Khaos wrote: ↑Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:32 pmMynocks shrieked and wheeled out of the way as a small ship glided into its secluded hangar.
Darth Vectivus leaned back in the pilot’s seat and stretched. “Ah,” he said, turning cheerily to his new apprentice. “Home at last.”
Vectivus frowned slightly. Darth Doom (he was having second thoughts about allowing his apprentice to choose his own Sith name; his own Master had allowed it for him, but then, he’d done a much better job) sounded somewhat… dubious.
“I thought I might show you around the caves a bit before taking you in to meet my family.” He had just thought of it now, actually, but that wasn’t relevant.
Doom sat up at that. “The mine does sound very interesting, Master. Are those mynocks the ones you spoke of?”
“Hah. No, those were a sapient and highly advanced variant species, and they are now extinct. This is a comparatively ordinary infestation that moved in during my absence for training, but I permit it out of curiosity. They shouldn’t be able to survive without the starlight unless they are also tapping into the same energies. Mynocks that feed on the Dark Side of the Force — a very clever and curious adaptation. Most nonsapient Force-using species are essentially neutral.” He lowered the ship’s ramp, sending an eager mynock squalling across the hangar with a casual wave. “Of course, they’re also not supposed to be in the hangar. Very bad for maintenance. Clear them out for me, will you? And find the breach that let them in.”
Darth Doom performed this task with relative ease, leaning on the mynocks’ minds — such as they were — to believe they were in danger (fairly accurate, that) and to flee the area by the swiftest route. It was easy to follow their flight back to the hangar opening, high and in shadow. Vectivus plastered a temporary seal on it and entered instructions to the maintenance droids. “Well done, Apprentice. Care to see a nest?”
“As pleases you, Master.”
Vectivus sighed and beckoned; Doom followed him out and through a sturdy door — with the power sources and circuits extremely well shielded to avoid undue attention from the mynocks — into the less developed parts of the mines. The mynock nest, or rather the silica feeding ground with its tasty vein of metal, was located at the foot of a steep drop-off where a promising shaft downward had been opened out more thoroughly. There was one particularly large mynock just at the base of the cliff; it had consumed enough matter and was now struggling to divide. It might have been equally accurate to say there were one and a half mynocks at the base of the cliff.
This was a pretext. Vectivus did enjoy watching them; after all, their kin had been his first introduction to the power of the Dark Side. Doom’s interest was purely polite. A bit too obviously so, really. The pair of Sith had not watched the rock-eating for long before Vectivus said mildly, “You seem to have doubts, Apprentice. Voice them.”
Doom lowered his head for a moment. “Forgive me, Master.”
“I won’t have to forgive you for anything if you obey me, Apprentice.”
A frustrated sigh. “Master, you are not what I expected of a Sith Master.”
Vectivus turned to him and raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s interesting. Please elaborate. What did you expect? Fewer mynocks?”
“Er, from you, no, not really.”
A smile. “What, then? I know you spent time with my own master… and with his. I also know I am not much like either of them, but then, I gather they were also very different from one another.”
“I did not expect all of… this. The mine, yes, perhaps. A fine home, perhaps. But less talk of family. Fewer pictures of your grandchildren! Less talk of, of… of principles.”
Vectivus frowned slightly. “The Dark Side is a path to power. The Sith have goals as a group, to be sure, but we are not self-abnegating Jedi. Why shouldn’t I enjoy life? I happen to like my grandchildren.”
“And yet you’re raising them in an area known for producing insanity?”
Vectivus shook his head. “That was due to the spirits of the ancient mynocks. I have that situation under control.”
“As you say, Master.”
“Now, what’s this about principles?”
Doom frowned. “How shall I say it? You speak in the language of morals, Master. Of the soft people.”
Vectivus regarded him thoughtfully. “You are too used to the idea that morals and principles are for the weak, I think. Certainly, to take what you want when you want it is often an option and one of the benefits of power. But what you must keep in mind if you want to be truly effective is that much of what beings say they do for the sake of morals, of principles, of good and right — much of this actually has very practical reasons.”
“How can that be? All of it seems to be about not taking advantage of people.”
“No, Apprentice, it’s about mutual advantage. If you are honest and reliable, you will be trusted. If you are kind, people will be well disposed toward you.”
“Or think you are weak!”
“Bah,” Vectivus said. “Not if you have the power to back it up. Apprentice, tell me this: why did you not kill the mynocks when I told you to get rid of them for me?”
Darth Doom shot him a wide-eyed look. “You said I had done well, Master; I believed you satisfied–”
Vectivus lifted his gaze toward the ceiling. “And so I was. I still want you to explain your reasoning.”
“It was more efficient, Master. Making them flee showed me where the breach was, accomplishing your other assignment.”
“Precisely.” He left Doom to absorb that point in silence.
At last Doom said testily, “You are not exactly instilling great fear, Master.”
Vectivus arched an eyebrow. “You do realize the Sith are currently a secret, don’t you, Apprentice? That’s another reason to conduct ourselves as honorably as possible. The more truth you put into a lie, the more believable it is and the less you have to remember. Good behavior on our part avoids suspicion and allows us to amass advantages for future generations.”
Doom threw his hands in the air. “Future generations! You imply you’re speaking of future Sith, but I think you mean your own offspring. You talk of these practical advantages, but you still speak of your principles as if you value them for their own sake and then justify them. Good. Honor. Honesty. Love! Where is your sense of strife, Master?”
Vectivus drew himself up. “Do you dispute my right to my own passions, Apprentice?”
“No, but I find the old Master’s choice a puzzling one.”
“Well, then becoming my apprentice was a strange move, now wasn’t it?” Vectivus narrowed his eyes.
Doom shook his head. “No, Master. Clearly you were chosen for a reason, and that means I have much to learn from you. But I am still perplexed. I served your master, yes, and his too. Neither offered me more than minimal training; certainly neither ever offered to make me his apprentice. I followed all the teachings they would offer me as well as I could, and when the old man was dead… you arrived.”
“You wanted my place, did you?”
A shrug and a smile. “Well, I have it now, don’t I? I wanted to be the apprentice. But I do not understand why you were chosen.”
“Perhaps you should reflect on the reasons you were not.” Vectivus eyed him. “I suggest you begin with your impatience and lack of subtlety. Also your poor acting.”
Doom’s cheeks heated. “Perhaps you charmed them.”
“Perhaps a little charm would do you some good.”
His apprentice looked at him suspiciously. “I’m fairly certain you mentioned a dislike of flattery.”
Vectivus smiled. “Good. You’re learning.”
But Doom was not, he reflected, learning enough. Sith relationships required a certain amount of jealousy and envy, but Doom’s problem seemed more like petulance than the deep ore of revenge. The impatience and lack of subtlety, too, and the disrespect for Vectivus’s family…. Refining that petulance into revenge and real understanding simply wasn’t likely to be profitable.
“Why did you choose me?” Doom asked slowly.
That was a good question to ask. “I have long been of the opinion,” Vectivus said slowly, “that persistence and commitment deserve a reward. A chance, at least.”
“So you’re essentially rewarding me for loyalty and hard work.”
“You might say that.”
Doom looked pained.
Vectivus sighed. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s really working out.”
Doom started back, his hand going to his lightsaber. “Are you suggesting my apprenticeship was on a trial basis?”
“Isn’t that always the case?” Vectivus smiled. “I’d be willing to break tradition if you are, though. I don’t suppose you’d accept a generous severance package in lieu of my killing you quietly?”
Doom’s gaze was incredulous. “Are you mad?” He straightened, igniting his lightsaber and bringing it before him. “I will not give up the opportunity to be a Sith so easily.”
They faced one another for a long moment, and then Vectivus broke into a broad smile. “Very good, Apprentice,” he said. “You’ve passed the test. It would have been a real pity if you’d accepted.”
Doom hesitated. Then, at last, he smiled back and shut off the blade, turning toward the mynocks again.
Vectivus didn’t activate his lightsaber’s blade until it was positioned to sweep straight through Doom’s neck.
The other nice thing about honesty was that the more you employed it, the more likely you were to be believed when you outright lied. He really would have preferred the less literal severance package.
As it was, he took some time reducing the body to a smear of ash. The area would smell scorched for a while, but it wouldn’t bother the mynocks and he could simply avoid it.
He left the mynocks’ mines then, going back through the hangar and taking the shuttle-chute in toward the central habitat. His eldest daughter greeted him with a hug and a choked, “What’s that stench? You smell burnt!”
“Mynocks had gotten into the hangar,” Vectivus explained. “Bit of a mess. Don’t worry, I’ve already dispatched the maintenance droids.”
“Ah.” She frowned and looked past him. “Didn’t you say you were bringing home a guest?”
Vectivus sighed. “I wanted to, but he was called away at the last minute. Here, I’d better go change clothes before I stink up the whole atmosphere in here.”
As he washed the smell away and put on fresh clothing, he considered his options. He did need a new apprentice fairly soon. Some delay was acceptable, but not desirable. There was a reason many of the Sith Lords since Bane had kept around a few extra minions who were strong in the Force but not inducted into the teachings of the Sith; not only were they useful (and comparatively easy to control, if you managed it right), but they made it easier to avoid extended periods with only one Sith.
Doom had been such a minion, though, and he’d proved to be rather inadequate as a Sith. Also, Vectivus didn’t know any of the others personally. He ought to try a different strategy this time.
Perhaps he should grow his own, so to speak. Take someone young and easy to access; begin molding in early youth — the Jedi did have a few good ideas, actually. On the other hand, he wasn’t about to adopt all their practices. The ascetic life was not for him.
Vectivus left his personal quarters and discovered one of his granddaughters toddling down the hall. Six years old, her father’s first — and just lately, the first of two. She beamed up at him with a missing front tooth and held up her arms.
Vectivus chuckled and scooped her up. “Meltha,” he said, “how would you like to start spending more time with your grandfather?”
“Just how important is the tradition about killing your Master? It seems… inefficient. I still have much to learn.” She lowered her head, frowning down at her arms and a passing, waddling mynock dragging a damaged wing. “And I would miss you… Grandfather.”“I love you too,” Vectivus replied, amused. “Even if you worry about the strangest things.” His tone changed. “But Apprentice, you may enjoy affection but shouldn’t let it blind you. That is more of a danger with us, perhaps, than with Sith in less… comfortable positions. Now, think. The Apprentice attacks when he believes he has surpassed his Master. Do you believe this?”She turned her head, eyes glittering with a faint yellow cast. “Even if I did, Master, I think I would say no.”
“Good.” He stretched. His paunch wobbled a bit, but it still wasn’t slowing him down much. His granddaughter knew this. His own Master hadn’t realized it until too late. “Besides, I’m an old man. This may or may not be a standard teaching, but I’d say the rite of passage is less important than learning when to let circumstances do your work for you.”
The darkness rippled around them and then ripped as a red blade slashed through it. The second came up just in time, bracing against his superior strength only long enough to let her pivot out of the way of his stroke.
“Enough philosophy, Apprentice,” Vectivus hissed. “You need exercise.”
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From the archive.
- Head of the Dark Aspect -