Faith IV - Priorities
“Attention passengers: we are now entering Coruscant’s atmosphere. Please fasten your safety harnesses and enjoy the view.”
Faith chuckled. “The captain seems awfully chipper.”
Master Ralto smiled kindly at his no-longer Padawan. “You are one of many on this shuttle who have never been to the Republic’s capital before. Most have never seen anything like it.”
“Yeah, you said it’s like one big city, but I don’t get how… Holy. Fucking. Shit.”
Faith could sense Master Ralto’s scorn at her profanity, but Faith didn’t care. Looking out the window, Faith could see the tops of skyscrapers, and they hadn’t even descended through the clouds yet. The scale and size of such a thing was too much for her to fathom.
“I sense much excitement in you, Faith,” Ralto said with mirth.
“Gee, I wonder what gave that away?” Faith retorted kindly, returning her gaze to the windows as they passed through the cloud cover.
Faith was treated to orderly lanes of flying cars navigating their way through towering skyscrapers and over massive monuments to the Republic’s history.
Faith put a hand to her head, which suddenly ached from screams of agony and pain and anger and hurt of all sorts.
A moment later, the feeling was gone.
“Ralto, what the fuck just happened?”
“Mind your tone, Faith. As for what happened,” Ralto said with a sad sigh, “see for yourself. Down there.”
Faith followed the Nautolan Master’s gesture to the ruin of what must have once been a great monument. It looked like it had once been a square complex with towers jutting out at the corners.
“The Sacking of Coruscant,” Ralto intoned sadly. “Ten years ago, at the height of battle between the Republic and the Empire, the Sith unexpectedly called for peace. Delegations were sent to meet at Alderaan. All of the senior most Jedi and Republic diplomats were there.
“They pulled a fast one, didn’t they?” Faith guessed, eyes following the ruin even as they flew further away.
“I don’t know what a ‘fast one’ is, but if you mean to say that they deceived us, they did. While the Jedi and the Republic prepared for peace, the Empire launched a surprise attack on Coruscant, starting with a shuttle full of Sith crashing into the Jedi Temple itself.”
“Whoa,” Faith said again. “I’m guessing this tale ends with the Sith breaking their chains, right?”
“You have become awfully interested in the Sith ever since we left Tython,” Ralto said carefully. “What prompted this sudden curiosity?”
“I dunno. The showdown with the Bogan warrior, I guess. Getting back to what’s down there, I can’t help but feel there’s something you’re not telling me.”
“It is a memory I do not wish to revisit, but I was there,” Ralto said, and Faith detected a hint of anger beneath the surface as the Nautolan closed his large black eyes and breathed slowly. “I saw the Sith butcher so many of my fellow Jedi, cut down in front of me, and then buried as the Sith detonated bombs both from within and without, leveling the home of the Jedi Order.”
“Damn.” Faith didn’t know what else to say. “So, the war went on, right?”
“No, it did not,” Ralto said with a deep breath. “The Empire held Coruscant hostage to obtain the territories and materiel it wanted from the Republic, and then ‘peace’ was brokered. But it won’t last. Already, both sides are testing the other. This is a Cold War now, just waiting to burst into flames.”
“Cold War, huh?” Faith said. “No nuke big enough to stop another war, I guess. Hey, I thought that Tython was the home of the Jedi. Now you’re saying it’s here on Corsica?”
“Coruscant,” Ralto corrected patiently. “The Jedi Order began on Tython thousands of years ago, but relocated to Coruscant when the Republic was formed. The Jedi became guardians of the Republic, sworn to uphold and protect it. After the Sacking, however, many in the Republic blamed the Jedi for failing to protect them. We had nowhere to go until Master Shan rediscovered Tython. Once it was found again, we built a Temple there and began to rebuild the Order.”
“Wait, stop, go back a bit,” Faith said. “How did you lose Tython? I mean, did it just fall off the map? How do you undiscover an entire planet?”
“Navigating hyperspace is not as simple as jumping form point aurek to point besh, Faith. It is a complicated science that I do not fully understand. To put it simply, hyperspace is like an body of water. It has tides that ebb and flow, currents that change direction from time to time. As these currents shift, safe passageways are formed and destroyed. Tython’s location was never lost, but the way to it was only recently found by Master Shan.”
“Damn. Satele’s got some tricks up her sleeve. Or, she would if she had sleeves. Does she always go bare-armed? Not complaining; she pulls the look off really well.”
“Attention passengers: we’ll be touching down momentarily. Please stand by.”
Faith took the moment of silence to contemplate the Grand Master of the Jedi Order if she was a few years younger. Now that would be something to see.
A brief shudder told Faith that they had touched down.
“We have arrived at the Senate Tower Spaceport. Thank you for flying with us, and have a pleasant day.”
“I’m glad you brought up the subject of vestments,” Ralto said as he unfastened his seat harness.
“Clothing and armor. Your apprentice’s robes will likely not suffice in the tumult of galactic conflict.”
Faith snickered. “Yeah, no kidding. Brown and white isn’t really my style. They got shops here in the spaceport? I could use some new threads.”
“Of course,” Ralto said patiently. “I’m sure we can find some suitable garments for you in no time at all.”
“Force grant me strength,” Ralto groaned after ninety minutes in the shop. “How much longer are you going to be in there, Faith?”
“Aw, I thought you Jedi were all about patience and serenity, all that jazz,” Faith said from within the dressing room.
“That should be ‘we Jedi’ now, Faith, and you are truly giving us all a bad name. How much longer are you going to be in there?”
“I gotta find a look that works, Ralto. This stuff is important. Not to mention I gotta get a feel for the protective gear. You promise that these threads actually have cortosis in them?”
“Yes, Faith,” Ralto said, feeling an ache in his head tresses. “It’s weaved into the fabric to allow both for flexibility and for protection. Against a physical attack, however, it might not hold up so well.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet of you to be so concerned,” Faith said. “Don’t worry about me: I can hold my own. And I’m coming out now, so give me your honest opinion, okay?”
“I am always honest, Faith,” Ralto said, calling upon the Force to heal him of his building stress.
The door to the changing room opened, and Faith stepped out in what had to be the most un-Jedi-like outfit she could have possibly picked. She wore a blood red top that left her arms and shoulders bare, black pants that shone as if they were made from some overly treated animal hide, black boots with incredibly thick heels that increased Faith’s height by a good three inches or so, black wristbands that seemed to highlight the ridiculous pattern inscribed on her right upper arm, and she held in her hands a black jacket of some sort that he assumed would cover what her skimpy top did not.
“So, whadaya think?” she asked, twirling about to give him a good look at all angles.
“I think,” Ralto said after a few tense moments of silent thought, “that it is a good thing Master Shan agreed to reward you with a decent stipend for a new Jedi Knight, as I will not be seen paying for any of this.”
“Don’t worry, Ralto,” Faith said reassuringly. “I’m not about to go all Queen of the Dark Side on you. I just like this look. Besides, it’ll help throw people off guard. They see me, they won’t think ‘Jedi,’ y’know? It’s an edge they won’t expect.”
“Given how tightly those clothes fit on you, I can guess that most human men won’t be thinking much at all when they see you,” Ralto said with a snort. “I had a human friend when I was a Padawan who came to the Temple dressed like you are right now. The Masters had to keep reminding the human boys that there is no passion, there is serenity.’ Those lessons didn’t seem to take until she was given proper Jedi robes.”
Faith laughed. “Yeah, I’ll bet. And you know how much I hate that part of the Jedi Code.”
“Faith…” Ralto began.
“Sorry! I don’t ‘hate’ it literally. It’s just a way of saying that I don’t agree with it, y’know?”
“Yes, I know,” the Nautolan Jedi said. “Just be mindful of your words and your feelings. These are important things, especially for a Jedi.”
“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry, Ralto, I’ll be careful. Yo, sales boy! Can I pay for these now?”
Ralto hung his head and closed his eyes as he felt a poor young clerk find himself suddenly drawn to Faith in more ways than one.
Faith tried to ignore the strange looks that people kept shooting her as she walked through the Senate building with Master Ralto, but the feelings she picked up were harder to shrug off. Lust was expected, but fear and anger were something she was unprepared for.
“Don’t be so surprised,” Ralto chided her. “Your choice of apparel is more appropriate for a Sith than a Jedi.”
“What?! Damn, why didn’t you stop me, then?”
“I did try, but you were insistent that this is ‘your look,’ if you recall. Perhaps it can be worked into an advantage, but be ever mindful of your surroundings.”
Faith nodded. “You got it, Ralto.”
“I notice,” the Nautolan Jedi said as they turned into an ornately carpeted hallway, “that you have stopped calling me ‘Master’ since your elevation to full Jedi.”
“Was I supposed to keep doing that?” Faith said idly, more intrigued with the historic paintings adorning the walls than on Ralto’s words.
“It is considered proper,” Ralto said with a sigh. “You were not raised in our culture, so I can forgive these slights, as they are minor and only wound my pride, which is not a Jedi virtue in the first place. Other Jedi, however, will take issue with what they will see as a lack of respect. Between your lack of regard for my title and your choice of dress, I wonder if perhaps you truly care what others think of you, Faith.”
“Of course you should!” Ralto said harshly, stopping his walk and placing a hand on Faith’s shoulder.
Faith bristled a bit at the contact, but did not protest aloud. “Why all the fuss, Ralto?”
“Because, Faith: as a Jedi, your behavior reflects on the entire Order and on the Republic. You are an ambassador of goodwill to the rest of the galaxy, and if you do not take heed of what the people of this galaxy want and need, then you will only serve to harm our efforts and hinder the greater good.”
“Damn!” Faith had been expecting a guilt trip, just not one quite that big. “Jedi really are all that, huh?”
“Yes, Faith. Jedi are indeed ‘all that’ and a great deal more. You would know this if you had paid greater attention in your studies.”
Faith shrugged, brushing Ralto’s hand from her shoulder and resumed her walk. “Sorry, Ralto. I’ve never been the studying type. School and I never really got along. This the place?”
“Yes,” Ralto said curiously. “How did you know? I thought you hadn’t been here before.”
“I haven’t. I just sorta felt you about to stop here.”
“I see. Your connection to the Force is strong, there is no doubt of that. I only hope your judgment proves equal to your capabilities.”
“Don’t sweat it, Ralto,” Faith said as she opened the door and walked into a conference room filled with at least half a dozen men and women in a variety of uniforms and formal work apparel.
“Ah, Master Ralto. Thank you for joining us,” a well-dressed human woman said. She had a healthy pale complexion and light brown hair done up in a style Faith had never seen before.
“The pleasure is mine, Senator Kayl. This is my former apprentice, Faith Lehane. She’s just been elevated to the rank of Jedi Knight. Faith, this is Senator Vanara Kayl of Coruscant.”
The hardly unattractive woman smiled thinly. “Not for much longer, I fear. I made some serious errors in judgment that will likely lead to my forced resignation sometime soon. I am not here as a Senator, but merely as an adviser to the current state of things on Coruscant. I’m sorry I don’t have much time to get to know you, Jedi Lehane, but there is much work to be done.”
Faith merely nodded. “Sure, no sweat.”
Kayl arched an eyebrow at what Faith realized must be an odd phrase for this galaxy, and then walked back to the conference table. “Settle down, everyone. Now that Jedi Master Ralto has joined us, we can discuss recent developments. I know this was going to be a discussion of affairs further away from the capital, but revelations have come to light that cannot be ignored.”
“Are you talking about dealing with armed gangs to win your seat, Senator?” a dark-skinned man in white armor sneered.
“If only things were that light and easy to deal with, Major Cortland. No, I’m talking about a report that came in from the Works. A smuggler who’s been helping deliver aid to Ord Mantell first delivered the news, and it has since been verified by a Jedi who was also passing through the area on business. People, the Empire has taken up residence in the ruins of the Jedi Temple.”
A round of hushed whispers cut through the air. Faith wondered just how sloppy the Republic had gotten if they’d allowed the enemy to land on their capital.
“Why the Jedi Temple?” Faith asked. “It’s already been destroyed. They looking for something buried there, or is it a staging ground for something bigger? And why aren’t the Jedi digging through those ruins to look for all the lost artifacts and shit that have to be there?”
“A good question,” Major Cortland said, turning his gaze to Ralto. “Did you already know about this? Is that why Jedi Lehane is dressed to infiltrate an Imperial presence?”
“We did not know of this, I assure you,” Ralto said. “As to Faith’s choice of dress, she assures me that it is normal for her homeworld, which was only discovered in recent months by both the Republic and the Empire.”
“Still, the Major does have a point,” Senator Kayl said. “Jedi Lehane, you do look remarkably like a Sith. Had you not been in the presence of a renowned Jedi Master, you’d probably be locked up right now if not dead.”
“Gee, thanks. Aren’t you guys supposed to be at peace?” Faith remarked.
“A mere formality,” Kayl said dismissively. “Another war is inevitable, and the Republic has to seize the upper hand. We can’t allow a repeat of the Sacking of Coruscant on any Republic world.”
“I’ve been educating Faith in the basics of Sith philosophy and society that we know about in recent days,” Ralto said. “She’s become unusually curious, but I sense only a desire to do what is right from her. But what is important is that I believe your earlier observation, Major Cortland, presents a plan that we had not previously considered.”
“What?” Faith asked. “You want me to go in there alone and pretend to be a Sith? I’m good, but I’m not good enough to take out everything and everyone in a place that big. And there’ll probably be real Sith in there, right?”
“Along with a large number of support troops, most likely,” Cortland said. “This should be strictly a reconnaissance mission. Get in, take in everything you see, and get out. Don’t raise any alarms and don’t make any trouble you can’t get out of.”
Faith chuckled and stretched her arms, highlighting her curves under her tight-fitting outfit. “No promises about making trouble, but I can do this.”
“Very well,” Ralto said. “Then may the Force be with us.”
Faith was being marched through the muck of the Works with her wrists bound, her lightsaber taken from her, and a small platoon of Republic soldiers flanking her, along with a green-skinned Twi’lek male Jedi she’d never met before.
The Works themselves were a marvel equal of the upper peaks of Coruscant's tallest towers, but in a far different way. A vast network of tunnels and machinery, the Works were the engines that kept Coruscant running. Droids maintained everything so that no self-respecting sentient being would have to come down here in the rust and the grime.
The remoteness and lack of appeal of the Works also made it a perfect hideaway for less than reputable citizens. Or, in the current situation, Imperial soldiers looking to hold their main position at the Jedi Temple, at which one could find one of the Works’ many exits.
As Faith and her 'captors' rounded a corner, she reached out in the Force and undid her restraints as she called her lightsaber from the Jedi’s robes back to her hand.
The Republic soldiers quickly had their weapons out, but Faith was faster, hurling them all into the sides of the gigantic pipes with a push from the Force. The Jedi was left to square off against Faith unarmed, and a roundhouse kick to the side of his head knocked him out for the count.
Faith rose to her feet and brushed a bit of dust off her clothes. The ruse had hopefully served its purpose, and the soldiers and Jedi would be fine with a bit of rest. Not wasting any more time, Faith strode with all the haughtiness of a Sith Lord down through the pipes, following the map that she’d committed to memory as best she could.
A junction led to a smaller pipe, still large enough to fit a few men side-by-side, and Faith found herself walking upwards. She could hear voices coming from the other end as she approached a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Halt!” a crisp, British-sounding voice said. “Identify yourself.”
“Stand down, soldier!” Faith said as imperiously as she could, not breaking her stride. “If you must know, I am Lord Fidelis, and I’m here to inspect this sorry operation.”
When Faith emerged from the pipe, she found herself flanked by three soldiers on either side, all standing at attention.
“All right, troops. Back to your posts,” Faith said, trying to sound bored.
“Yes, my Lord!” the soldiers said as one.
Faith smiled and sauntered into the ruins of the Jedi Temple, which was even more impressive on the inside. The main chamber was a huge dome of various kinds of stonework, and only some of it lay in ruin. A great deal was intact, and soldiers were standing guard at almost every such inch of the Temple.
So far, Faith hadn’t seen any actual lightsaber-wielding Sith, and she hoped she wouldn’t run into any. Refocusing her thoughts, Faith set out to do what she was here to do.
Keeping her pace at a stride with her head held high, Faith played the part of the haughty Sith Lord with aplomb if she did say so herself. None of the troops dared to question her, and she only saw a very few Sith apprentices, all of which wielded only training blades.
“You there! Sith!”
Faith looked up to see who had called out to her and saw someone standing on an upper level of the Temple. A rim of whatever passed for concrete in this galaxy remained strong enough to support the weight of people quite high up from the ground.
Faith figured that the man calling her name could only be another Sith himself. Not wanting to disappoint him, Faith drew upon the Force and leaped into the air, flying meters upon meters to land in a crouch next to the other man.
As she rose to her feet, Faith saw that the cloaked man was horribly pale and sickly despite his young age. She’d heard that the Dark Side took a toll on those who wielded it, but Faith hadn’t understood until now.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“I am Lord Anev Xydes,” the bald young human said. “Who are you?”
“Lord Fidelis,” Faith answered in her best commanding voice. “I’m here at the behest of Imperial Intelligence. They want an update on the progress here.”
“You don’t sound Imperial,” Anev Xydes said in a harsh, almost-British voice. “And I received no word of an impending inspection.”
“My family’s from Corellia,” Faith said impatiently. “We serve the Dark Council, same as you, same as Imperial Intelligence. We’re all instruments of their will, and you are going to update me on the progress here. Now!”
Faith stared down the Sith man for a few silent moments before he started to smirk. “I must say, in my years as Sith, I’ve never had the privilege to work aside one as attractive as you, Lord Fidelis. You must have many faithful allies.”
Faith let a smirk of her own cross her face, despite the fact that the man in front of her was more repellent than any human man she’d ever met. “You can be one of those allies, Lord Xydes, if you play your cards right.”
“`Play my cards?’ You Corellians are quite strange, but I take your meaning. But, business first. What do you wish to know?”
“Recent developments,” Faith said, trying to remember her ‘script,’ “have made finding the truth difficult to discern. I understand that Darth Angral’s son was recently killed in this very building. That would be under your watch, wouldn’t it?”
“Lord Tarnis foolishly exposed himself to the Jedi,” Xydes countered hotly. “And his mission was still a success! Darth Angral has the Republic weapon designs and is pursuing the Jedi who murdered his son. That is not your concern.”
“You’re right,” Faith said. “Darth Angral’s business is not mine. His son, Lord Tarnis, did die under your watch. Or are you not in charge of overseeing this Temple?”
Xydes grimaced. “Darth Angral does not blame me. Nor should you. Do you understand me, Lord Fidelis?”
Faith grinned predatorily. “Perfectly. Moving on, I’ll need a full accounting of your assets here, along with whatever else you need.”
Xydes nodded. “I have those documents in my quarters. If you’d care to accompany me there?” he said with a wicked grin.
Faith suppressed the chills that threatened to run down her spine and smiled back. “It’d be my pleasure.”
Xydes gestured for Faith to follow him through an arch in the wall. Faith followed him through a short corridor to a room that looked like it did overtime as bedroom, office, and command center.
“Business first,” Faith said quickly. “My Master has ingrained a certain set of priorities into my mind. I find it best to follow those priorities.”
Xydes nodded, but Faith could sense his lust building as he grew more impatient. As he handed her a datapad of information, Faith fed on his desires by sitting provocatively with one leg crossed over the other as she perused the information.
The first pad was the most important: a roster of all the Imperials stationed here, along with their rank and title, if applicable. Faith saw a number of privates, corporals, and sergeants, only a few lieutenants, and three majors among the military. Twelve acolytes, five apprentices, and Lord Xydes himself were the only actual Sith listed.
The rest could wait, Faith figured, and she tossed the datapads aside. “Prioritizing things can only give a Sith so much satisfaction. I’ve been too long without the touch of another man who could keep up with me. So many these days are… lacking in the areas that count.”
Xydes let out an evil-sounding laugh. “I assure you, Lord Fidelis, I do not lack for anything.”
“Then prove it, big boy,” Faith said, rising from her seat and stretching her curvaceous body. “Clothes off. Now!”
Xydes rushed to comply, and Faith suppressed a laugh at how easily this Sith was manipulated, but then she remembered the first line of the Sith Code. ‘Peace is a lie, there is only passion.’ Lord Xydes was nothing if not passionate.
Faith removed her jacket and flipped her boots off her feet. Her pants and top followed until she was only in her black lace undergarments that were her only souvenirs from back on Earth. She pondered keeping them on, wondering which idea she disliked more: her womanhood touching this Sith, or her only piece of home.
Personal comfort won out, and Faith kept her underwear on as she leaped onto Xydes, straddling him as he fell onto his soft, cushioned bed.
“You are quite a woman, Lord Fidelis,” Xydes breathed.
“Oh, don’t I know it,” Faith said with a laugh as she squeezed her thighs closer together.
Xydes’s breath became harder and rougher as he groped her body. “Lord Fidelis,” he gasped.
“Shh,” Faith said with a finger to his lips as she tightened her grip on his torso. “There’s a good boy.”
Faith traced her finger down from his lips to his chin and then his throat, which she clamped her fingers around and held on tight.
Xydes struggled against Faith’s superior strength, but he only used up his remaining air quicker.
“There’s a good boy, Xydes,” Faith cooed wickedly. “Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon.”
Xydes’s eyes widened with shock and rage, and Faith felt him trying to call on the Force.
With one quick motion, Faith snapped Xydes’s neck, killing him instantly.
Scrambling off of the Sith’s sickly, pale body, Faith felt the need for a long, deep bath. But first things first. She redressed herself and went over to the array of technology that Xydes would no longer be using.
She saw that his desk station could and was monitoring a number of Republic frequencies, receiving from many and sending to only one, which looked to Faith’s amateur eye to be offworld somewhere.
Taking a holo-communicator out of her pocket, Faith pressed a button and waited.
Master Ralto’s image flickered into being. “Faith! Are you all right?”
“Just peachy,” Faith said, trying to forget the feel of the Sith’s clammy skin against her own. “There was only one Sith Lord here, but there are a few apprentices and acolytes, along with some troops. I’m sending you lists of their personnel and gear right now.”
“Receiving,” Ralto said, and Faith saw him gesture to someone out of her holocom’s view. “You said there ‘was’ only one Sith Lord. Is he…?”
“Dead,” Faith confirmed. “Come on over and take your Temple back.”
Ralto breathed a sigh of great relief. “Thank you, Faith. You’ve done a great thing for the Jedi and the Republic. And it’s our Temple. Yours mine, and every other Jedi’s. Try to make the most of it while we’re here on Coruscant. And Faith… Thank you.”
Something in Ralto’s voice spoke to a level of gratitude that Faith didn’t understand, but she didn’t question it either. It was unusually pleasant. “You’re welcome,” she said.
“I’ll see you shortly. Ralto out.”
The holocom flickered off, and Faith stood in Xydes’s study alone. Faith sat down at his desk and decided to pass the time honing her skills with the aurek-besh alphabet. There was a thin paper book in front of her, and Faith began to read aloud to help herself understand.
“‘My husband’s nightmares grow worse,’” Faith read. “‘He speaks of a world covered in perpetual storms and twilight, and he senses a growing darkness.’”
Faith picked up the small book and read the cover.
“‘The Journal of Bastila Shan.’”
I own nothing, as per usual. To be more specific...
Coruscant: not mine
The Sacking of Coruscant: not mine
Tython: not mine
Hyperspace: not mine
Satele Shan: not mine
Jedi Temple: not mine
Master Ralto: original
Nautolans: not mine
Vanara Kayl: not mine
Major Cortland: original
Anev Xydes: not mine
Darth Angral: not mine
Lord Tarnis: not mine
Corellia: not mine
Bastila Shan: not even close to mine
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