The queues for the taxis were intolerable. Talitha’koum stuck close to her TaunTaun while others pushed and shoved their way to the front. Twice she nearly tripped over someone, or something. When her turn finally came, the service droid looked at the TaunTaun then back to the Twi’lek.
“You must hold onto him as our safety straps do not accommodate large creatures”, it intonated.
“That’s fine, just let me on.”, Talitha snapped, realising the claustrophobia of the crowd was getting on her.
The droid indicated they could embark and Talitha gently encouraged her companion onto the double backseat. She tried to push her stress away and calm the TaunTaun so he would lie down.
“It’s only 5 minutes, and I’m still here,” she whispered stroking his nose.
Once satisfied he wouldn’t move she jumped into the front and turned around to lay a hand on her friend’s back. She nodded at the driver droid and they shot off. As the wind whipped around her Lekku, she feared the taxi would tip back too far, but by the time she had gathered her thoughts, they were slowing down to stop. A little shaken by the whole experience she stumbled out the taxi and encouraged the TaunTaun back onto solid ground.
“Well that was interesting, my friend,” she said wrapping her arms around his neck. “Let’s go find the Sith Sanctum shall we?”
She led the creature with a gentle hand to the huge archway. Talitha looked about, certain something wasn’t quite right.
“Hello Ma’am, are you lost?”, a gentle male voice enquired.
The Twi’lek shot around in surprise to see a uniformed Chiss strolling out.
“I…uh, apparently, got on the wrong taxi. I need the Sith Sanctum, I thought it was here?”, she stammered, embarrassed to be a Sith lost in the Imperial Capital.
“No worries my Lord, I didn’t recognise you as Sith straight away. This is Imperial Intelligence. Your Sanctum is over that bridge and on the left.”, he politely explained.
Talitha swallowed back her awkward feeling.
First my Lightsaber gives me preferential treatment, and now people who are more Imperial than me call me ‘my lord’. What power do the Sith hold over people?
The Chiss smiled a half-smile. This Sith Apprentice wasn’t like all the other ones he’d met today. The bragging, ego-centric, power-hungry ones who would probably get themselves killed in their first real battles. This Twi’lek was…different.
“Are you alright my lord?”, he asked.
“Yes. Yes, it’s just, so much to take in.”, she paused for breath to calm herself down, “Sorry, I’ll be less jittery if we meet again.”
“Easy to get lost on your first visit to Kaas City, don’t worry about it.”, the Chiss encouraged her.
“Thank you, I expect we’ll cross paths again, but thank you for your help.” she nodded.
“Not a problem. Can I ask your name?”, the Chiss enquired.
“Talitha, Talitha’koum. And yours?”
“An’delit of the Chiss Ascendency, at your service”, he smiled.
Talitha just nodded, managing a half smile of her own. Her mind was still whirring and with the amount of activity going on around her, she still felt bemused by the whole thing. She climbed back on her TaunTaun, looked back at the unusually polite Imperial, then rode off in the direction of the Sanctum, and her Master.
Once in the Sanctum, Talitha felt the darkness of the place hemming her in. It would be harder to hide herself in this setting than on Korriban. She frowned atop her TaunTaun looking for her Master. Not immediately seeing her, she encouraged her pet slowly at walking pace, looking this way and that. Sith, Apprentices, slaves – beings of various shapes and sizes. Most were, it seemed, human.
At least the ones whose faces I can see. Many hide behind masks, Talitha thought
You hide behind your own mask, my Apprentice., Lord Vitae’s voice entered her mind.
She turned her head around and saw her Master standing in a doorway beckoning her. Dismounting, they made their way towards the door and fell into step behind the Twi’lek’s Master. Once inside her office, the Sith Lord locked the door behind them with a hiss.
“I would love to chat with you more, but events have moved quicker than expected so we have to get to work I’m afraid.”, Lord Vitae began.
Talitha sat in a chair opposite her Master, her pet settling down next to her.
“What’s wrong Master?”, she asked.
“Sorry, excuse my abruptness. I am pleased to have you by my side. More than I can express right now, but I am glad not to be alone.”, Restita said, cursing herself for putting her Apprentice on edge.
Talitha motioned for her Master to continue.
“Darth Skotia has just been killed, here in the Sith Sanctum, in his office. This kind of thing does not happen even among the Sith,” she began
“I don’t know who Darth Skotia is, but I guess that’s irrelevant now? Killed by whom?”, the Twi’lek asked.
“That’s a very good question. Thanaton believes Lord Zash…sorry, Darth Zash is behind it. But she has an alibi. Other Sith are trying to work out by which powers she was able to be in two places at once,” Restita explained
“I don’t have much knowledge of those kind of Force powers yet, is it possible?”, Talitha asked
“No. Not as far as I am aware, anyway. So there must be a logical explanation.”
“I’m not trying to be rude, but why are we having this conversation? A warning to watch my back in case I’m next, or you?”, Talitha’s brow furrowed.
“Neither, though you must always watch your back as a Sith.”, her Master took a deep breath, “Darth Marr has asked me…unofficially, to discover the truth about Skotia. He and other Dark Council members are concerned about Zash’s increase in power. They need to know what she’s up to.”
“So why come to you?”, Talitha was still not understanding.
“That’s part of my job here. To ensure traditions are kept, that Sith rules are upheld, that Sith Lords do things…in an acceptable way. We have an investigation to do, my Apprentice. And yes, understanding the Force, how others manipulate it is part of your training. So here’s my plan.”
Over the next two hours, Lord Vitae and Talitha discussed, debated and questioned each other. And all the time, the Twi’lek realised that survival wasn’t the key any more. She had to be smart, mistrust others and question everything. Combat training and enhancing her medicinal skills would have to wait. Deeper mysteries of the Force were there to be explored, which she began to feel excitement about. The fact that this means spying on other Sith made her very nervous, but she was used to being the quiet, unassuming one. That was, of course, how she had survived slavery and Korriban. A potentially dangerous, and definitely dark investigation was underway – along with the Imperial homeworld to explore.
“Ok, we have a rough outline,” Lord Vitae tried to wrap things up. “To know what Darth Zash is up to now, we need to trace her…or her apprentice’s steps.”
“Where should I start?”, Talitha asked.
“You may not like this much,” her Master warned, “but I think you need to head to the Unfinished Collossus. The name is really obvious when you get there.”
“So why won’t I like it, aside from any poor taste in architecture?”, the Twi’lek smily wryly
Her Master smiled encouragingly.
“Freedom becomes you Talitha. I look forward to seeing the Force-strong woman who was held back in your former life.”, she cleared her throat, “You may not like it because the Collossus was unfinished, by a huge group of slaves who are now revolting against the Empire.”
“I have already seen slavery multiple times since arriving on Dromund Kaas earlier today. Can’t I reason with them?”, she asked hopefully.
“You can try, but likelihood is they’ll see your Lightsaber and attack you. You are, after all, Sith. But you will need to ask around to find out what Zash, or her Apprentice were up to down there.”
“What will you be doing while I’m gone?”
“I’m already following a different trail that I hope will make sense when you come back from following yours. Take a day or two over this. You will need to find your bearings here.”
Talitha nodded and stood up, realising how tired she still was. Stretching, she heard her back pop in various places.
“I have to admit, I didn’t think this would be part of my Sith training.” the Twi’lek commented.
“The Force is always in motion, so we learn wherever it is leading.” Lord Vitae said.
Talitha helped her pet to his feet. She needed to head to the nearest terminal to find out more about this Collossus and the rebelling slaves. The fact that she was a former slave would not grant her any favours, she sensed. The dark investigation was under way.