The Ugly Twi’lek Bar
We are going to have words, Admiral.
Zakath grunted to himself as he clamped a cigar within his mouth, his hand fumbling with the undersized lighter. He had not been pleased to have been given this assignment, particularly given the anti-alien prejudice of his charge. Normally he would be able to just ignore whatever assumptions people would make about him and push ahead with his assignments.
And he would attempt to do so here. But recently, he had noticed a disturbing trend in his temper as of late, a decreasing ability to keep it reined in. And the Barabel wasn’t sure what to make of it. Nothing noteworthy had changed for him except for his recent re-assignment to a commanding position aboard the Tyrant Sword battle team, and that certainly wouldn’t enrage him. Quite the contrary, it meant that his worth was beginning to be recognized again, and his star was rising once more. He had every reason to be pleased.
And his ability to touch the Dark Side had grown even more potent than ever before, and it was like an addictively sweet power flowing constantly through his veins now, as if it were a narcotic being pushed through him, propelling the Barabel to ever higher heights of sheer power.
But such power came at a cost, it seemed.
Zakath finally had the lighter lit after another minute of fumbling, and brought the flame to the tip of his cigar, bathing the tabac in its orange light and causing it to ignite in a cherry red glow. After a few seconds, smoke was drawing easily through the cigar, and he allowed the lighter to go out, tucking it into a small pocket in his belt.
Because I was Security Chief on the Nighthawk, that qualifies me for a VIP escort mission? What kind of logic is that?
He allowed the thought to stew in his mind for a long moment, dissecting it to try and figure out the Admiral’s logic for his current assignment. It was true that he had extensive experience in security procedures and protecting people under his charge, but it was always in the context of a starship environment, never in an actual escort mission through potential hostile territory.
He grunted again before exhaling, allowing a cloud of spicy sweet smoke to escape his lungs in a billow as he surveyed the bar he was in. Like most establishments in the seedier end of the Pride of Corellia, the bar wasn’t particularly clean, and the clientele was mostly rumpled and unkempt dockworkers and spacers of various species on a leave from their berths, come to spend their hard-earned credits on booze, gambling, and women, not always in that order.
He allowed a slight scowl to form around the cigar as he regarded the seedy denizens that crowded the place. Just seeing them cavorting and spending their credits on useless things was enough to put him on edge, his talons itching to rip out some throats and bathe him in their blood.
They deserve nothing less.
The Barabel growled slightly under his breath, the sound audible enough to cause an incoming Twi’lek waitress with a skittish expression on her face to quickly alter her course to another table, giving Zakath a wide berth. He glared at her retreating form for a moment, imagining his talons ripping into her lekku before shaking off the thought, glancing down to check his chronometer.
It was time to meet his charge and get the mission underway.
Zakath slid his chair back, the cheap metal legs scraping against the durasteel floor as it moved under his weight, a sound that caused the Barabel’s lips to compress further around the cigar, causing the cherry tip to flare for a brief second before fading back to normal. Rising from the chair, he gave a last venomous glare at the dirty bar before striding for the exit.
He had enough of this place.
Undisclosed Safe house
As soon as Zakath laid his eyes on the man that would be his charge for the duration of the mission, he knew his patience would be sorely taxed. The Human was dressed in what appeared to be a plain tunic cut in an Early Imperial-era Officer’s uniform, and as soon as his eyes fell on Zakath, a repulsed sneer formed on his face.
“I take it you are the… thing that is supposed to escort me to your Citadel?” The Human asked, his disdain clearly evident in his tone.
“Yez.” Zakath growled out warningly as he entered the room, a trail of cigar smoke lingering in his wake. “You are the informant, Arzlan Rozario?”
“That’s Arslan Rosario” The Human corrected, his nose wrinkling in distaste at the the spicy scent of the cigar smoke. “And do you really have to smoke that? It’s disgusting.”
“Yez.” Zakath shot a smirk in Arslan’s direction before he took a datapad, thumbing it on. “You can put up with it until we reach the Citadel.”
“Ugh. Fine.” Arslan replied, leveling a glare at the Barabel. “So what is the plan to get me off this filthy station?”
“We are going to slip out of here and down the alleyway next to thiz building,” Zakath began as he handed the datapad, a map of the Plaza level on its screen, to Arslan. “We will then enter the sewer system and travel along itz tunnelz until we reach the Ductz. At tha-”
“Please tell me this place at least keeps the sewer system clean.” Arslan said, shooting an even more disgusted look at Zakath.
“…It is a sewer.” Zakath said flatly as he returned Arslan’s glare, the beginnings of what felt like a miragine starting to form behind his temples. “You can either live by being dirty for a while, or you can die clean. Your choice.”
“Ugh.” Arsland gave a disgusted noise before waving a hand at the Barabel. “Continue on.”
Do we really need him alive? The Barabel asked bitterly to himself as he exhaled another cloud of smoke in an attempt to reinforce his already fragile grip on his temper.
“At that point, we will take back alleyz routez until we reach the Dockz, where the Broken Blade awaitz uz.” Zakath continued on, his emerald green eyes beginning to glow with power as he stared venomously at the Human. “We suzpect mercenariez will be dizpatched by the Huttz to take you alive, so try not to get hit by stun weaponz, it would cauze complicationz.”
“I will be fine, alien.” Arsland sneered as he patted a blaster pistol that was holstered to his hip. “You just do your job and deliver me unharmed to your betters.”
“My inztructionz were to deliver you alive.” Zakath let a grim smile touch his lips. “Nowhere doez it say that you are required to be unharmed. I suggezt you keep your attitude to yourzelf while we are together.”
The Human didn’t bother to reply to that, settling for a seething glare at the Barabel.
“So good we underztand each other.” Zakath’s smile turned to a smirk. “Now let’z go.”
Entrance to the Docks
The slow trip through the sewers and into the Ducts proceeded without incident, with only the Human’s constant complaining of the stench and slime eroding Zakath’s temper to the point where the Barabel was actively considering crushing the Human’s windpipe with the Force. Fortunately, they arrived at the Ducts’ turbolift leading to the Docks’ entrance before Zakath could succumb to the temptation.
“Please tell me that your ship has a change of clothes?” Arslan asked in a complaining tone. “I can’t believe you won’t even let me bring a bag.”
“A bag will only slow uz down if we are ambuzhed.” Zakath snapped back as he slammed a fist on the turbolift button for the Docks. “If I only needed your body, then I would let you have a bag. Since you are required to be alive, no bag! Now shut up!”
“How dare you speak to-” Arslan started to protest before Zakath spun around and seized the Human by the throat with a single hand and lifted him up into the air.
“Let me make thiz perfectly clear.” The Barabel hissed dangerously, his eyes now a blazing violet as he glared up at the Human trapped in his grasp. “You will stay silent until we reach the ship. Whatever you were before, you are now nothing more than a source of information. You are not that valuable, so I warn you…” Zakath’s grip tightened noticeably around Arslan’s throat, prompting a choked gurgle from the man. “Do not prezz me further.”
With that, Zakath let the Human fall from his grip and spun around to face the turbolift door, ignoring him
He took a certain satisfaction in the sound of wheezing gasps from behind him.
The Human had, thank the Force, actually managed to keep his mouth shut as the two proceeded cautiously into the crowded streets of the Docks. Zakath managed to forcibly rein in his temper, allowing his eyes to fade back to their normal emerald green color, and now he kept a wary watch as they walked at a crisp pace, steering around suspicious people without a break in his walk, though the Human occasionally stumbled at the sometimes unexpected turns taken.
As they got closer to the hangar bay where the Broken Blade was docked, a bad feeling was forming in Zakath’s gut. Something was very wrong.
“Stop. Get in there.” Zakath hissed, shoving the Human into an empty alleyway before following swiftly behind.
“What?” Do you see something?” Arslan asked, his voice for once quiet and devoid of the dislike for the Barabel.
“Not sure.” Zakath replied as he warily surveyed the street, quickly evaluating each person in the crowded area for potential threats. “But get your blazter out. You may need it.”
“Alright.” Arslan whispered, the sound of a blaster being quietly un-holstered reaching the Barabel’s ears.
There. Zakath thought as his eyes fell on a mixed group of Rodians and Grans along with a greasy looking human, leaning casually against a storefront, their hands casually resting near their blasters while they kept a watchful gaze out, appearing to quietly chat with each other.
“Stay here, I will be back.” Zakath said before he moved out into the street, not bothering to glance back at the Human.
The Barabel slowly made his way through the crowd, forcing himself to maintain a slow but steady pace as he drew near the suspected group of potential kidnappers. As he neared the group, he could pick up on the rapid fire conversation that the group was having.
“…shush. Here he comes now. Be ready, boys.”
Zakath stopped in front of the greasy looking Human, whose black hair was slicked back, with tiny rodent-like brown eyes squinting out at him, a small smirk touching his lips.
“What can I do ya, pal?” The Human drawled out as he craned his head up to look at the Barabel.
“You can walk away.” Zakath growled threateningly. “Leave for the Ductz, and we will not have problemz.”
“Or what?” The Human sneered as the group of Rodians and Grans withdrew their blasters. “You’ll kill us? Not bloody likely. Even those Barabel claws of yours can’t move that fast. We’ll gun you down so fast, you won’t-”
The Barabel slowly raised a hand, the sight of his lightsaber hilt cutting off the man’s speech as his eyes widened.
“You know what thiz iz?” Zakath asked, and at the man’s slow nod, he continued. “Then you know what I can do. And truzt me, I am no Jeedai. So leave. Now.”
The Human gulped audibly and after shooting a quick glance past Zakath’s shoulders, nodded quickly. “Right you are, pal, right you are. Come on boys, we’re done here.”
Zakath’s eyes narrowed as he watched the group reluctantly put away their blasters and attempt to saunter off, keeping what remained of their pride. After a moment of watching them, satisfied that they were indeed leaving, he turned to return to Arslan, only to find a heavily armed group of three armored humanoids hustling into the alleyway he left the ex-Imperial in, their weapons drawn.
The Barabel snarled, his lightsaber igniting as he sprang forward into a run, his scaly body blurring into a black shadow as he drew upon the Dark Side to enhance his speed. Within seconds, Zakath reached the entrance to the alleyway just as blaster fire erupted within, wild shots flying out into the street.
They will not survive this day.
A veil of red smoke clouded up his vision as the Sith Battlemaster surrendered to his rage, his bloodshine blade already arcing out to cut down the first humanoid. But the kidnapper was already jumping backward, missing the blade by inches. But before he could take advantage of his escape, Zakath had already reacted, his talons reaching out to rip out the hunter’s throat, sending spurts of dark green blood gushing out.
Without a pause, he moved forward, the remaining hunters frantically backpedalling as they fired their blasters at him. Bright blue rings of fire launched out at him… and then simply bounced off. Zakath let out a mocking laugh as he ruthlessly cut down the second hunter, sending the head flying away as the decapitated body tumbled down to the dirty ground, suddenly devoid of life.
Zakath turned his poisonous glare on the third and final would-be kidnapper, who was trying to hurriedly adjust his blaster, when it suddenly dawned on him that he was all alone. With a electronic growl at the realization that he was outnumbered, he threw away his blaster and started to run away.
He was not fast enough.
In an instant, the Sith Battlemaster leapt into the air and over the fleeing humanoid, the Force cradling his landing as he suddenly appeared in front of the kidnapper, his lightsaber blade pointed right at his throat.
The kidnapper slid to a sudden stop, less than an inch away from the blade.
“Talk.” Zakath growled, his violet eyes narrowed. “Talk, and your death will be swift.”
“And if I don’t?” The humanoid replied, his electronic voice steady.
“You will die in hourz.” The Sith replied, his voice lowered to a sinister hiss. “If not dayz, and every second will be agony.”
“…Shit. What do you wanna know?” The hunter sighed loudly as he kept his helmet viewport on the steady glow of the lightsaber blade.
“Who hired you?” Zakath demanded, his eyes glowing brighter.
“Who- who do you think? The damn Hutts of course.,” The humanoid replied in an incredulous tone. “Who else runs things in this place? They paid us a fortune to do it too, more than I would make with a hundred bounties combined.”
“Why?” Zakath could feel his anger climbing.
“How the hell should I know? We get told to nab someone, we do it, we don’t ask why.”
“Who leaked the information?” The Barabel growled. “How did you know where to find us?”
“No. Screw you pal, you can just go ahead and kill me.” The hunter shot back. “Some things aren’t worth spilling, and my bosses are one of them.”
Zakath’s eyes glowed brighter at the hunter’s bold reply.
“Very well then.” Zakath said coldly. “Then you are of no further uze to me. And therefore…”
A flick of his wrist, and the hunter’s head flew off to join that of his comrades.
Now where’s the Imperial…
Zakath could feel the headache that began back in the Jerem Plaza increase to a pounding tempo as he suddenly realized that the Imperial he was supposed to be protecting was slumped against a pissed-covered wally, his hands covering a blackened wound on his stomach.
“Let me see.” Zakath replied as he dropped to one knee next to the Human.
“Frack you, alien scum.” Arslan said, spitting out blood along with the words. “You’ve done enough.”
“Shut up and let me see.” The Barabel’s eyes were beginning to cloud red again at the Imperial’s rebuff.
“Why? Are you carrying a damned medpack?” Arslan mocked, a sneer on his blood-covered lips. “You’ll probably screw that up too. Why don’t you just go back to your damned Clan. They obviously don’t deserve the information I have, if they can’t even dispatch a capable Human to escort-”
Zakath’s eyes suddenly saw nothing but blood as the Dark Side swelled and sang angrily within him, and before he could stop himself, a roar was ripped from his throat and his razor-sharp claws shot forward to cut Arslan off. Hot blood splattered over Zakath’s face, which only served to stoke his fury, and he surrendered to his rage, his talons tearing and ripping away at Arslan’s body until nothing but scraps and bones remained.
Enroute to Selen
As soon as Zakath boarded the ship, he had sealed himself in his quarters after curtly ordering the ship to head for Selen. He was in no mood to talk after he had sent a brief message to the Citadel, reporting his failure.The response from Arcia Cortel was immediate.
Return to the Citadel at once. The Consul wants to debrief you personally.
Now, Zakath sat cross legged on the floor of his assigned quarters, brooding over the events that he had just went through, his mind ruthlessly picking through each moment of the events that led up to his complete loss of self-control.
I failed. Why?
It was a question that refused to be answered, and the Force did not offer any despite his fitful state of meditation. The only thing that Zakath could see for certain was that the longer he was immersed in the Dark Side, the shorter his control became, and he had no reason to think that this would change anytime soon.
It was not a comforting conclusion.
Zakath was not a person given to nervousness, even when reporting a failure to his superiors. Sometimes things simply went wrong, and measures would be taken to remedy the situation, and Zakath considered it a point of pride to learn from his mistakes and avoid repeating them. To date, this had ensured his steady, if slow, rise through the Arconan ranks.
But this was no ordinary failure. A protected target had died. At his own hand, no less.
And he had never formally met the Shadow Lady of Arcona.
As he strode through the Citadel, he kept any trace of nervousness hidden from his face with an impassive mask, the only sign of his discomfort being the glowing violet eyes, which most assumed would just be another sign of his increasing exposure to the Dark Side.
Which was true… to a point.
The Barabel had discovered fairly early on that strong emotion, no matter how tightly suppressed, had a habit of being expressed through the glowing of his eyes. Most people attributed that to his anger, or drawing upon the Dark Side, and he had done nothing to dissuade others from believing that fact.
But the truth was, any strong emotion would cause his eyes to flare up, not simply anger. Fear, despair, vicious exaltation through the rush of battle, all that and more had the potential to cause his eyes to explode into purple flames.
As he entered the throne room, his eyes were burning hot with dark fire, which felt as if it were increasing with every step he took toward the Serpentine Throne as if the Dark Side itself knew what lay in store for him, and wanted to consume what was left of him before his impending demise.
When he came to within a respectable distance of the Throne and the slim figure seated regally within it, he dropped to one knee and knelt, bowing his head in submission.
“I am here as you commanded, Conzul.”
Zakath’s breathing slowed for several heartbeats as he felt a light touch of Force energy flow around and within him as the Arconan Consul reached out with the Force to fully look upon him.
“Rise.” The Miraluka’s voice was calm and collected, revealing nothing of the displeasure that surely lurked within.
Zakath obeyed, rising to his feet, keeping his head bowed in respect and submission which also served to prevent him from meeting the Consul’s gaze.
“I have called you here so that you may explain what happened. Start from the beginning, please.”
Zakath slowly began, detailing what had transpired, from meeting the Imperial to when he finally surrendered to his rage and slew the very person he was ordered to protect.
“I see…” Atyiru said slowly, her voice heavy with deep disappointment. “He was wounded, but alive, and you… simply killed him because you were… drowning in anger?”
“I offer no excuzez.” Zakath replied, wrapping himself tightly in the Force as he dropped to his knee again, in submission. “My life iz yourz.”
“No.” Atyiru’s voice was sharp. “We lost one life today, another will not help.
“Iz that not why you summoned me here?” Zakath asked, his fingers digging into his palms. “Should I not die for thiz failure?”
“No, my friend, you are not going to die today.”
Zakath could hear light footsteps approach the throne and then light whispering.
“Thank you, Arcy. Please leave us, only Zakath is required to hear this.”
Zakath waited, his unease growing as the soft footsteps dwindled away into nothingness.
What is going to happen?
“Zakath, rise and look at me.” Atyiru’s voice was soft but firm.
Zakath hesitated for a few seconds and then obeyed, rising to his feet and raising his eyes to lay on, for the first time up close, the Shadow Lady of Arcona. The Miraluka female was gazing in his direction, her eye sockets covered by what appeared to be a vibrant sky-blue cloth that contrasted dramatically with her olive-toned skin. Her lips were lifted in a thin smile, her head cocked slightly as she considered the Barabel before her.
“You will not die today.” Atyiru said after another long moment, her elbows resting gently on the Throne’s armrests as she unlinked her slim fingers.
“I do not azk for, nor want mercy.” Zakath ground out, his eyes flaring up a bit at the Consul’s words.
“Mercy?” Atyiru chuckled softly at the Sith’s words. “Mercy? No, my friend, I am not granting you mercy, for you deserve none.”
“Then…why am-” Zakath started to reply before Atyiru interrupted.
“Why are you leaving here alive? Because Arcona- I- still have use for you.” Atyiru’s smile widened slightly. “I am not granting you mercy. I am granting you a chance for redemption.”
“I…” Zakath paused, momentarily at a loss for words at this unexpected turn of events.
“We may not have met before now, but I am aware of you and your services to Arcona.” Atyiru continued on calmly. “Despite what you have done today, you have served us loyally and capably in the past, and I will not throw away your life for some meaningless cause just because you think you deserve it.
“As of right now, I am placing you on suspension, and you are confined to the Citadel.” Atyiru’s tone sharpened into ice. “It is clear that your journey into the Dark Side has compromised you, and until you can regain control, you are no longer allowed to serve this Clan in any capacity unless I authorize it. I will not throw your life away, but nor will I use you until you regain control of yourself.”
“Az you command.” Zakath said, his guttural voice soft for once. “Iz there anything elze?”
“Yes.” Atyiru’s voice softened slightly. “When you get to your quarters, meditate, and I will join you soon. I will not let you go without a fight. You will regain control, and I will be there to help you.”
Zakath stared at the Consul for a long moment before nodding slightly in acknowledgement of her words.
“Now go to your quarters.” Atyiru ordered, her face returning to an inscrutable mask.
“You’re playing a dangerous game.” Arcia Cortel noted as she rejoined Atyiru, who remained seated on the Throne, gazing thoughtfully after the departed Barabel. “Are you sure you want to do this? Manipulating a Sith is a risky business, especially one in such a fragile state.”
“Indeed, Arcy, but it is for a worthy cause.” Atyiru smiled sadly as she turned her head in Arcia’s direction. “Zakath’s failure was unexpected, especially with his loss of control, but it may yet serve us.”
“The problem with some individuals of the darkity-sable, Sithy sort is that they think about themselves above all others.” Atyiru answered, raising her linked fingers to her chin, deep in thought as she continued on. “But for all of his flaws, Zakath is still loyal- to an extent- both to Arcona, and to people he holds dear, such as Nath or that Kaleesh warrior, Rrogon Skar. He is not a typical Sith.”
“I see.” Arcia considered the Shadow Lady’s words. “Then what is your plan for dealing with him?”
“His loss of self-control means that he cannot remain on his current course as a Sith.” Atyiru’s voice was thoughtful as she finally rose from the Throne. “And I will help him find a new path, away from the Sith. He will not be fully Light, I understand that, but perhaps he can be tempered.”
“Tempered.” Arcia repeated the word, her voice skeptical.
“Tempered.” Atyiru’s smile widened slightly. “To the point where he can be called a Sith no longer, but simply… Arconan.”