Trys knew it was stupid to come here. She was normally extremely cautious, and she took measured steps each time. And yet Crix was her achilles' heel. She loved him more than her own life, and she was willing to die to protect him from the galaxy. She didn’t even know if he was alive or if this entire thing was a trick. She couldn’t risk it. Trys couldn’t risk telling anyone, and she was forced to abide by all the rules set by the Sith.
Her ship landed at the coordinates marked on the message that the Sith had sent her. Trys lowered the ramp of the ship and stood at the doorway, exhaling slowly. She could very well die here today, and none of that crossed her mind. She only thought of Crix and whether he was still breathing. She had to mentally ask Talak for forgiveness for however today would turn out.
There was no anger in her, just a sense of defeat. Perhaps this was her hour. Perhaps everything had been leading up to this and her demons finally caught up to her. Trys wouldn’t hesitate to hand herself over if that’s what it took to keep her son safe. A thousand regrets played through her mind, the main one that she hadn’t introduced Talak to Crix. Talak could have protected him and perhaps none of this would have happened. What if...what if… what if… all of those what ifs swam through her mind.
Trys’s face betrayed nothing, her usual stern expression on her face still. She slowly made her way down the ramp, no visible weapons on her. Trys expected to see the Sith any moment now, and she expected to die moments after that. Was she ready to make peace with where she was today? Were all her efforts completed?
Would Crix be taken care of?
Trys exhaled again slowly, training her gaze ahead. Whatever was coming, she was prepared.
It was only a short distance away that Demolly and five of her followers stood, all of them looked much older than her and a little scruffy. They were at least all matching. All in black and sliver. There was a couple extra to match anyone this Trys woman might have brought with her.
Demolly was almost certain the ranger would come. Love, family, all attachments were weaknesses ripe for exploiting. This was a core teaching of her late Cadre-teachers. But, she wasn't sure if Trys would try something tricky. Demolly had been oblivious to the galaxies politics up until she'd gained her freedom. Her teachers had spent a great deal of time training, torturing, condition her for total obedience. She wasn't suppose to care or understand the politics, only kill on command. Obviously, that didn't work out well for her teachers.
She saw the ship land and made her way there. Her lightsaber was still on her belt, but unlike her Cadre-brother she relied more heavily on the Force. Her followers had DL-18 Blaster Pistol's and manic looks on their faces.
As Demolly stepped closer to the woman, she smiled and extended her arms out. "Welcome honoured guest!" she shouted, but then her expression changed to something darker. "Subdue her."
"Yes mother," one said, and the next four followed shortly after with their own "Yes mother" before raising their blasters and walking towards Trys. If the woman didn't put up a fight, they'd get her to her knees and put cuffs on her.
"Try something stupid and my men will send out the message to everyone in the Order," she threatened, but then her eyes flicked up and down the woman. "Hmmm....for some reason I thought you'd be taller."
Trys was surrounded at once. She had expected this, and she didn’t flinch. The one in charge appeared to be an emaciated and lithe woman that was bossing around some fossils. Trys noted that they all wore the same colors. She always found the way Sith did things to be a bit bizarre, and this was no different.
Holding her tongue from mentioning that it looked like matching pajama day, she gazed directly at the woman. As the male Sith came by to check for any weapons, Trys held her arms out to show them she had nothing. She had even tossed her comlink before coming here.
Her jaw tightened as she was abruptly forced to her knees. She looked down at the ground for a moment, more than a little enraged at the situation. When the woman spoke, Trys didn’t look up as she muttered under her breath, “And you look like you could use a bantha burger.”
She glanced up after the cuffs were placed on her, “You have me. You don’t need to hold Crix over me anymore. I need to know he’s okay.”
Demolly smiled, though her mask obscured it. She didn't say anything at first, simply raising her hand...then wrapping the Force around Trys neck. The small Sith raised her hand even higher after, to bring Trys in the air. "Mm, I wonder," she started, tipping her head as a thought rolled around her mind. "Will the Dark Lord wring the life out of you slowly?"
Then she let go, lowering her hand back to her side. After she spoke again, finally addressing Trys question, "Soon" she paused, allowing the word to hang in the air. "Soon you will know with absolute certainty that he is alive." Demolly's smile twisted into something wicked and an amused look glinted in her eyes.
Two of her men went to both sides of Trys to grab her, to force her back to her feet if she hadn't stood herself and to keep her in place. One stayed behind her, just to keep an eye out. Just because nothing happened yet didn't mean he trusted something wouldn't.
Trys felt the Force coil around her neck. She gritted her teeth and stared down the woman despite it. She had been choked like this before - it was par for the course when dealing with Sith. She even had lightning blasted at her. There were few tricks that Trys hadn’t seen in her time hunting and evading Sith.
She didn’t clutch towards her neck, nor did she make any sound. Trys simply stared daggers at the woman, committing those Sith eyes to memory. She was fueled by thoughts of what she would do when she knew her son was safe. That distraction kept her detached from what was happening to her.
She landed in a heap when the woman released her. Trys coughed and spat on the ground, the motions involuntary. She drew in breath again and was on all fours until the men hoisted her up again.
“Has to have you do his dirty work, does he?” Trys called out at the woman in between strained breaths, “Too busy trying to convince his people that he matters to come get me himself?” One of the men holding her sharply elbowed her in the ribs and she coughed and hunched over.
It was interesting to see how she fought against the choke. Demolly had been choked enough times that she'd lost count and become somewhat resistant herself. And the woman made a point. The Dark Lord could've went after her himself. Then again, Demolly wasn't a stranger to having underlings do her dirty work.
...but, she felt a seed planted in her mind. One she choose to push aside and ignore.
"The only thing that matters is that he can grant power," she answered. She didn't see him as anything more than a man that could give her something she wanted. Surely, the rest of the Sith saw him the same way.
She turned after and began walking towards the temple. Her men pulled at Trys to make her follow too. They'd soon find themselves in the halls of the Sith temple, weaving through them as eyes followed Demolly's acquisition. She hoped this little march through the temple would give her some credit in the Order.
The doors to the throne room were opened by the guards, and they allowed Demolly and her men to pass by. It was the first time she'd laid eyes on the Dark Lord. She'd felt his power since she landed on the planet, yet.. it was different being in front of him. His power was great.
But, she didn't bow. She didn't care if it'd cost her her life. She'd rather lose everything, die, or be forced. She'd vowed to never bow before another person again. And she wasn't the only....
No Cadre would bow willingly. None.
But, she did speak, "Dark Lord" she added with respect to his rank, "Trys Aran, as you commanded."
The instant that Trys crossed the threshold to the throne room her head would feel as if it had been split by a pounding jackhammer . Nevertheless, she would be expected to move forward and present herself.
The Eternal wasn't seated on the throne, but instead standing at the far side of the room and speaking to a pair of Sith Lords. The Eternal didn't even turn to look at the two who had entered even after they spoke. Whatever it was speaking of was evidently of the highest importance and it wasn't to be interrupted.
After several more seconds the Sith Lords gave a half bow and turned to leave. Finally, the Eternal turned to look at the two women. It stood in silence for a moment, evaluating them both.
I see our newest agent has arrived, it said after a moment. There was a quiet confidence in the words and although there was underlying malice in everything that the Dark Lord said or did, it wasn't the overt violence and threats that was common among so many of its underlings. So many of them were simple brute instruments, and it had undermined the Order in its early days.
Tell me, Lieutenant. What would you do to save your son? it asked. The mask made it impossible to tell where the Dark Lord was looking but somehow both of them would feel as though they were being pierced by a cold gaze.
Trys didn’t know what to expect, but she certainly didn’t expect a person to be able to make her feel so uneasy. As soon as the Dark Lord entered, she felt as if the air around her turned into an icy chill. Tiny needles pricked her skin, and she felt a sense of dread in the pit of her stomach. She gazed upon the mask they wore, saw the haunting eyes that peered from within.
She had no quip or witty remark to give. This figure was genuinely haunting, and all the warnings Talak gave came flooding back to her. Few things made him afraid and uneasy, and this being was one of them. Trys returned the gaze and stayed silent for a few moments after the question.
“You are seeing what I will do if there’s even a hint that he may be in danger,” She said quietly, “I still do not know that he is alive, and yet here I am,” Trys lowered her gaze, exhaling, “There is no information I can give you that you don’t already know.”
They had blown up their HQ, they had taken so many Ranger lives. What did Trys have to offer outside of petty revenge? She looked the Dark Lord in the eye.
“I came here of my own free will because of my son,” She gazed at him, “I don’t suppose it is something you will ever understand.”
Demolly was caught somewhat off guard by both the Dark Lord's power and his greeting. He hadn't tried to make her submit either. At least, not yet. Perhaps she was expecting someone more...immediately aggressive because of her experience with her late Cadre-masters.
She could feel him inside her mind too, which explained a few things. It was possible much of her thoughts had already been exposed; an annoyance but she wouldn't put up a fuss for obvious reasons. But she did not like things like this, things she couldn't control. Things that could threaten her freedom, and she did not care if he sensed that.
His darkness, while great, did not unsettle her like her hostage. Demolly had long embraced the Dark Side with the whole of her self. She was at home in it, and what shreds of humanity left in her were few and far between. Therefore when the lieutenant went on about her son and weakness, it was all a little mundane to Demolly. She remained quiet, having nothing to add to the boring exchange.
The Eternal stood like stone, watching both women and the way they interacted. Its power was so intense that it was capable of sensing their thoughts almost passively, drinking in fears and anxieties that were far deeper than just the surface.
When the Eternal had learned of Demolly's capture of Trys, the decision had to be made on what to do with her. Maiming her or killing her was always an option, but it was somewhat of a petty one. The Eternal had larger goals than simple revenge. A public execution was almost worse. It turned her into a martyr. The danger of Trys Aran was the symbol she had become. That symbol needed to be destroyed.
With a wave of its hand, the two Sith Lords at the far side of the room opened a door. Inside, Trys would see Crix Aran, alive and well. In truth, it was an illusion being constructed by a small group of Sith Lords another room over, but it was perfect. It would look like him, sound like him, and have his knowledge if she asked a question of him. The beauty of the system was that it leeched off of her own memories and knowledge to create a perfect reflection, ripped from her mind the moment she had crossed the threshold to the throne room. It created itself to conform to what she expected. Its creation was no small feat, either. A long prepared ritual being maintained at multiple levels by some of the most powerful servants of the Eternal. No metaphorical expense had been spared.
So then, the question became what did the Eternal want? It already knew the answer to that question. It wanted its enemy dead and it wanted to destroy the symbol standing against the Sith.
As you can see, he's alive. The only way that he remains that way is if you accompany my agent back to Coruscant... it motioned to Demolly to indicate she would be passing along on this operation ...and you will kill Chief Douglas Hudson while she ensures your compliance. A life for a life, it said. The Chief was supposed to be killed during the attack on Coruscant at the hands of either a Ranger or a Jedi. The plan had failed, and the Eternal now had another opportunity to remedy the mistakes of its underlings.
For a renowned Ranger, getting close to the Chief wouldn't be difficult, and the act, when accomplished, would deflate those who idolized her. It let the situation sink in for both of them. Both women had just been provided with a new task, and it doubted either of them would be ecstatic about the situation.
You'll contact no one, you'll deviate in no way from your task, and you'll ensure that you are captured when the task is finished, it stated. There was no need to add what would happen if she failed to comply, but it almost wanted her to decline. It wanted her to see what would happen if she refused and drink in the mental agony she would experience.
Trys had been told about the multiple tricks Sith pulled on others to manipulate them. However, as she looked at him in the other room, there was no doubt that he was there. Her eyes widened in shock as she saw him so close. And yet that sick feeling grew in her stomach. Her comm to Talak was useless. There was no way for Talak to find himself here. And if there was, it would simply give him a death sentence.
“Crix!” She called out to him. He looked at her, fear in his eyes. He called out to her, “Be brave, kid. Be brave for the both of us. It’ll be okay,” Her voice was slightly hoarse, “It’ll be okay…” She whispered under her breath.
Her worst fears had come true. The Sith were holding him. It hadn’t been a lie or all talk. She watched the door close again, and she had seen enough. Trys sighed as she looked down at the ground.
When the Eternal spoke next, her blood ran cold. This was far more sinister than anything she had expected. Trys’s jaw tightened, but she didn’t display externally what went through her mind. She slowly turned to look up at them, panicking internally. It was cruel, sick and immensely clever. She would lose who she was, she would be shamed forever in the eyes of the galaxy and that of her son. She didn’t care about the galaxy, but for her son to see her like that?
Trys had to answer rapidly, knowing she had little choice in the matter, “I’m the one you want,” She said after a moment, “I’m the big rallying point, not the Chief. And do you really think I’ll have any way to get to him after the HQ attack? He will have Jedi surrounding him at all times and I can’t sneak past them.”
Her points were valid and logical, but she was really trying to buy time. Buy time for what? It wasn’t as if anyone was coming for her.
The illusion made the small Sith raise an eyebrow. It was clever, very clever, though the Dark Lords next words gave her pause.
He wanted her to... babysit Trys?
A spike of annoyance went through her, one the Dark Lord would no doubt feel.
Yet, she desired his favor and so she would do as he pleased. That didn't mean her mind wasn't flooded with things that could go wrong with this plan—including Trys possibly finding out her son was actually free. She started to put together ideas to prevent the issues when her focus was broken by her hostage speaking.
"You can tell him that you have sensitive information, information you're only comfortable delivering to him. In person, alone, secretly," she said. If she was truly such a rallying point, so important that the Dark Lord wanted her captured, could she not get a private meeting with the chief?
Trys turned to regard the woman that was the source of all this. Anger roiled within her, and she couldn’t hold back. She had no respect left for the terrible human being that sought to use a mother’s love for her son against her.
“He’s laid up in a hospital right now from the explosions, you dense bitch,” She hissed, “You expect me to waltz in about some meeting, surrender my weapons at the reception, walk right past Jedi that would be able to sense my intention, walk into a medical room with surveillance and choke him to death with my bare hands?” She unleashed her tirade on the woman, but her gaze then panned over to the ‘Dark Lord’, “And I’m expected to do this with this trainwreck,” She jutted her chin towards the Sith woman,”tagging along with me that has bright yellow eyes as we stroll past Jedi guards?”
It felt good to get the anger off her chest, but she knew she would have to pay some sort of price for it. She feared for her son’s safety, and she worried it would be unleashed on him instead of her. Gritting her teeth in anger at her own outburst, she looked up again.
“There needs to be a better plan if you want me to carry this out. I need a better way to get to the Chief,” She would punt it back to them to craft a strategy. Trys could only hope that this bought more time.
The Eternal found humor in the discomfort of both women. One was unsatisfied and the other was more deeply unsettled. That was power. The ability to subject others to your will even if it didn't suit their own desires or best interests. It was the power of Sith and the power the Eternal craved.
The Eternal tolerated the Rangers outburst. It was the result of that power. Being forced into a subjugated position was intolerable to many, particularly those who were strong-willed. It was silent for a moment as Trys made her case against the attack. Whether what she said was actually true or simply a bluff was irrelevant. It was likely still accurate.
There was a serious consideration made to simply telling her to figure it out and reminding her that her son's life was on the line, but it had a bit more patience. Perhaps it was toying with its food or perhaps it was hoping to gain insight into the mind of its prisoner.
And you propose, what? it asked. The implication that there was a great deal at stake didn't need to be explicitly stated.
All the more reason for it to be you. A Ranger who is familiar with the security measures of the Sector Rangers, it said.
Or do you require additional agents to draw off the alleged Jedi? it asked. No word of the creature behind the mask was improperly chosen. It had resources it could place to this operation, but its patience only went so far. Still, some operations were worth executing, even if they came at a cost.
Have you fought Jedi before? the Eternal asked of Demolly. While some may have thought this information that needed to be concealed in front of a hostage, the Eternal seemed unconcerned. As always, it had its own priorities and little concern for the needs of others.
The small Sith wasn't phased by the big show put on by her hostage. She'd grown up with other Sith who'd called her much worse, and she'd returned the favor or killed them. All of the galaxies politics were still new to her, but she still didn't see an issue with what Trys laid out. There was always a way to get to someone.
Of course, the Dark Lord had his say. Demolly remained quiet as he went on...until she was addressed. She raised an eyebrow at the question, since she hadn't expected it. "Yes, several. Recently a Jedi Master on Tatooine," she answered.
...Now, she wasn't about to admit that her and the Jedi Master matched one another in battle. She wanted to tell the Lord that she'd killed the man, but she'd only cut and burned him. His master reflexes had saved him last second from losing an arm or being burned to death. She knew they'd cross paths again however, the Force told her so, and she'd get another chance.
Trys sighed and looked down at the ground. She actually began to think of ways to get to the Chief. While she didn’t truly know if there were Jedi there, she knew at the very least Talak would have pushed for them to have some presence there. It was that confidence in him that made her ironclad in her beliefs that Jedi were there. And if they were there, there was no way to get around them. She had no alternative solutions but to play it by ear.
The Chief was the first person that had believed in her. He was the one that was willing to look beyond her past life as a criminal. He gave her a chance when no one else would. He trusted in her when no one else would.
Trys pushed the thoughts from her mind, looking up when the Dark Lord asked a question of the wretched Sith woman. Trys’s jaw tightened as the woman revealed she fought several Jedi, “That won’t save you,” She looked at the woman, “The kind of Jedi that would be near the Chief would lay you to waste.”
The likes of Hannibal, Talak and others came to mind. Trys had a very low opinion of most Jedi, but a few she considered capable and to have little to no tolerance of Sith. Most Rangers operated the same way.
Trys turned to look at the Dark Lord.
“I will go do what you ask,” She said with a sigh, “I’d like to hold my son one last time because I very well may die in this endeavor,” Trys could think of wanting nothing more than to embrace him and tell him it would be okay. In a painful time like this, she could only think of Crix as a small child that was frightened and alone. She couldn’t simply leave him like that. Not when he was just the next room over.
The Eternal sensed there was more to the answer about her fight with the Jedi, but now was not the time. She had survived, and if there was a serious failure within a critical mission, the Eternal would hear of it sooner or later.
Perhaps the Sector Ranger was right. Perhaps they'd both be killed in the attempt. That would be unfortunate, but not a total loss. Killed in collaboration with the Sith in an attempt to assassinate the Sector Ranger Chief didn't bode particularly well for the legacy of the notorious Ranger.
As she asked to hold her son, there was a long pause. It looked at her with such intensity that she would be able to practically feel the gaze. The anger and indignation at even being asked the question.
You're in no position to ask for anything. Remember, his fate hangs in the balance, it said, reminding her once more of the price for failure. And then it turned to Demolly.
She's to make no contact with anyone. You'll have access to what you need for the operation, it said. The Eternal was going to give the Sith enough rope to either tie up her prisoner or hang herself. It would adapt as necessary. It always did.
Demolly smiled when the woman boasted about her Jedi friends. Everything the small Sith had done since cutting the heads off her masters had been risks. She'd sought one after another, forcing herself closer and closer towards her goals. Perhaps she would lose her life on this babysitting trip, or the next ambitious venture, but her desire for power, to secure her freedom, outweighed almost anything else.
The woman went on and the small Sith once again found her mind wandering, until she was addressed by the Dark Lord again. Another order. Demolly stared at him for a few seconds without answering, something that could be seen as a small act of defiance. She'd have to get use this. "I'll see to it," she answered the Lord.
At the dismissal, she waved her hand at her cultists; obviously ordering them to drag her hostage out of the chamber. If nothing stopped her, Demolly would turn without bowing and start to walk out.
Trys met the Dark Lord’s gaze as it spoke. There was a long pause, and that was telling. Her mind rifled through memories - everything Talak had told her about the Sith and how they operated. He would spring trivia and facts on her at any given moment. He lectured her before she left for her missions. He made charts, graphs, data inventories and everything possible to illustrate just why she should drop the Sith cases.
‘I can do it, I used to be one of them.’ ‘You’re not a Ranger.’ ‘But I can do it.’ It was always a back and forth with him. In the end, he had accepted her stubborn nature. All those times he thought she simply brushed off his warnings and details about the Sith. All those lectures in that same coffee shop they frequently visited near her old apartment on Coruscant. All those lectures in between Artee giving her more glasses of wine. All those times he thought she believed him to be exaggerating.
She had listened to every word. And now, Trys couldn’t help but smile, lowering her gaze. The rest of the Dark Lord’s words, or those of the female Sith didn’t matter.
“Then I have to question whether his fate truly hangs in the balance,” She slowly tilted her head up to look at the Eternal, “Why is it that you are so afraid to let me touch him even for a moment?” She knew it was a gamble, but the long pause after her request lingered on her mind. Trys had been told many times about the illusions and tricks that Sith played.
“I don’t think you have any leverage,” She smiled widely at him, “Which means you just have me to toy with. Do what you want. Execute me on Holo. Do it slowly. But it will still just be me. No one else will be hurt on my account.”
She gambled, and would now see how it paid off. If she was wrong, then she had to accept that both she and her son would die today. But something, deep in her heart, trusted in all the teachings from Talak. He had specifically told her about the Eternal and their ways.
The Eternal was not amused. All the effort gone through to put this together, and somehow the detective had foreseen it. She shouldn't have been able to and it enraged the Eternal that she had. But at the same time, it was impressive. Perhaps this was why she had caused so much trouble for the Sith.
You're a gambler. I hope you've wagered correctly, it said.
Take her to the dungeon. Make sure she can hear his screams in between her own, it said. The Lieutenant would be carried to the "dungeons," but as with everything else in the plan, it would be multi-layered. She would be deprived of basic necessities such as rest, food, and clean environment. It would slowly wear away at her mind. Exhaustion would take hold. She would question whether she was right as Crix's illusion was "tortured" in the next room over, begging her to make it stop, shrieking in agony and pain.
And of course she would be tortured as well. Handed over to the Eternal's top interrogators. They would hammer her mind with the Force, shred her body, and break her spirit. If he couldn't turn her by trickery, he would do so by making her a believer. She may not have been a Force user, but that didn't mean she couldn't be corrupted with enough pain and hate.
Now, she believed Crix was an illusion. She hoped he was, but in a few weeks when her mind was at the edge of being split? Perhaps not. Or she would simply expire from the torment. If that was the case then the Eternal would have its revenge all the same. Perhaps her legacy would die with her without making her a martyr. @Sreeya@Dread