Chance stumbled to his feet, mouth spread in his ever-present grin. "We should totally do this again sometime. If- if you want to, I mean."

Anfrali hesitated. An hour ago he never would have considered it, but it had been... enjoyable. He was more relaxed than since he had returned to duty after Jadus, and the underlying fear that had been constant since his mind control was revealed wasn't clouding his mind quite so much. Additionally, the trust of the boy could very well be what gets him the information he needed. "I don't see why not."

"Really?" Chance asked, jubilant. "That's great! I'm so happy I could- Can I kiss you?" Then he realized what he had said and backed away, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, that wasn't what I meant to say, I promise. Forget I said anything."

But Anfrali had already frozen, eyes wide and throat constricted. The request was close, far too close, to what Hunter had originally asked of him. The threat was there, lurking behind the smiles and cheers. Anyone who knew the keyword was a danger; he was foolish to have ever felt safe. The boy had absolute power two words away, the only thing stopping him from using it his morals. Morals didn't last very long in their line of work.

So Cipher Nine kissed him. It was to keep control, to fend off the terror ready to pounce when given the signal. But how much control really saved if he did as he was ordered regardless?

Chance pushed him away. "Why did you do that?" he yelled, gesturing wildly.

"I- you wanted me to," Anfrali answered, stepping back further and trying to ignore his fear-driven pulse. He had chosen the best option, he knew he had. Keep the kid happy, keep Hunter happy, keep everyone happy so he could finish this damned mission, making Keeper- no, Minister of Intelligence now, he had to remember that -happy. He had done what Chance had asked for, so why was he being yelled at? "I don't understand."

"You don't understand? How the fuck do you think I'm feeling? You were scared of me, I saw it on your face. I know you're-" He stopped there, glancing around at the attention they were drawing. "We're going back to Nar Shaddaa, right now."


Anfrali trailed behind Chance as the SIS agent raged through the base. The silent flight back had ended in the early hours of the morning, so the building was dark and quiet. All except for one room, that is.

Chance knocked on the door to Kothe's office. "Ardun?" he called softly. "I need your help with something."

After a moment the door swung open, and Ardun Kothe stood in the doorway. The man's eyes flicked from Chance to Cipher Nine and back, and his mouth tightened. "What is it, Chance?" he growled. "Are you having trouble with Legate?"

"No, sir," the SIS agent replied, pausing a moment to bite his lip. "Can we come inside?"

Kothe nodded and they filed in, Anfrali staying near the open door until the Force-sensitive invited them to sit down. The cipher obeyed, but remembered that the last time he had been in this room he hadn't had the choice to remain standing. He needed to use this time to analyze Kothe, as the man was often absent and the only time they had spent in the same room he had been unconscious for much of it.

"Alright Chance, what's the matter?"

Chance took a deep breath, glancing back at Anfrali before turning in his seat to face Ardun directly. "Legate's doing everything I say. Everyting."

Kothe raised an eyebrow, looking between the two of them. "I'm afraid I don't see the problem."

Chance stood suddenly, slamming his hand on the table. "Ardun, he's afraid of me, afraid of all of us. We're supposed to be the good guys, damn it!"

"Calm yourself, you're a professional." Kothe stood, walking around to their side of the table and grabbing Chance's shoulders to look him in the eye. "I don't like it either, but we do what we have to. This is a war. Every day we send good men and women to die, and if controlling one stray member of Imperial Intelligence saves even one I'm going to do it. Legate was the enemy, maybe even still is, and I am not going to assume his loyalty and risk everything."

Chance tore away from his leader then started pacing, bringing up his hands to grab at his hair. Finally he stopped, still ignoring Anfrali, and spoke to Kothe again, "I'm young. I'm idealistic. I know. But making volunteers into slaves to guarantee their obedience isn't something I can do. If you don't let him go I'm leaving." There was a sense of finality in his tone, but Anfrali couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I can't," Kothe answered with a sigh. "I know that's not what you want to hear, but this isn't my choice. It's an irreversible procedure; it wasn't designed to be undone."

Anfrali's mind froze to the point that he didn't hear Chance's reply, and barely noticed the kid running out of the room. There was no cure? That was... no, Kothe had to be lying. Had to be making it up to get Chance off his back. He had to be, but he wasn't. Cipher Nine could tell.

"I'm sorry," Kothe said, jolting Anfrali out of his thoughts. "I really am. But I need to make sure you don't run off before I can get Chance to come to his senses. Keyword: onomatophobia. Don't leave." and with that Kothe left in pursuit of Chance.

Anfrali braced his elbows on his needs and put his head in his hand, the normal terror replaced with numb disbelief. His 'programming' wasn't a temporary fix until they could guarantee his loyalty, it was a permanent solution to a problem they weren't even sure if they had. Well, if hadn't been devoted to the Empire before, he certainly would be now. How unfortunate that he would never be able to show it.

He would never me able to reclaim his position in the Empire. Every SIS member doubtless had his description and key word. All information his superiors gave him could be extracted by the enemy with no effort at all. All of his training was wasted; he would never run an operation again. Not when simply existing made him a liability. Not when encountering an SIS agent in the field could make him turn on his allies. Not when he couldn't even leave this fucking room because some bastard with a Sabacc obsession had told in not to.

Cipher Nine stood and walked to the exit, but his foot froze before it passed through the doorframe. He set it down and started swinging at the air, his fists stopping on a dime where the wall would've begun. He stepped back, then spoke the words he had spent weeks fearing.

"Keyword: onomatophobia. Leave the room."

It started working, much to his surprise. His feet were moving without him telling them to, and for a moment it looked like he just might have found away around the mind control. Then he got to the doorway.

His legs crumpled under him and his head was on the ground before he noticed he was falling. Anfrali was on his knees, head tucked between them and hands clutching the back of his neck. His brain was on fire, and between that and the screaming any thoughts he might have tried to have were left as barely-formed fragments with no meaning. His eyes were closed but that didn't stop his mind from projecting impossibly bright sparks onto the backs of his eyelids. He couldn't think, he couldn't even feel except for the overwhelming pain encompassing his head. He tried to move, to tear off his head, to stop the pain, anything, but if Cipher Nine even had a body anymore he couldn't tell.

Then it stopped, and he rolled onto his back, outside of the room. His brain wasn't boiling alive anymore, but the aftershocks were still echoing through it. Anfrali opened his eyes, relieved when they obeyed him. It appeared he was back in control of his body.

He would have been happier Kothe and Chance's faces weren't hovering over him. He tried to leap to his feet but stumbled, his limbs struggling to get used to movement again.

"You were out for three hours," Kothe said, and Chance stood wordlessly behind him. "Everyone else is doing Hunter and Vector are on a mission, Saber tells me she and Kaliyo are out in the town for the day. No one has been here besides us. You're okay. What happened?"

Anfrali snarled and drew his knife, trying to lunge at the bastard and slit his throat. Chance flinched backwards, raising an arm to defend himself, but Kothe just stood there, and Anfrali's knife stopped a foot in front of his face.

"He can't hurt us, Chance," Kothe called, raising his arms to show he didn't mean any harm. "And you don't need to lash out, Legate. Listen, I'm a Jedi, and I'll do everything in my power to keep whatever hurt you from happening again."

He scrambled back, bared teeth and raised knife doing nowhere near enough to express his emotions. "You Jedi fucker," he screamed, voice cracking from disuse. "You might have my body, but you're never getting my mind!" Then Anfrali took his knife and slashed open his arms, grinning dully at Kothe and Chance's horrified gasps as he sank to the ground. It was a shame he had to go out like this; he had hoped to outlast the average cipher lifespan, at least.

The two Humans fell to either side of him Kothe starting to heal him with the force and Chance probably blubbering something about having so much to live for. The adrenalin that had been pumping through his veins before he had decided to open them made the cloud of blood loss settle rather quickly, so it was kind of hard to tell.

"Let me die," he muttered, trying to ignore the way his flesh was knitting itself up. Chance had returned with a bacta patch, funny Anfrali hadn't noticed him leaving. "Leave me alone," he continued, trying to flop his bleeding arm out of the SIS agent's grasp. He heard Kothe murmuring something and felt himself getting suspiciously tired, so he focused all of his remaining brain power on resisting the exhausted Jedi. "Get out of my head." He had been trained against the force, there was no way-

That was when Chance stabbed him with a sleep dart.


Yeah, I think I'm going to change the rating to M.