Deep in the hollowed out carcass of a clone wars era capital ship, of which faction or class he didn't know or care. The knight of ren who called himself Balal would sit. Meditating in what was possibly once the bridge of the ship. Three days ago he rushed to plot a course to the rim. Instead narrowly missing a star damaging the drive and limping into the orbit of the planet size junkyard of Bracca. It was perhaps a blessing in disguise. The Echani and his apprentice would dump the useless droid he scrapped on Coruscant. While the repair/scrap droids fixed the drive, they also scrubbed the navicomputer.
Balal had been passsing the time immersed in the shadow. To center himself in the ren. He had recently stumbled. Playing the games of men and governments, the foolish little rules, the hiding. It irritated him, angered him. He used that to anger, fear, and suffering. Focused it, and used it to crush a near by console into a block of size of his fist.
Once again Jez Winters found herself with nothing but the clothes on her back and her trusted snap saber at her hip. She felt the Force was laughing at her, teasing her for wanting material possessions. Was it too much to ask for a decent set of clothes? She thought about asking her master to buy her some more upon landing on Bracca, but he was still in too bitter a mood to try and deal with. When they nearly wrecked the ship on that uncharted star, she thought for sure he was going to kill them all. Not in the star, but if they survived. His anger terrified her. It made her feel even worse that she knew nothing about ships to help try and fix it. That, and he'd destroyed the only droid on board who could have assisted him. It was....not a good day.
Thankfully they managed to make a crash very exciting landing in the scrap yards to come out on top. Regretfully, Jez had to use her family name to throw some sway around the guild so they wouldn't abruptly gun them down right then and there. It would be easier for her parents to track her in the long run, but that was a problem she had to accept for another day. Using the handful of gems she'd gotten from Cardu's safe, she was able to barter some repairs to their new stolen ship. She would have liked to use them for herself only the credits would do no good out here in the wild space. Least she could keep those should they ever return to civilized territory.
Now all they had to do was wait. Her master felt best to leave the details to Jez -why she had no clue- and then head out to the scrap yards to meditate. As soon as she got a chance to get away she went into the chaos of scrap to maybe find something else that could suit her needs. She was already tired of wearing this outfit she'd borrowed from Sin, or Balal now. He was really taking his initiative to the Knights seriously. She didn't care what he called himself. She would always call him Master.
Trusting in the Force she entered into one of the broken down ships and walked along the torn down hallways. Most of the important parts and things had been scrapped ages ago. Still, she felt a calling. Jez walked around the lower regions of the ship and made her way to an elevator shaft. Using a flashlight in her pouch she shined it down in the mess of rubble and found something rather...curious. Jez set the flashlight on the floor so she could see and then sat down on her knees. After folding her hands together she let herself breathe into the Force. She called upon the Dark side to help her, and piece by piece she began lifting the rocks out of the collapsed lift.
Then came her prize. What used to be a body, now a skeleton, rose up to meet Jez. Only the armor surrounding the skeleton covered up the bones inside. Jez took apart the armor and let the bones turn to dust to return to their resting place. Complete with helmet, the outfit was perfect for her needs and she figured her master would get a kick out of it as well. Maybe cheer him up a little. Along with her new armor, Jez retrieved the broken saber of the Force wielder. The device was too damaged to use (which had likely resulted in the person getting kicked down the lift to their demise), but the two crystals inside which still had life in them would be beneficial to the raven haired Sith.
Rushing back to the complex Jez would then wash off the outfit and change into it. She even clipped the broken hilt to her back where it belonged and then closed herself off within the helmet as it hissed into locking position. Jez hurriedly rushed to her master's side to show him what she'd found. She gave no word or warning that she was approaching, but he'd be able to feel her aura within the Force. Using the Force to lift her up into the air she floated up to the command deck and pulled the saber hilt to her hand.
"Lord Vader wants you dead," she spoke through her new Inquistor's helmet. Obviously it was a joke; Lord Vader died almost two centuries ago. She only hoped her little ruse wouldn't actually trick him into thinking she'd come to him as an enemy.
By the time his apprentice had returned to him. The Echani had managed to take two more consoles and crush them into small fist sized orbs as well. The practice of this did nothing really to ease his mind. So instead, he stood, switched his lighsaber to stun mode and trained with his blade. Using the crushed metal as flying targets. Like a remote droid without the stun blaster. It would have likely looked silly to a fellow member of his ilk, or even a jedi for that matter. But it was something to do, to focus on. To hit!
Finally after several hours he could feel something in the shadow. A playful almost happy nature in the darkness. Fearful and unsure, but bubbly and holding back something. With it now was a taint, some manner of object that still resonated in the ren. A power faded, but found by a power not yet truly unleashed. His apprentice.
Suddenly, at the edge of his makeshift training room, stood a black figure. It spoke to him with a voice scrambler similar to his own. Yet a little more dated and simplistic from it's tone. Not the warbled robotic sound he made. His own faceless warn silver covered eyes looked over the black helmet and black integrated cape that rested over a skin tight pitch black old imperial suit, complete with boots. It looked to be a member of Vader's Inquisitors, Jedi Hunters. The knight was well aware of their foundation and assistance during the purge following the rise of the empire. But he had never seen the armor in person.
"If the ren demands it, so it will be," He answered flatly. Turn to her, and reignited his blade in it's natural more lethal mode. He was well aware it was Jez in the armor. But if she wanted to play little games, then the Echani would play to win. Calling her bluff. After all, she was 0-2 in their duels thus far.
This was not what she expected. Balal turned and ignited his blade to her. Jez's heart raced as she took a step back and panicked. "Whoa! It's me! It's me!"
As she spoke she tossed the broken saber hilt to the floor in front of her then reached up to take off her helmet. "Master, it's me! It's Jez!"
She couldn't believe that worked. He actually thought she was an enemy. That's what she got for trying to play a trick on him. She didn't know he was not actually fooled, which made her now cowardice all the more pathetic. Just as she started speaking then a steady beeping would resonate from her communication device. She ignored it for now as she held her hands up after dropping the stolen helmet too. She needed to see what her master would do. Jez didn't expect him to actually try to kill her, but he might feel the need to punish her for her little prank.
Jez would continue, "I'm sorry Master. I really thought you would recognize me. I won't do it again. It was stupid. And childish-" The beeping came once again and Jez looked away for a second to her hip but didn't reach for it. "It won't happen again. I swear. I just saw this armor and-" Again the device chimed. Jez groaned then whined to Balal, "Sorry. I have to take this."
So long as Balal didn't rush over to slice her head off, Jez would reach into her utility belt and pull out a simple data device. She clicked the button and a hologram of a letter appeared above the device. Jez read the notice and then clicked the device again to send the hologram away.
As she put the device back in its place she spoke to her master, ""Master. Our contact in the Scrapper's Guild has just informed me that the ship is ready. Any trace leading back to Cardu or Coruscant has been removed or replaced and the hyperdrive is fully repaired. Should we head back...?" Jez looked at him curiously, still wondering what his next move would be.
He never folded, never broke his stance. He stood imposing, giving the appearance of being angered and ready for battle. To no surprise, Jez's courage deflated quickly. He continued to stand ready, allowing the sound of his breathing into the scrambler to be the only reply Jez would receive. Until finally the removed the helmet.
"You failed. Again." He finally spoke. "If you want to survive in the galaxy, you need to learn to grow up puppet. We are surround by enemies. The light constantly moves to snuff out the shadow. Be it Jedi, these ranger, some rising government power like the free worlds. OR, from within. " He continued, and when she explained that it would not happen again he cave her stern instruction. "See that it doesn't." He said sharply.
The Ren had lead him to her. He believed that. But he could no figure out a reason thus far as to why. Thus far she was nothing special, in fact he was remarkably average and poorly trained to boot. Still, there was something. He could feel as much in the force. He just needed to find the Kyber in the rough, and bleed it until it until all that was left was the shadow.
His thought was on that task when she explained her message. It was time to go then. Time to focus on, no more games. Time for her to truly commit, or parish in the attempt. "Put it back on." He said suddenly, then continued. "Wear that helmet and the suit from now on. Embrace it like a second skin. As my armor is to me. It is your new identity. From here forth, you are a disciple of Ren. To anyone other then myself you will no longer be Jez Winters. From now on you are Xetno Ren."
Balal would take a moment. Allowing her to take in all of what he said. She had already agreed to be his apprentice. This was just the next step. The most important. No more half measures. If she wanted to know the dark side, the shadow, as he did. Then she would become a knight as he was. When she replaced the helmet and renewed her conviction to him. He knew they were ready.
Jez felt horrible that her master told her she failed. How this was a test she had no idea, but her little joke had been totally turned around on herself and she was once again reminded how little and pathetic she felt. She tried to apologize and promise to be better, but her master's cold reply only increased her guilt. She was about to turn away as she felt her lingering sadness rise back up again when Balal surprised her with another odd command. Put it back on? Jez looked back at him quizzically.
The world around her seemed to grow colder. Was it her imagination? Had the sun -which was hardly ever shown on this rainy planet- been covered up by clouds or a ship in orbit? Or, was the Dark side responding to the tides of time. Like this was something in which had been built up and in the making for thousands of years? His orders were clear; his reasoning for them not so much. She was to wear that armor like it was her own skin. And the helmet as well. Sealing away her old identity and replacing it with another. A warrior. A Ren.
In a way, this hurt her more than anything else he could have said. In her heart, it meant she wasn't good enough for him. He wanted to lock it away and never see the true her again. That was her initial reaction. But this was the only way to bleed out the poorly trained Sith disciple and bring out the true Sith Empress she could rise to be. Hesitantly Jez would take the helmet and lean over to slide her hair in, then pull it down over her head as she leaned back up. The pressure changed as a hiss sealed the helmet and brought up a red screen for her to see the world now. Everything was red once more.
But even in this outfit she did not feel like Jez Winters anymore. Perhaps that was the point. She was Xetno Ren now. Whatever that meant. She didn't recognize the word. Jez was fluent in many languages but this was not a word she knew. Perhaps it meant nothing; perhaps it meant puppet. He liked to call her that. Or, the most likely, it was something demeaning to toy with her. She hoped that wasn't the case. She had to embrace this identity now. He had gone to take on a new name as part of his conviction to the Knights. Now she would follow that same path.
"Yes, my master" she'd reply to his next order.
Turning about, she summoned the broken saber to her left hand as she walked back to the edge of the bridge. She held it loosely in her hands as if she couldn't decide whether or not to take it with her. She needed the crystals inside though. So it would follow them to Akiva. Xetno lept idly off the edge and floated her way down to the lower floor. She could have taken the stairs, or one of the broken down lifts, but this was easiest. She made her way down to the lowest floor and exited out the side she came from. Without any word to her master, she walked back to their ship as if she were walking to her death. Slowly, absent-mindedly, robotically.
Her mind was all over the place. Lost in thought. Her body moved on its own to obey Balal but her mind was still up there on that command deck. It wasn't until she got back to their ship that she had to come back to reality. The foreman would approach her and explain all the minute details of the word he'd done; Jez didn't register a word of it. She nodded her head and replied a simple, "Very good," then went on her way to walk up the ramp with her master. They'd paid in advance for the repairs so now there was nothing stopping them from leaving this scrapheap.
As the ramp closed up behind her, Jez would collapse by one of the crates in the hold and cry. She curled herself up with her legs to her chest and her helmet on her knees. This would be the last time. Her last pitiful cry. Jez Winters would die here on Bracca. Xetno Ren would not mourn her....
Balal would stand and watch a moment as Jez did as instructed. Slowly embracing the armor. It was her how found it after all. There was was much to be done before she would fully become one of his kind. A Knight of the Ren. But sooner or later she would becoming what she needed to be to survive this galaxy or she would be swallowed up.
He would then follow after her. As she lept off, or rather fell off. So did he. She would act and move like a puppet on a string and he, the puppeteer. The two of them would make their way toward the docking bay where the repairs were made. The foreman gave instruction and details as to the repairs, seemingly ignoring Balal altogether. Of which he did not mind in the least. When they were both on board the ship, the Echani made for the cockpit. Waiting for him in the pilot's chair, a 'new' pilot droid.
"Kriff" he muttered. "Droid, dust off and make for open space, then plot a course for the Outer Rim. Akiva." He demanded. The droid would beep in binary, confirming the order. Balal then retired to the cargo hold of the shuttle. Taking off the helmet, then his armor. Save for the skin suit. Activating his blade, he started to train in the basic movements for form I. While in mid stroke, the ship would leave the atmosphere and then jump to lightspeed.
The ship would soon begin to take off and head for open space. Her master would just as soon walk by her and head to the cargo bay. Jez tried to keep her crying silent. He didn't need to see her like this. It sobered her up though and she told herself that she could cry no more. Jez would take off the helmet simply to wipe her eyes then placed it back on her head. She had to fiddle with her hair some to do it; she pondered to herself then about perhaps cutting her hair short.
After then taking some deep breathes to calm herself down, Xetno would stand and adjust her clothing which got ruffled while sitting down. She could hear her master's saber swinging back and forth so the raven haired Sith decided she would see what the fuss was about. Climbing down to the cargo bay Xetno watched her master practicing his forms. She reached for her own blade and snapped it to its open position. Using the tiny dial she built into the top of the hilt, Xetno reduced the power outage so the beam would do little more than spark upon contact.
Activating one of the red beams she took a step closer to her master and asked, "Would you like a partner?"
Training was a way to keep himself sharp. As well as burn up some of the energy he was building up. He went through his basic form and then continued onto more improvised moves. The practice would have been more effective with some manner of training droid but that was a minor issue.
However to his surprise he would soon be joined by his apprentice. This was perhaps the first time in their short weeks together that she hand shown an interest in sparing with him. Well, sense their little fights anyway. So when she asked to join him, he gave a nod of yes. As he sucked in a breath through his nose and let it out of his mouth. To calm his breathing.
In a smooth motion, he flicked the switch of his saber to change the blade to a stun setting. While he twirled the weapon once in his hand. Then he began his attack.
In no time the master and apprentice were trading blade work. First he would attack and she would defend. Then she became the aggressor, while he worked on his defense. Pure blade work, with some punches and kicks when the opening presented itself. No force powers.
Jez was happy to be his sparring partner. They'd fought twice now, but this was different. This was practice. It was a ritualistic dance as they attacked one another through the various forms of lightsaber combat. Her master was far more versed in the different schools, but she was steady with the ones she knew. She'd been trained to fight and her saber style had been drilled into her. She was better when she was on the defensive though. There she could keep up with her master with ease. Only, when he started to pick things up, she changed her style a little.
Turning her other saber's output, she then extended the secondary blade and spun it around with her hands for a minute. She smirked under her mask then rushed her master before he could take on the offensive again. She was much better at attacking with two blades now. That's what her saber was best at. Jez gave it her all, letting the Dark side fuel her motions and guide her every stroke. She didn't let her anger get to her; she had none. This experience was blissful to her. Peaceful almost, in its own grueling way of burning calories.
When they could take no more Jez stopped to take a breath. Her helmet had become quite a burden during the last few minutes of their duel. She wasn't used to the breathing. Now that her heart was racing, she was having trouble catching her breath. Jez deactivated both blades and then reached up to tear her helmet off with her left hand. She bent over and took several large gasps one after another.
"I don't know how you have so much stamina," she remarked between breathes.
He was still only in the armorweave skin suit of his armor. The black robes, blast vest, and helmet were tucked away near the steps leading upward to the rest of the ship. They had sparred for the better part of a couple of hours by now. Until finally Jez or rather Xetno was to taxed to continue. Taking a break she would ask him how he managed to want to continue.
He was by no means showing any less fatigue then his apprentice, well maybe a little less. But sweat still cloaked his entire body, and his chest still heaved with heavy gulps of air. He simply stood with more composure about it. His blade was still on, up to the point that the raven haired girl took her helmet off. Then he deactivated it.
"I was raised to be a warrior. From nearly the age of ten I have been conditioned to battle the enemies of the dark side. Of the Ren. It is also why I train daily. As should you now that we are starting to be revealed to the galaxy. As the light will rise to meet us, sooner or later. Rather it be these foolish lawmen or our true nemesis, the Jedi. We will no nothing but conflict and battle soon enough."
Jez nodded through his explanation while still trying to collect herself. When he finished she straightened out then leaned backwards to pop her back. She then brushed her hair back and looked at him with a blank face. "I understand, sir," she'd say simply. "While you were training with your blade I was being tutored in the Force. Drills and assignments and goals and stupid meditation. It never ended. Perhaps that's why I was so desperate to leave."
Looking around the cargo bay she nodded to herself in thought. She was still cradling her helmet in her arms and hoped he wouldn't tell her to place it back on. Even the stale air of the life support was better than the fake and dry oxygen being pumped through the vent. "Do you really think they're out there? The Jedi? I mean...I know they are, but like...readying for war. As we are."
"There is an old human saying. If you want peace, prepare for war." He answer then paused a moment before he continued. "While the hundreds of years of peace may have made most of them complacent. There are always the few who remain vigilant. That is the cycle, the way of the Ren."
He would of perhaps continued with the lesson if not for the tiny shift in the ship. As it fell from light speed. The pilot droid taking it a pawn itself to slip into the planet's orbit without entering the atmosphere. Holding the pattern until he was directed otherwise by one of the two cultists.
Feeling the ship shift and then turn and adjust to the pull of the planet. The Echani would give his apprentice a nod and then return to his armor. As he did not yet trust the recycled droid, he would not show his face to it. That and he wanted to tell his apprentice, without a word, that is was time to return to the mask of the armor.
When he got to the cockpit, Balal took a seat in the navigation chair and plugged in the data disk containing what little relevant knowledge the information broker had managed to recover. The capital city was known as it was the only known star port on the planet. But the disk showed others locations. Or at least coordinates to locations. Balal would quickly download them to his datapad.
"Droid, land on the dark side of the planet and power down as soon as possible."
The way of the Ren. Her master continued to say that phrase. She knew what it meant literally, but what it meant spiritually she still failed to grasp. She watched him then go to grab his armor and Jez set her helmet down to assist him. With her help it went faster and plus she liked helping him. It gave her a purpose. And she could tell he enjoyed watching her do all the work. Jez didn't mind. After he was all suited up he headed for the cockpit. Jez went to her helmet and took a deep breath as she stared into the opening. Letting herself fall into the namesake he'd given her, Jez became Xetno once more and closed herself off to the world.
Xetno would follow shortly after her master and join him at the helm. She took a seat in the back chairs like before and strapped herself in, just in case. She had no idea what hostilities awaited them. And she wasn't going to take any chances. Her faith was completely in this droid right now; though, she trusted her master to step in should something go awry.
The the span of a few seconds the droids would calculate all the variations. Like a shooting star the pilot droid shot into the atmosphere. Casting a tiny beam of light across the sky as it did so. The evening was setting on the northern hemisphere of the planet. Home to many of the landmarks of the planet of Akiva. Finding a deep and wide opening in a canyon, the pilot droid suddenly and without warning, landed the shuttle.
"Kriffing pilot droids, Next time I'll have BG fly me." Balal grumbled and he held his guts back down. He thought to behead the damn thing but also knew that Jez, rather Xetno, had no clue as to how to fly. "Consider this thing now part of your problem. It continues to fly like this and I'll have to replace another one."
Finished with that task, he stood up. Waited for Xetno to rise with him, and then they would both depart the ship. Him leading, her following after. Beside but a step behind. Stepping out into the night air, the last of the day's light faded behind the peaks of the canyon.
"Good, we'll be right at home then." He said looking into the growing shadows, "Lets go". Balal would draw on the shadow to fill his body. As he commonly did. Using it to augment him. In this case, his speed. Running at near the pace of a speeder toward the edge of the capital city.
"Holy kark!" Xetno gasps loudly as the ship drops into a sudden descent.
While her master was disgruntled about the droid's trajectory, Xetno was thrilled. She loved the feeling of her body being tossed around, adrenaline pumping through her veins. She laughed with excitement while holding onto the straps of her seat. She was then shook around nearly giving her whiplash as the shuttle came to a sudden landing. Xetno continued laughing while her master complained about the droid's flying. His discontent only made it more humorous for the girl.
Trying to stifle her laughing Xetno replied to her master, "Yes, Sir." Which was then followed by a snort and some more giggles.
With her face scrunched up trying not to laugh Jez was ever so glad he couldn't see into her visor. She stood to follow him after unbuckling the straps and then followed him out the back. For a moment they stood in the light of the sundown, taking in the sight of the land they would soon claim. Then, with his order, the two would rush off with blinding speed. Xetno let the Dark side be one with her and kept pace with her master. She would not try to race him, or outrun him; she knew she'd never succeed. Jez was perfectly happy just being side by side with him (if maybe a foot behind at most).