
As it was, she was still a work in progress. A snobby, sixteen year old, complaining, work in progress.
"Ugh, why are we even here, master?" he heard her question as he turned to address her. She waved at her face, as if to wipe away a foul smell, or perhaps insects that circled the place.
"You know why, Ferra," Gnost stated simply. "The man we seek has information that we need."
"Couldn't you just send him a message? Why do we need to come all the way down into this... filth?" She stressed the last word with disgust, pausing only to take in their grimy surroundings before she said it.
"Because this 'filth' is something even the poor and destitute live in every day of their sad lives. It's not only the depraved who live in squalor, my young padawan. Remember that."
The girl's eyes narrowed as if to respond, but she said nothing more, though she returned her eyes to her surroundings. She no doubt thought he was wrong... mostly.
"That, and it is in such depravity that some seek to hide themselves. If it were you leading the investigation, you'd avoid this place, wouldn't you?"
Ferra gave a side-long look away and muttered under her breath, "It'd be different if I was leading it. I'd do what I had to to find him. But it's your man we're looking for right?"
Gnost gave a short sigh. "And because you're my apprentice, my quarries become your quarries."
Ferra grumbled shortly under her breath, but a muffled, "If you say so, Master," reached Gnost's ears. Good, that was settled then, at least for now. Still though, he supposed that her obedience was also due to her condition. A proper padawan should obey her master in all things, no? Optimally, anyway.
They continued on in silence until they came before a large building. Like most of the structures in this place, it traveled up until it touched, or rather supported the buildings on the level above it. Everything on Coruscant was built on top of itself after all. This building likely connected in some way to another above it. Buildings like these were called buy-ways, where seedier individuals could buy their way (thus the name) between the levels. They could try their hand and try to run the police cordon that inspected all vessels traveling between levels, but sometimes it was simply easier to find a buy-way and for a few extra credits and a lot less hassle, they could move freely up and down Coruscant's interior.
According to Gnost's source, the man he was looking for was holed up in this particular buy-way, which also happened to appear to be...
Gnost turned to his Padawan with a slight hesitation in his voice. "Ah, I forgot to mention, Ferra," he began, "this might be a bit different from most of the other places you've been."
Ferra's eyebrows raised curiously, her distaste for the locale momentarily forgotten. Without another word, Gnost turned and stepped through the entrance, Padawan closely in tow.
The building wasn't as grimy as Ferra had expected; it was well lit, with nice, freshly painted walls, potted plants and a hum of activity. The room, which seemed to be a waiting room of some kind was spacious, with about twenty individuals talking or sitting in it. Ferra's nose wrinkled in disgust as she noted their obvious dishevelment and the way they looked at them, or rather, her with a foreign, though uncomfortable gaze; a sinister amusement danced behind their eyes. Without missing a beat, her Master kept on moving, passing by the obvious guards and heading to the lift. She almost wondered why they didn't stop them when she noticed her Master subtly gesture with his hand. Her eyes sparkled with recognition. The Force mind trick. An inelegant name, though not inaccurate. Any Jedi Knight worth their salt could do it.
She said nothing as they entered the lift, just the two of them, and the door closed behind. Only after the Kel-Dor pressed the ascend button and the lift behind to rise did she speak up. "I didn't realize we were sneaking in. I assume he's not expecting us?"
Gnost gave a small smile beneath his mask. "Correct. He's a bit of a skittish nerf, and last we parted, it was on uncertain terms. I'd rather not scare him."
The Padawan raised an eyebrow. "And waltzing into his... office?"
"...Isn't going to scare him?"
Gnost gave a non-committal shrug, a hidden, playful grin gracing his alien face. "I'd rather not prematurely scare him," he corrected.
The lift began to slow, dinging as it came to a full stop on the seventy-fifth floor, still dozens below the next city level. The doors slid open and the two strode out. Past the secretary at the end of the hall, past the armed guards who seemed to not even notice their existence...
The only issue that concerned Ferra was the security cameras. They could fool the guards, but they couldn't fool any one watching the security footage. She wondered how long it would take for more security to arrive, and no matter how strong her Master might be, he wasn't capable of hiding them both from the eyes of armed, and likely to be aggressive guards. But then, they were Jedi, and if they needed to slice a few mercs up, so be it. They'd be doing them a favor, in her mind. Killing them that is.
Finally they stood before the last door at the end of the hall. At it were two guards, one on either side of the door. They gave Gnost the most suspicious look they could before he waved his hand at them. "Your master is expecting us. Would you mind letting us in?"
Planting the suggestion. To be more accurate, the Mind Trick had two different spectrums. On one side was domination; using the Force to command obedience, and the other was suggestion; coercing them to agree with you. the result was the same, but the motivations behind it could be a damning thing. She'd have to be on her guard against the Dark Side when she learned to practice with the technique.
The guards seemed to waver for a moment, as if they weren't sure what they should do. But in the following seconds, the one on the right spoke. "Sure, I'll let you in." She'd expected his voice to sound more mechanical than it did. Instead, he looked like he wasn't sure why he was agreeing, but that it was something he should sensibly do. The double doors, which seemed to be made of fine wood, opened with a click and a creak, allowing both master and apprentice in. They took several strides in before the doors closed behind them.
The room was mildly large, with a lot of fake plants and expensive decor lining the pedestals that stood against the walls, small spot lights from above, highlighting them. The lights were dimmer than outside, a warm orange glow permeating the place. In the center of the room was a curved desk, behind which sat an expensive looking leather chair, and in that chair sat an alien. As they approached, she noticed the thick, tanned hide, and the notable inclusion of an extra pair of arms. His, for he was of the masculine nature, chair faced to the side of the room, his eyes closed and a smile on his face. She soon saw why.
A small, stunned gasp escaped her lips as she saw the purple-skinned Twi'Lek woman between his legs going to town on his genitals. Two hands rested behind his back, one on the arm of the chair, and the last gripped around the base of the one of the woman's lekku, controlling her pace. She hadn't known beforehand (why should she?), but Besalisks apparently had two sets of... Well, two "sets." And the woman was, beyond Ferra's comprehension, servicing them both simultaneously, her mouth and jaw impressively stretched to give both organs full clearance into her maw. She could even see the woman's throat bulge with movement with each descent onto the man's nethers. Ferra felt bile rise into her throat, which she quickly swallowed back down, even as she held a hand in front of her shocked, disgusted face.
For a moment, the alien simply continued to obliviously continue, until Gnost brought a hand to his face and coughed. The woman's eyes, which had been closed in presumed concentration, blinked open as she turned her head slightly, noticing them in a start. Against his grip, she pulled herself off of him, the long, bulging organs jerking free as her throat rejected them. A sickening shlick! accompanied the gratuitous mucous-like saliva that strung between her lips and his bits. Ferra turned and vomited on the spot.
The Besalisk's head snapped to his left, spotting the two Jedi and stood in a flash, an impressive feat for a normally rotund species. His mood disrupted, his lower parts deflated and his shocked fear gave way to dangerous outrage.
"Who the hell are you?! How did you get in here?! Guards!" The alien called out to the front of the room, but no guards came. Gnost let his hands leave his sleeves and held his arms open. "Come now, Yukslif, surely you couldn't have forgotten me."
The four armed creature paused, taking a long scrutinizing look before recognition sparkled in his eyes. "Stars... Gnost Dural!" The man's lips parted in a genuine smile as he moved out from behind the desk, arms wide as if to embrace him.
"Uhh..." Gnost said with a hand up to stop him.
Yukslif's brow furrow as he looked down at himself and sputtered. "O-Oh, right, right, right, right... Pants, pants, pants, pants..." He reached down and pulled his trousers back up to his waist, tucking himself back in and affixing his belt. "Sorry about the scenery," he said with a thick, slurred Coruscanti accent. "Wasn't expecting company, as you might've noticed. I ain't seen you in ages! Say, how'd you get up here anyway? One of your old Jedi tricks I wager, eh?" the alien playfully inquired, his outrage seemingly forgotten.
"Maybe," Gnost answered vaguely. "I didn't want you to run like last time."
Yukslif let out a hearty laugh, stuttering between intakes of breath. "If-If I didn't run, you'd get no exercise, you, you librarian! Hahaha!"
Gnost groaned at the jab at his occupation. That being the management of the Temple's precious archives.
"I'm out now, aren't I?" he countered.
"Well, obviously it was me who's gone and got your feathers in a fluster. Seems you only ever leave that place to come accuse me of something." A darkened tint in his voice; a slight grudge.
"You were guilty of kidnapping Yukslif. The court, and the investigation, made that apparent enough."
"Ah-ah-ah! Second degree kidnapping!" the man corrected with a pointed finger. "Bordering on gentle abduction, to my credit."
"Gentle abduction isn't a thing, Yukslif," Gnost corrected with a bit of humor in his voice.
"Well it ought to be! I'd've gotten a better sentence than ten years... Though, to my credit, I got out in six for good behavior, you know!" he boasted proudly. "Now I'm the proud owner of a legitimate business! A businessman! Though I never liked the human reference... shouldn't it be businesslisk in my case?" He brought a hand up to his chin in thought.
But Gnost was unconvinced, and the skepticism in his voice was evident. "You run a brothel, Yukslif."
Yukslif didn't miss a beat. "No need to be so suspicious my Jedi friend, everything is above board; no one's forced to do what they don't want to. A-and we don't supply drugs neither!" he clarified preemptively as he moved behind his desk. He reached down and lifted a meaty handful of folders. "I can show you the employment papers if you'd like..."
Gnost's eyes moved to the Twi'Lek on the floor, still where she'd fallen onto her rump. She hadn't moved since Yukslif had stood. Her chest was bared and her only undergarment was still halfway down her legs. But it was the look in her eyes that drew the Master's attention. Fear.
"Your... employee," he said, gesturing to the female, temporarily buying the Besalisk's story. "She seems unwell."
Yukslif turned to regard the person in question. "Oh! Oh don't mind her," he said with a dismissive wave of his hands, as if he'd forgotten she was there. He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and draped it over her shoulders. "Family was killed by a dark Jedi, or something. You're probably a bad memory for her." He said, concern absent in his voice.
"Now, now missy, let's get you up and out of here." With an admittedly gentle tug, he brought her up to her feet and nudged her toward a pair of double doors hidden off to the side of the room. "You get to my room now and wait there, I'll be on in a minute."
She broke from her stupor, uncertain glances made between the Besalisk and the Jedi before she did as instructed and stepped over to the doors and passed through, closing them behind her.
"Poor girl," Yukslif said with genuine sympathy. "See, it's folks like her that I bring in here, to my credit. Else she'd be out on the streets beggin' for food or in some other less reputable pleasure house..." he sucked on his teeth. "Competitors... Always using drugs and subliminal methods to enhance their experiences. They don't know how to foster talent!" he said with disgust and then pride, hearkening back to the scene Gnost had stumbled in on. "Girls like her wouldn't even know a fraction of their real capabilities if they worked anywhere else, to my credit!"
Gnost scratched the side of his head. "I'll take your word for it, but I'm not interested in your-"
"Say~! Who's this little one?" the Besalisk asked suddenly, having seemingly taken notice of Ferra for the first time since their arrival. Well, she had been heaving on the floor...
Having recovered from her initial shock, she now looked at the alien with an indecipherable mix of horror, fascination, confusion, and disgust.
"Ohoh, she looks fierce enough to rip both ears off a gundark! Or at least one in any case, to her credit."
"My Padawan, Ferra Ven. And yes, I believe she is," the Kel-Dor stated truthfully.
The compliment distracted the girl from the creature in front of her. Her thoughts were all a-jumble, a mix of many emotions and sensations rocking her small body. But one of them was decidedly disgust. If her master hadn't spoken just then, she would have launched into a tirade of questions and accusations. She was no stranger to the concept of sexual intercourse, not that she'd ever tried it or ever would, but the purpose of sex was reproduction. What kind of reproduction could be achieved by... that?! That kind of perversion...!
She held her tongue in check. Her master was keeping his cool after all; so must she. Not that she wanted to mind you. She'd never understand how people derived pleasure from... 'Ugh!'
"But back to the matter at hand," Gnost began again, this time authority in his voice, driving Yukslif's attention back to him. "I have a few questions for you. Regarding a certain organization you used to work for."
Yukslif seemed to shift uncomfortably where he stood. "You know I don't run with them anymore. Not since... Well, not since I got thrown in the slammer."
Not bothering to respond, Gnost simply withdrew a datapad from his pocket and keyed a few commands. An image appeared above it, Ferra recognizing it from the briefing she'd had with her master prior to their journey; the security footage from the attack.
Gnost waited for the recording to reach a certain point before stopping. "This man," he pointed with one his his three digits. "Those boots, and that limp. I gave him that, remember?"
The Besalisk scratched his chin thoughtfully for a few moments before feigning ignorance. "Ah well, it could be anybody couldn't it? Boots like that are bought by the billions every day! And who's to say some of them might have a limp?"
"And acts as mercenary muscle operating here on Coruscant? Come on Yukslif, don't fool around with me. You know who he is; he was part of your squad when I took down your operation."
Yukslif got a small gleam in his eyes as a grin began to crease his lips, even as he studied the image. "Maybe he's starting to look familiar. Who's the target? That girl there..."
"Daughter of a senator. I know you keep contact with your old pals. I want to know where he is."
Yukslif's eyes twinkled strangely. "...You... You Jedi have a saying... 'Nothing ever happens by accident?'" he half asked, receiving a knowing nod from his old Jedi frienemy. "It's curious you're here when you are. I... might have recently been watching some of the black markets... And I might have been in contact with my old friends... Not that I'm associating with them, mind you!" he quickly amended. "I'm keepin' my ass clean, to my credit! Just some... some friendly reminiscing about the old days. That's all."
Gnost's patience was beginning to wear thin, but he knew better than to rush an admission. "And? What has your friend been up to on said black market?"
Yukslif gave a clueless shrug. "Haven't the foggiest. Told me the mark... mind you, he didn't tell me about the actual operation. But told me the mark of his most recent job 'ad been grabbed, easy as that-," he snapped his fingers for emphasis. "-and it was to goin' up for auction, somewhere in the Outer Rim. For all I knew he'd been hired to capture some exotic animal," he added, covering his tracks as best he could. Gnost knew it too, but arresting Yukslif wasn't on his agenda for today.
Fortunately for him.
"So you know where she is then," Ferra concluded, her hands crossing over her chest.
But again, the Besalisk shook his head. "Can't say I do young Padawan- Ooh, always wanted to say that!" He rubbed two of his hands satisfactorily. "See, I was keeping track of the whole thing for days; it's not often a Republic dignitary goes on sale. Mind you, I'd have gone to the proper authorities if I'd had any concrete information, to my credit!"
Ferra rolled her eyes before realization dawned on her. "You were going to try to buy her for your... your... whore house!"
The Besalisk recoiled sputtering before bounding back. He drew himself to his full height and straightened his shirt. "Wh-wh-wh-why I never...! The gall of youngsters these days! I assure you Jedi ma'am that my intentions were strictly honorable. Certainly if I were thinking to buy her it would be to return her to her family. And a 'whore house...' A 'whore house!' I'll have you know that-"
"Yukslif." Gnost's voice silenced the alien. "The auction?"
Yukslif gave an offended sniff but let the matter drop, getting back to the subject at hand. "The auction never took place. The hostage up and vanished."
Gnost's small eyes widened. "Vanished? How?"
"Apparently, and this is hearsay, an Imperial Agent was responsible. Heh, seems the Empire wanted her as much as any other common criminal! Hahahaha!" He laughed heartily.
Ferra gave a short, concerned gaze to her master, who caught it.
"We'll need your friend's contact information then. If he was one of the mercenaries who kidnapped her, then either he or someone else was watching over her when she disappeared."
"If she disappeared," Ferra corrected, drawing her masters curious gaze. "Let's face the facts master; pretty girl, guns for hire, slave trade... It's not a pleasant recipe. Odds are if the auction didn't happen, then she was probably sold privately beforehand. Or worse."
"Let's not assume 'worse' yet," the Kel-Dor cautioned. "Yukslif, the information, if you please."
The former criminal scratched the back of his neck and readjusted his pants as he rummaged through his desk for a datapad. "Sure, sure. Now let's see... I assume you still have my contact information from that stint last time?"
Gnost heard a tone from his device, the desired data appearing thereon. "It seems I do," he said looking through it briefly. After several seconds, he nodded. "Thank you Yukslif, you've been more than helpful."
The old alien scratched his chin bashfully... if such an emotion could show on a Besalisk's face. With a slight mock (maybe real?) bow, he grinned at them both. "You do me credit, master Jedi. If you require anything else, don't hesitate to give me a call. I'll, uh, make sure the guards don't shoot you on the way out."
The older Jedi gave nod of his head and turned, Ferra doing the same, eager to get out of the room. And the sector.
"What, we're not going to arrest him?" asked the Padawan as soon as they were out of ear-shot. "He's clearly hiding something. Not to mention this filthy whore house..."
"Train yourself in the Force, my young Padawan, and you'll one day be able to detect the truth from one's very lips as I do," Gnost instructed. "He spoke no lies; of that I'm sure."
"Lies and half-truths are very different, master..." she mumbled under her breath. She trusted the alien about as far as she could physically throw him, that was for sure, which Gnost expected.
Ferra was still a naive child; her senses were keen, but her temperament made it difficult to teach her how to make allowances for social abnormalities. At the very least though, he was glad she knew that much. Very keen.
"I wouldn't speak so harshly of others' lifestyles, Ferra. Not everyone has the privilege to choose their path in life."
"But master Dural, he and that girl were... were-!"
"-Doing something that effects neither you nor me," he cut her off. "I may not have felt it appropriate either, but I felt no unwillingness on her part, nor any addling of her mind. She was herself, as was he. The private affairs of consenting beings are not your concern, my young Padawan."
The girl shrunk back, her eyes casting down and saddened, sufficiently cowed. "...Yes master... I'll try better in the future."
Gnost fought the urge to sigh. She was always like this; a spitfire with flames and intensity that rivaled any adult twice her size, but as soon as she was chastised, she retreated into herself. Perhaps she was contemplating in what way her thinking was wrong... Sure, he'd just it out to her, but every true character change came from a personal revelation; the origin of that change must be within themselves. You couldn't force a person to change with words alone.
Still though, he couldn't let his precious student be so sullen the rest of the day, as she was sure to be in any other situation. He paused in his tracks, turned, and placed a hand on the girl's shoulders. "I know you will Ferra Ven. That's why I picked you."
Most species had a hard time judging Kel-Dor emotions from facial expressions alone, but Ferra could have sworn she saw the smile on her master's face. She felt a smile creep onto her own.
The larger Jedi let his hand fall to his side, resuming his stride. "Now then," he said with a breath, "onto the next one."
"I see..." Ruinus hummed to himself as he stared at the information on the screen in front of him. A groggy looking Naruto stared back at him, half naked from the other side, evidently either unconcerned for his appearance or having recently woken up. The boy was shirtless as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"The data points to somewhere other than this Force-forsaken planet. Seriously, the odds of anyone of significance existing on this dust-ball at any point in the galactic timeline are nonexistent."
"Making it the perfect place to hide things you don't want others to find," the Sith lord reminded with a pointed look.
"Which I checked. Obviously."
"You've been there a day," Ruinus stated flatly. "Keep looking. See if you can't put some of that unadulterated aggression to use trying to pry information from the locals. Tatooine's a big planet; lots of places to hide things."
Naruto's growl was audible as the line cut, the blonde clearly too irritated to even bother answering.
Ruinus shook his head. The boy was a smart young man, but his flaws seemed to outweigh his uses, more so each passing day. Unless he learned some of the finer points of the Sith ways, he'd be little more than a troublesome (if not entirely useless) dog. Which would be such a waste considering all the work the Sith lord had gone to to acquire him-
Ruinus looked at the notification that blinked to life on his device. Someone was here. Pulling up an external camera, he watched as the character outside grinned up at the lens, obviously aware he was being watched. To Ruinus' surprise, it wasn't who he expected. Most of a Sith's guests on Dromund Kaas were either military officers, pages, or other Sith. This man seemed to be neither. He wore neither military fatigues, armor, or uniform that might affiliate him with the armed forces the Sith order. Granted, the Sith weren't like the Jedi in the way they demanded a certain semblance of clothing uniformity, but most Sith tended to wear either a robe, armor, or a combination of both. This man wore a white cloak, the hood barely hiding his eyes, covered as they were by his silver bangs. Sith never wore white.
Ruinus' eyes narrowed as he keyed the intercom. "State your business."
The man on the other end of the door didn't respond, save to withdraw a small package from within his robe, waving it in front of the camera tauntingly. Apparently he had a delivery. Irritation momentarily eclipsed by curiosity, Ruinus keyed the lock, unlatching the door's safety mechanisms. It opened with a hiss, allowing his new guest to walk briskly in.
Ruinus emerged from his laboratory, sealing it behind him as he approached the stranger in the main lobby of his office. The Sith eyed him up and down, taking note of the his prematurely grayed hair, contrary to his youthful appearance. But what surprised Ruinus most was how the Force seemed to hide within the young man. There was a distinct difference between hiding one's presence in the Force and having a natural awareness of one's presence in the it. It wasn't an active suppression, but rather a natural cloaking... Like it had become second nature to hide himself from Force users. Ruinus had no doubt that if he wanted to, the boy could completely erase his presence, even if he were standing next to him. That was a particularly nasty gift.
Ruinus eyed the boy. "You're an assassin, aren't you?" he asked skeptically.
The boy didn't even flinch at the accusation. "Let me guess. You noticed my presence in the Force... or lack thereof, as it were? "
"You are then?" The elder Sith prodded again, guardedly prepared to repel any attack. Though it was strange that an assassin would reveal themselves so openly, unless they were either stupid or stupidly confident, the bespectacled boy in front of him didn't look stupid. Oops, profiling.
The younger Sith pressed his glasses back to the bridge of his nose, the sheen of light reflecting off of them occluding his eyes. "If I need to be. I'd say I'm pretty good at it, but I think it'd be a bit tasteless to brag," he pointed out with a nonchalant smile.
"You know... I know, that you know your presence is... sketchy, and that usually sets most Sith on edge. Either hide yourself fully and try to kill me or don't bother at all. Why half-ass it?"
The boy raised an eyebrow. "That's an unexpectedly youthful term from you, lord Ruinus. 'Sketchy,' that is."
Ruinus pretended he didn't hear him; pretended he wasn't picking up bad verbal terms from his apprentice. "You're pretty cheeky for an assassin. I presume you have other talents, yes? Is that what you are right now? An assassin?"
The boy grinned mirthlessly, holding the package out to the senior Sith lord. "Luckily for you, not today. Today I am simply a messenger."
Ruinus took the package warily. It was wrapped in brown paper and felt pliable to the touch. "Every messenger has a master," he stated simply as he unwrapped the thing. "Who's yours?"
The boy seemed the take humor at his question, a quiet huff escaping his throat. "A new one this time," he offered cryptically, causing Ruinus to pause as the wrapping fell away from the datapad beneath.
"We've met before?" he asked, momentarily distracted from the gift; he wasn't one to forget faces easily, especially from someone with a peculiar aura as this one.
"A long time ago, serving a different master, wearing a different face..." he listed with a smile as he gestured to the device in the Sith's hands.
Ruinus eyed him warily as he activated the device, glancing through the data stored within for several seconds. Almost immediately he looked back at the young man in front of him. "You're that boy?" It was less of a question than a statement.
"So you do remember me," his guest replied with an appreciative nod. "My new master has a proposal for you. A trade, rather."
Ruinus cocked his head curiously. "What kind of trade? Or for that matter, who is your new master, and why should I oblige him?"
The boy brought his finger up to his lips in a hushing gesture. "All is explained in the datapad there. My master will expect your response by the end of the week."
With an embellished bow at the waist, the white haired agent turned and left, the metal doors sealing shut behind him, leaving the Sith Lord to his own considerations.
Saying that Dakal was displeased with the eradication of the Mandalorian enclave would be like saying the dusty dunes he governed over were dry. Obvious.
Not that Naruto had any reason to actually contact him directly. As it turned out, one of the trinkets in their pilfered booty seemed to be a map, or at least a portion of one. Naruto suspected it was part of a larger construct that would lead him to Lord Drovar's hidden stashes. Well, one of them anyway. Although he had no definitive proof, he knew well enough the feeling in the pit of his stomach.
And if there was one thing Naruto trusted more than anything else, it was his instincts; he practically lived by them. There was no logic behind it, and it concerned his new Mandalorian companion that he had no real explanation for his assurances, only that he was sure he was right.
Being only a hired gun, as she had no clan and now no unit to return to, she didn't exactly have the liberty to question it. If he was wrong, he'd have to deal with the consequences, not her. But due to his confidence, he was opting to not to tell Dakal about the enclave. Or about the facility. Or about the case.
Or… well, anything really.
Too bad the late Mandalorian commander hadn't gotten the memo. Apparently, during the duo's assault on the compound, the facility's commander had sent out a distress call to the governor to dispatch additional troops. When the enclave'd gone silent soon after, Dakal had put two and two together (not that it took a genius to figure it out). Unfortunately, Naruto had received an outraged call from the governor while on his way through the spaceport.
"Look, ass-wipe. I took care of your little problem. I'm not even asking anything in return," Naruto growled into his communicator, audio only. His leather boots pounded the duracrete floor, his new comrade a few steps behind. "And frankly, I couldn't give a damn whether you're happy with me or not. I came to this planet to get something and I got it. You're the one who sidetracked me. Though in the process, you indirectly led me to what I was looking for. It's that reason and that reason alone I'm not in your office, standing over your broken, burning corpse!"
With a beep, the Sith replaced the device into his pocket with a shove, his steps thudding harder and faster as his pace increased along with his rising anger.
"Politic scum," he growled aloud. "Who the hell does he think he is?" If there was one thing Naruto didn't like, it was an overconfident fool. To him, politics were all about the illusion of power. As long as one made himself seem stronger than his opponent, then he could command the respect and subservience of those who would support them. But Naruto wasn't about that life. He believed in the manifestation of actual power. Politicians always seemed to confuse their supposed worth with reality, and for that Naruto despised them.
'Deceiving everyone, even themselves… Garbage should know its place,' he thought darkly. It was a quote he'd used more than once in his lifetime, though rarely aloud, and even more rarely while the target of his rebuke was still alive.
"I'm not one for politics either. A Mandalorian lets their gun do the talking."
Naruto turned his head to regard the armored woman with a curious eye. "Oh, so you do have some redeeming qualities."
Anni shrugged off his cold remark. Even though they'd barely been together for less than a day, she was already beginning to understand him, if only a little. Though she couldn't tell if he was being serious of sarcastic; he'd shown he was capable of being both, often simultaneously which made things… very confusing sometimes.
She hefted the chest under her arm and her rifle over the other, both being the only possessions she'd been tasked with holding while the rest of her possessions were being loaded onto her new superior's ship, which slid into view as they rounded the corner.
She gave a short impressed whistle. She'd seen the ship model before; an Imperial Fury-class interceptor. However, the class of "interceptor" was slightly misleading. Apparently the things acted like nimble, heavy-gunships. Proverbial tanks of the corvette class.
"I guess this baby's gonna be my new home for a while, huh?" she called ahead to the blonde. Naruto didn't glance back at her, his gaze locked forward.
"Home if you do as I say. Tomb if you don't."
The woman almost gave a sigh at his words, but quickly thought better of it. She knew the boy could back up his bark with an equally powerful bite, but did he need to try and intimidate her every time he talked?
They continued on to the back of the ship where the boarding ramp was already extended, waiting for its captain to return. Naruto lunged up the incline and gave the key console a tap, opening the bulkhead door with a hiss. They both stepped through.
The inside was larger than she'd anticipated. The entryway emptied into the main room of the ship. In the center and towards the cockpit was a large holo projector, and to the sides were various rooms she would eventually become familiar with.
With a hiss, she slipped her familiar t-visor helmet off and set it aside idely. She refrained from shedding any other pieces of armor, for which he was thankful; if he had to tell her not to leave her shit around his ship in the first few minutes she was on it, then this would not be working out.
"Nice digs," she admired with a weak whistle. "This one of those Fury interceptors? I've heard they do pretty mean work in a fight."
Naruto grumbled under his breath unconvincingly. "Well, if she doesn't, I'll be doing one helluva refit."
With a few taps, the girl brought up the ship's specifications on the main holo. She perused them for a few moments before speaking appreciatively. "Looks pretty well kitted out to me. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest mechanic buff, but I know my way around general maintenance." She scrolled through the list, directing the scrolling screen with her finger.
"Ah! You've returned master!"
Their attention diverted to the mechanized voice entering the room. Anni turned to regard the jovial mechanized voice behind her as it approached, metal feet quietly clanking away.
"A 2V-R8 custodian droid? Awesome! I was wondering if you were the kind of guy who made his own meals." She turned back to the screen, mumbling under her breath, "gods know I'm not." A soldier who routinely ate military rations as a meal either learned to make better food or live with eating dehydrated granola bars… with worse taste. She was more of the latter.
"That reminds me," Naruto started with a strange tone of hopefulness. "Did the useless one kill herself yet?"
The droid hesitated for a moment, perhaps trying to deduce what its master meant by "useless one." Then its photoreceptors flickered, perhaps a mechanical glitch, perhaps an intentional imitation of an organic's spark of realization.
"Oh! Of course! The girl. I'm afraid not, my lord. Though not hindered from doing so, she seems to lack the motivation to do away with herself."
Naruto let his head loll back with a sigh. A small part of him had hoped he might be able to stop devoting a miniscule, though still significant portion of his brainpower to finding a use for her.
"I'm sorry… who?" the Mandalorian asked, swiveling her eyes between the two of them.
Naruto rubbed his temples soothingly as he explained. "One of my master's agents picked her up from an auction in the core; some senator's daughter or some shit. Problem is, my master doesn't have a use for her right now and frankly neither do I."
Anni's brow furrowed as she tried to follow her new superior's logic. "Soo… You're just kind of hoping she… offs herself?"
The boy gave an affirming shrug. "I'd hoped she would while I was out. I guess her fear of me, or cowardiceon general, extends to even when I'm not around. Lovely."
"You could just free her you know," she offered, earning an unamused look from the blonde.
"I could also just as easily, and more satisfyingly, kill her with my own two hands. Beat her to a pulp, strangle her and watch the life drain from her eyes, cut bits of her off until she's just a head-"
"I get it. You have quite the imagination."
Naruto nodded tiredly. "I know; it's a curse. But while each option, said and unsaid, would be a pleasure to execute, if I kill a political pawn and then my master calls asking for her back, I'm gonna be in some pretty deep shit."
He stood up from his seat and stomped towards her methodically. "Now, use your imagination and a question; how does all this apply to you?"
The girl blinked as the boy leaned forward, her personal space violated by his piercing blue eyes. "…Not freeing her to sate my own moral qualms?"
"Or killing her."
"But you just said you hoped she'd kill herself. Wouldn't that cause trouble for you?" she queried.
Naruto's eyes narrowed irritably. "Only I'm allowed to cause trouble for me." A small narcissistic smirk spread across his face. "What can I say? I play favorites."
Anni gave an acknowledging shrug and acceded his point. She smirked back playfully. "So… what if I were one of your favorites?" She leaned against the holo-projector sultrily, her armored hips jutting to the side in a way that strangely accentuated her warrior countenance.
Naruto gave a raised brow and looked her up and down, a noticeable pause in his otherwise consistent, berating routine.
Anni took particular pride in being able to make this Sith pause, even if momentarily, with her offer. Unexpectedly, the boy seemed to consider it. Well, for a brief moment anyway.
He gave a noncommittal shrug and shook his head. "Eh… I see potential. But if you're going to be living under my roof, I'd much rather you put your efforts toward being more ruthless. Not… sensual."
Her amatory expression fell away and she crossed her arms skeptically a raised eyebrow speaking more than her tone ever could. "So… emulate you?"
"Yup. Sounds about right." Naruto blinked fuzzily as he pried his black boots from his feet. He'd expected to sweat more, Tatooine being a desert planet and all, but it seemed the dusty rock-of-a-world absorbed all moisture indiscriminately. The small pool of sand that slid out when he upturned the shoe probably had something to do with that. He was becoming more and more convinced that if he so much as pissed on the sand, there'd not even be a wet smudge to mark his territory. He smacked the article of clothing against his leg, shaking what sand might remain within out onto the deck.
"So where is she?" Anni asked as she looked about the ship for evidence of her, now, fellow female traveling companion.
"In her room presently," 2V-R8 offered, turning his geometrically simple faceplate towards the Mandalorian. "Master kindly asked that she minimize her presence onboard while he is about."
Anni raised another eyebrow at the young man, a disbelief written all over her expression. "'Kindly asked to minimize her presence?'" she parroted skeptically.
"I believe his precise diction was, 'now fuck off.'"
"She never leaves it… 'cept when she uses the refresher. I guess." Naruto let out a breath of superheated air; remnants of Tatooine's oppressive atmosphere. "And speaking of refreshments…" He turned to the droid. "I'm starving."
No more words need be spoke. With a bow of acquiescence the droid clacked off to the kitchen. Naruto sighed and leaned back against the semi-circular lounging couch, his arms spreading out to rest on its back on either side of him. He gave a short glance to his new minion and noticed her expectant gaze. He groaned lightly and yelled after the droid. "And get something for the woman!"
He returned his look to Anni, gesturing with his hand, as if to ask if he'd gained her satisfaction. The girl nodded her head politely in thanks and rolled her shoulders, mirroring Naruto's position as she stretched her sore limbs. "Well, while we're busy with… nothing… I'll go ahead and get working on sorting through all this junk." She gave the steel case an indicative kick with the side of her foot, gaining an approving nod from the Sith.
More clacking and the droid returned with a tray of food. Or rather, a tray of noodles; two bowls of steaming hot noodles with meat and vegetables, and other… things in it. Delicious looking things though, to be fair. Anni looked from the food to the Sith and nearly had to look twice. The boy's eyes lit up. Gone was the vicious killer; gone was the abused and twisted young man who worshiped death and pain. The spark that lit Naruto's eyes was so bright and wondrous… at the sight of food of all things! He grabbed a bowl and a pair of short prongs which he maneuvered between his fingers. With them, he slipped and twirled the starchy strands into his mouth with a precision that bespoke an intimate familiarity with the utensils. Anni had a hard time figuring out how to even put them in her fingers, let alone into her mouth.
"So…I guess you like noodles, huh?"
The scowl that briefly flashed across the boy's face indicated his irritation at having his lovely a-boy-and-his-food moment interrupted. He responded, albeit with a mouthful of starchy soup. "It's an exotic food type from…" he trailed off briefly, searching. "…Somewhere in the mid-rim. I mean, everywhere has some kind of noodle food, but the way these people make it is… much more special. It's basically the only thing I eat." He took another twirled knot into his mouth. "Had to program 2V with the instructions to make it. He's does an alright job, but something's better than nothing so I'll take what I can get."
"That reminds me master," the droid spoke up with a raised finger. "In an effort to improve on my concoctions, I would like to ask for a detailed report on how the taste differs from what you are familiar with."
To her surprise, the boy didn't even bat an eye at the machine. "I'll have a list on your desk by tomorrow." Oh, so he couldn't be bothered to anything but kill, but when it came to food he'd write a whole blasted report? For some reason, she felt she shouldn't really have been surprised.
"Also master, we're stocked up on ingredients for your specialty, but we neglected to include rations for the slave-girl."
Naruto groaned. Need his meal be soured by focusing on anything that wasn't the meal? Especially that worthless creature?
He gave a full-bodied sigh, slumping into his seat exasperatedly. "Just-… Just feed her the leftovers. I don't give a damn."
The droid gave a short acknowledging bow and returned to the kitchen, presumably to retrieve a serving for the girl.
Though Anni had to admit, as difficult as it was to eat, it did taste pretty damn good. Then again, after months of military rations, her left shoe might have tasted as good. "Well, my taste-buds are pretty shot but…" she said through a mouthful before swallowing with an audible gulp. "…It ain't bad."
"No," Naruto agreed. "No, it ain't."
They fell into a comfortable silence as they continued to eat, a hard day's work behind them and, undoubtedly, a harder day's work ahead of them.
A/N: Haha! The famous Gnost Dural is getting involved! Looks like there's be a certain Sith to mention in an upcoming record :D I hope you all enjoyed this installment, and I'm vigorously working on the next one. That said, if you liked this chapter, or even if you didn't, feel free to leave a comment below saying why. I love to hear feedback regardless of what kind it is.
Until next time, peace! o7