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Swansong

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Empire
Disclaimer: This story is bound to have adult themes at some point, and it will contain plenty of violence. You've been warned.
Spoiler: Author's NoteShow
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The smuggler’s moon was alight with life. It was the cloying sort of living which was too close together, to compact for cleanliness, and the wash of neon collided off of glass-paned buildings in a way that only amplified the garrishness of it all. Naked men and women were depicted in those lights: dancing, reveling, fornicating. There was an abundance of Twi’leks, of course, which only made the display that much less appealing to the tired eyes watching it all from above.

The balcony he sat on wasn’t his, but he had sterilized it all the same, as he had the laboratory and clinic behind him. The wide metal doors had closed the instant he’d moved his hoverchair outside - he didn’t want the smells getting in. The smell of refuse that hadn’t been properly disposed of, the hints of spice, coarse on the throat. Beyond that door, tiny tinkering droids constantly ensured that each surface was pristine and clean, even moreso with each patient that graced his tables. It was a refuge, a place of solace in the midst of chaos.

The doctor looked down with a simmering disapproval. His eyes were dark and sharp; the sort which rarely softened. He himself was pristine, just as he kept his little environment. His coat was white, bleached to perfection, as were the gloves on his hands. He kept his head clean-shaven, so it would have perhaps been difficult to tell his age were it not for the lines just beginning to form over his face. He had forty years on him, at least. Perhaps more. Either way, it seemed time had not allowed those features much reprieve.

His long fingers curled over the controls on the arms of his hoverchair. He pressed nothing for the moment, but he leaned forward as he watched the arena far below him fill with people. There was to be a spectacle this evening, a rarity. He hadn’t bothered to look up what it was. He was certain his employer had blathered it at him at some point or other after dumping a half-dead fighter in his lap, but he hadn’t cared. He never did. In truth, he found the entire practice pointless. Not barbaric, as some might. He had no moral qualms over the dying of slaves, over the dying of anyone, really. It was just a waste of energy, a waste of manpower which could be better used put to other labors.

A device glowed to life on his chair, telling him that someone was attempting a holocall. He ignored it.

There would be a warm-up fight. Something to get the blood going. Tonight it was evidently watching a pack of vrblther claw its way through unlucky greenbloods. It was drawn out and grueling, and the doctor found his attention wavering away from it in disinterest before long.

The holodevice continued to glow demandingly. He traced his fingers over it absently, but continued to ignore it.

The din from the crowd was growing louder. They cheered the slaughter on, and there was something so animal and simplistic about it that it was worthy of his scorn as well. His features had settled into a scowl, lines etched deeper in that haggard face, making the dark circles beneath his eyes more pronounced. There was not a mind worth noting amidst any of them, a mind worth taking into account, and so the entire arena full of spectators and fighters alike would pass into oblivion never having contributed much of anything worthwhile.

A translucent screen abruptly bloomed forth from the railing of his balcony, flashing first one of the vrblther gnawing on a man’s severed leg, and then a face. A Rattataki grinned at him, his teeth filed to points, his ears pierced with enough metal to make the lobes droop.

“Narvis, Narvis. You wound me when you do this, you really do.”

“I’ve no time for your prattle, Zotum. Leave me in some modicum of peace.”

“Yes, yes. I can see you’re very busy,” Zotum replied snidely. He made a show of peering over Narvis’s shoulder, though he couldn’t see anything much through the holocommunication, nothing but shadows and the reflection of his own face bouncing back off the metal doors. “Turn the girls away, did you? I figured you’d like those ones. They were pretty, like little green dolls.”

“I have no use for these women. Stop inflicting them upon me.”

Zotum pouted at the man. “Oh, Narvis. Keep this up, and your little pecker will shrivel up and die.”

“Better than having it rot off from disease. I’m not treating yours for anything, to that end.”

Throwing back his head, the Rattataki barked laughter. Behind the superimposed image of his face, Narvis could see that the corpses from the slaughter were being cleared away in preparation for the main event. It was nothing that interested him specifically; it was but a detail ferreted away to the back of his mind.

Still, Zotum noticed it, and his infernal grin widened. “Come now, my friend…”

“We are not friends. You employ me. That is the extent of our association.”

“Oh, play nice. I have a special treat for you this evening.”

“That I highly doubt.”

The man’s grin was unwavering. It was infuriating. “I know what all you Imperials really crave, you know. Deep down in your bitter little hearts. I know what you long for.”

Narvis said nothing. He smashed the button on the arm of his chair, but Zotum’s image didn’t disappear. He’d apparently worked around his workaround. Again.

Leaning forward dramatically, the Rattataki murmured, “You want to see your mighty fall. You want to see one of those oh-so-powerful Sith get beaten - maybe to death, though I just bought this one and she came at a high price, so I make no promises.”

The doctor snapped his head back in disgust. “If what you have is a true Sith, you’re even more of a fool than what I took you for.”

The man guffawed again, and from the colorful robes he wore he drew forth a small device, its end glimmering with a red light, blinking as though it were counting down to something. “Oh, we’ve got a collar on her. She can’t do anything we don’t let her - though I’ll probably turn it off a few times, just so things get interesting.”

“If you do that, you’re most certainly a fool.”

Wriggling the device back and forth, turning the small metal capsule between his fingertips, he murmured suggestively, “Assuming she doesn’t die, maybe I could send her to your room afterwards. How would you like that? Or maybe up to your little laboratory. You’ve been cooped up in there for far too long.”

“A thousand no’s. A thousand and again, no. Now leave me.”

Zotum let out a longsuffering sigh, the device disappearing back up his sleeve. Then he winked, and whispered: “Play coy. I just know I’ve got your attention now.”

His image disappeared, blinked out of existence, but the great glowing screen before Narvis was still showing the arena in perfect detail.

Where there had been nothing but animals and bloodshed before, there were now two figures on opposite sides, facing one another.

The first was a Zabrak, presumably the current champion. He was a large man, dressed in a manner of savagery, the flesh of one of his cheeks missing so that he looked to be constantly baring his teeth. In his hand he held a cudgel, a crude article of metal and crooked bolts meant to bludgeon skulls.

Across from him was a woman. She was a small Chiss, diminutive even, and they’d dressed her in tight-fitting attire in some effort to give her an allure. From a distance it might have worked, but on the screen he could see the woman’s face, the way she held her chin: upright, her shoulders back, her red eyes leveled forward and the hint of a sneer tugging at her lip. These things stood in defiance of whatever sexuality they were attempting to bestow upon her. She had a scar blossoming over the side of her face, a memory of an old wound.

Narvis gaped. The expression was alien on his face, making him look somehow not himself. He stumbled out of his chair and towards the screen, grabbing at his silver-topped cane. He limped forward and touched the face on that screen, not in reverence or anything so absurd but in shock, pure and simple.

He knew this woman.

He could see that the collar around her neck had been deactivated - he saw it the moment that the red light blinked out - and he snapped his head back, held his breath.

The Zabrak went flying. He’d been screaming something - a challenge, no doubt - but it was truncated with violence. What Narvis did hear was the crack of him as he slammed into the arena’s wall. He fell quite lifelessly, the back of his head exploding open. The dead fighter had a look of eternal shock on his face as the camera panned in to immortalize that view.

And then, abruptly, it zoomed back out again. The Sith was moving quickly, more quickly than it had been anticipated. She killed with a calculating precision, though Narvis could not quite tell what it was she was doing to complete her murders. In the blink of an eye, three of the handlers which had come out with her were dead, and she was striding towards a fourth - this one was more decorated than the others, and he immediately saw her line of logic: she knew she had a limited amount of time. She knew that she had to move quickly, or this window would close forever.

A mind, amidst the muck of it all.

She was upon him, her arm wrapping around his throat, one of the guns of the dead men ripping through the air as if pulled by invisible chords and slamming into her palm. She pressed the barrel against the man’s head, and at that moment the collar activated again, the red light coming on like the cheeky wink of an eye.

Yet she stood there, in the middle of the arena, holding onto her hostage.

For the first time, Narvis became aware of the cheering of the crowd below. Such a spectacle was unheard of, most certainly unexpected. Never before had Zotum provided them with such a display of skill - his ilk usually employed staff which could most accurately be referred to as meat, and how he’d managed to come by this woman was anyone’s guess. She was above him. She was beyond him. Something about it all struck the doctor as being inherently wrong.

She was making demands. He couldn’t hear her, but he could see her lips moving. The expression on her face demanded obedience. Her posture demanded it. Yet he could tell, somehow, that she knew this wasn’t going to work.

It made him wonder why she’d tried.

With the callousness that comes from running in crime syndicates backed by a Hutt, Zotum stepped forth from the shadows of the arena. He shot his own man point-blank through the head, splattering the Chiss with blood and brainmatter. She only blinked at it - she did not blanch, nor back away. Instead she raised her hand and began to fire on the man immediately, eyes blazing hatred - and her aim, perhaps an unpredicted skill, was quite accurate.

The Rattataki spun to the side, a spurt of red exploding from his shoulder. The crowd was cheering so loudly now that it was deafening, and Narvis thought perhaps Zotum had planned all of this, had been banking on it going wrong and known that it would feed the frenzy. In the next moment, he could see Zotum’s hand shift, his fingers give a twitch, no doubt touching that little device that he’d flaunted before.

The Chiss arced up on her feet, dropping the gun. The jolt of electricity that went through her was a violent one, locking her muscles, locking her on her toes, forcing her teeth to clench so tightly together he could imagine them cracking.

Then she fell to the ground, unconscious, surely. She was a mine for credits. Zotum would never kill her so quickly.

Staggering back to his chair, tearing his eyes from the screen, Narvis began to smash his fingers against the button on his armrest, insistently, violently, so hard that any lesser device would have broken. Minutes passed by, then more, and more. He could tell by the rise and fall of cheers that the Rattataki was giving a speech, but he couldn’t hear it and he didn’t bother to tamper with the audio so that he could.

A quarter of an hour went by. He never stopped pressing.

Finally, a voice blipped to life, sounding smug and self-satisfied.

“Narvis! I do hope that you enjoyed-”

“I changed my mind,” he snapped.

Zotum fell silent, perhaps in surprise, and then an irritating arrogance slithered into his voice. “Is that so?”

“Yes, I’ve changed my mind.” Narvis’s fist, the one he wasn’t using to hold the communication open, curled tighter and tighter in mounting fury. “Bring her to me.”

He shut down the frequency before there could be a reply and moved away, stumbling back into his clinic as his chair hovered close behind him.
Posted Jun 11, 18 · OP · Last edited Jun 14, 18
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“Sell her to me.”


Narvis did not bother to look at the Rattataki as he swerved his chair towards the illumined screen that showed the Sith’s vitals. She sat behind a pane of polished glass, an array of wires hooked up to the tips of her fingers, sending delicate electrical pulses through her system in an effort to get her heart to beat regularly again. The shock from the collar had thrown off all the little ticking nodes within her, and he had to work to keep his tongue and temper in check.

For the moment, he wanted Zotum’s cooperation.

“You’re mad,” the man replied, sounding genuinely surprised. “I’m liking this new side of you, though, dear doctor. You don’t even know if she’ll be any good yet.”

“She is Sith, you idiot. Do you honestly believe the Empire will stand for your making a spectacle of her, here?”

“The Empire has no power here.”

Narvis whirled on him, his face drawn into a snarl. “Not politically, but you’re daft if you think they won’t send someone to kill you and yours for the affront.”

“I doubt they’ll do that for one little lordling.”

“They’ll kill her too, to make an example.”

Zotum snorted. He tossed the small, metallic control up and down, catching it on deft, gloved fingers, over and over. Narvis resisted the urge to follow it with his eyes. He also resisted the urge to shoot the Rattataki then and there and take it for himself.

“You’re getting yourself worked up for no good reason, Narvy, dear. But how about I make you a deal?”

He moved away from the table he’d been leaning upon, his colorful coat fluttering behind him like the tails of some exotic Rishii bird. Leaning forward, placing a hand on the arm of Narvis’s chair, he murmured:

“When the audience gets well and bored with her, and she’s all used up, then maybe I’ll consider selling her to you. Assuming she lasts that long.” He pulled back his lips to reveal his sharpened teeth. “Assuming I don’t decide that killing her will make for the best finale.”

They stared at one another, and Narvis could feel his pulse quickening, his rage filling up behind his eyes. His fingers twitched over the controls on the armrest. His hoverchair was equipped with weapons that could reduce a man to paste with but the touch of a button. For all that he was handicapped, he was never helpless. He was as armed as any man could ever hope to be.

Yet even with all of that, he knew he couldn’t fight his way single-handedly through a den of Zotum’s men in the event that he shot the swindler through.

“You’re utterly moronic,” Narvis spat, and the chair whipped away from the still-grinning Rattataki, facing the screen again. He watched the faint bleeping lines that told him the Chiss’s heart was steadily regaining regularity, and tiny injections of kolto were gradually healing whatever burn-damage had been done to her skin.

“Perhaps, but this little trinket is going to make me rich either way!” He laughed, jovial, unconcerned, turning towards the door.

“Leave the device with me. For her collar.”

Zotum paused. He peered over his shoulder at Narvis, and for a moment the doctor could see the shrewdness in his eye. He reminded himself that this alien was not so foolish as he might seem. He reminded himself he needed to be more careful.

“I think not,” the Rattataki murmured. “Goodnight, Doctor Naerfaine.”

The doors parted, and Zotum stepped through them. They closed again with a quiet, silibant hiss, leaving the laboratory in silence save for the tender ticking of delicate machinery.

On the examining table, Airesh looked dreadfully small. Recalling her as a Sith’s Apprentice, and then a Sith Lord, she had somehow managed to overcome her shortness in stature in Narvis’s memory. She’d been taller, he told himself, surely she had been. Now, though, injured as she was, collared as she was, it was difficult to remember why he’d never noticed her smallness before.

She was young, too. Younger than he’d ever have envisioned. The data reflected on the screen put her at twenty-seven - which meant that all those years ago, she’d been eighteen. She’d been eighteen when he watched her shatter the wings of a shrieking dragon-bat. She’d been eighteen when she sat through grueling restorative operations awake, to avoid the risk of being rendered unconscious and thereby vulnerable.

These facts were glowing before him in fine print, yet his mind could not make sense of them.

There was a low, quiet beeping sound, and he jerked his attention back towards the Sith again. She was rousing. He had figured it would take much more time for her to recuperate, and yet already her eyes were moving beneath their lids, restless.

And suddenly those lids were opening, and those eyes were just as eerie and red as he remembered them.

She sat up slowly. There was no grimace on her face in spite of the pain he imagined she was still in. She’d always scorned the drugs meant to numb that pain, for they affected her senses. Her alertness. He hadn’t bothered to administer any.

She raised a hand and felt along the cool metal of the collar she still wore. She was taking stock of her surroundings, inventorying, acknowledging that she was in a medical bay behind a partition wall of crystal-clear glass, hooked up to a machine that was still holding injections of healing kolto. Her eyes swept the room beyond that glass, taking in details, taking in signs of danger - and then they locked on him.

For the first time, disbelief, then confusion, manifested on her face.

“When I first scheduled an appointment with you, what was it for?” she asked.

Her voice was different than he remembered. There was a rasp to it, and he realized Zotum must have been quite liberal with his applications of electricity from that collar. The question perplexed him, but he slowly let his chair glide forward, soundless over the floor, to hover just before the pane of glass which separated them.

“You were used as an example, as I recall it. You defeated a Darth’s Apprentice in combat, and to teach you a lesson, he had his Lord-titled underling attack you.”

She stared at him, brow still furrowed, unbelieving.

“You operated on me, once, and you drew something on my face. What was it?”

The absurdity of that memory made him smile, but she didn’t smile back at him. She continued to watch him with a wariness that he could not understand.

“A mustache,” he confessed. “You were quite furious with me.”

Narvis allowed his fingers to dance over the buttons on his chair, and the door which had been separating them lifted smoothly upwards. She did not react as he drifted into her room, though he stopped a comfortable few paces away, watching her, slowly understanding what she was doing.

She didn’t believe her own eyes. She thought he was a trick. She thought he wasn’t real.

“What was my husband’s name?” she murmured. The hoarseness in her voice seemed thicker than before.

Was?

“Kyr Aukotis. Or perhaps just Aukotis. I feel as though he changed it weekly, really.”

“My son’s?”

He frowned at her, slow understanding sending a rare pang through his heart. He would have to ask about it later. Gently.

“Rusci,” he replied quietly. “As I recall it, you told it it meant ‘destiny.’”

There were tears in Airesh’s eyes. It had always been difficult for him to tell, but over time he’d started to notice it. She was good at hiding it, of course, in no small part due to her species, but there were signs. Right now, they were reflecting the rest of the laboratory like the surface of a mirror.

She raised both of her hands towards him and asked, simply, “Which one?”

At first, he wasn’t sure what she meant. He paused, thinking. He understood that verifying who he was was important to her in some way, and while this long line of questions would have irritated him coming from anyone else, there were times where he was willing to make exceptions. This was one of them.

Slowly, he moved his chair forward. Reaching out, he made to cup one of her hands between his, to feel gingerly the digits thereupon. From her second knuckle down, on her left hand, on each finger, there were neatly installed prosthetics. He knew it had been done flawlessly, of course, because he’d done it himself. The precision was such that, after the application of synthskin, no one would even notice they were there.

He heard the sound of labored breathing, and when he looked up, he saw tears streaming down Airesh’s face. In all the time he’d known her, he’d never seen her actually cry. She always held that back, blinked it away, with such efficacy he had started to think her incapable of such things.

“Narvis?” she whispered, sounding so heartbreakingly lost.

He peered up at her, and for the first time he believed that yes, she was really quite small, and yes, she had been so terribly young.

“Yes, Airesh. I’m here.”

She slipped her hand from his, only to lean forward. She did not fall against him, not really, but she curled her fingers into the whiteness of his coat and pressed her head against his chest. She did not lose herself to weeping, but she did sit like that for a time, half-curled, her breathing ragged and rough.

Narvis said nothing. He merely stroked her hair gently, stared at the blank wall behind her, and imagined all the creative ways in which Zotum could die.
Posted Jun 16, 18 · OP
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