Balmorran Nights

  • Balmorran Nights
Status:
  • Rough Draft
Content Rating:
  • NC-17
Fandom(s):
Star Wars

Relationship(s):
Female Sith Warrior/Malavai Quinn

Warning(s):
  • Discussion - Murder
  • Discussion - Rape
  • Discussion - Torture
  • Explicit Sex
  • No Beta
  • Slavery
  • Violence - Canon-Level
Genre(s):
  • Science Fiction
  • Slice of Life
Word Count:
22479

Author's Note:
Identity Porn. Offscreen torture. Sith being sith. Other sith being not expecially Sith.

Summary:
Out of every insipid party on any given world, she had to come to this one. Beautiful, seductive and sith, S. Daahzi Thalrassian was nothing Malavai Quinn could have expected, and everything he unexpectedly wanted. It was almost like a love story. Sex and politics and identity porn.


This is a story set in the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMO set after the game Knights of the Old Republic (I and II) and is an interlude that takes place within the story line of the Sith Warrior — and someday within a larger series, but aside from the part where it’s identity porn (Daahzi is currently concealing her identity as she’s on a recon mission, her name is actually Saaraij; she also knows a lot more about Quinn than he can imagine) it should stand alone just fine.

Part one is Only the Force, which can be found here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/9300890/chapters/21081296

OTF is a DA:I/SWTOR crossover about Dorian (Pavus) Thalrassian and Cullen Rutherford, a Sith and a Jedi and a Galactic War. They’re just so star-crossed.  Pretty much literally.

Part two is in pieces on my hard drive, the story of Saaraij Thalrassian: scholar, warrior, and really irritated Sith Apprentice.

This is a side story from a secondary character’s POV.

As this is the SWTOR (head)canon(s) included in this piece:

Service: It’s not exactly BDSM.  The Sith Empire is ruled by people who use their passions — powerful emotions of any flavor, violence, sex, etc. — to fuel their esoteric abilities.  As such a concept has evolved of Service, were one individual may offer themselves for such use.  An Offer of Service is always, in theory, voluntary and not coerced.  It can be made for a variety of reasons: to curry favor, to get close to a target (to gather information or assassinate), or to blunt bloodlust.  The person Offered Service, if they accept can do pretty much whatever they want — which can include sex, moving furniture, sparring, or going on covert missions to assassinate a Darth.  Usually it’s sex, though.

The person who offers Service can (and should) place limitations on what they’re willing to do, and to be valid, must constrain the timeframe.  While the one offered Service isn’t actually required to obey those limitations, it is a serious social faux pas to ignore them.  It’s also generally considered a no-no to kill (or permanently injure) someone who is currently offering Service.  That said, though it’s generally consensual, it’s neither safe nor sane and not recommended for the real world.

Mandalorians: A warrior people that live in clans that report to a leader called the Mandalore.  They often work as bounty hunters or mercenaries

Sith vs sith:  Sith (with the capital) are individuals who are members of the Order of the Sith/Sith Order.  When spelled without the capital, sith are members of a created humanoid species with red skin (and by red, I mean red, scarlets through maroons mostly) facial tendrils that take the place of eyebrows/facial hair, hair that ranges from deep red to black, and eye colors that typically range from gold to a bright red or red/orange.  Most sith are force sensitive and as such become Sith.  It is possible, though uncommon for a sith to be force blind.  They make up a fairly small portion of the Imperial population and in the current Empire are considered the epitome of purity and power.  Their numbers remain quite low, and as such they are subject to a number of laws regarding blood purity, the production of children, etc., that humans and other non-sith are not.  Note:  sith are actually absurdly fertile with a wide range of species, which is their problem, after their numbers were drastically reduced by the Jedi, they have been forced to breed outside of their own people, which has resulted in nearly everyone in the Empire having sith blood, sometimes high concentrations of it, but relatively few ‘purebloods’ that show the red skin and other characteristics.

Lt. Malavai Quinn hated these events. Governor Melchiro was a fool – a sycophant appointed by some incompetent, who sat admiring the cut of his garishly colored robes while he let his world burn down around him. Every time some moderately placed Imperial official visited Balmorra, the Governor insisted on flaunting his supposed influence, throwing a lavish event to which he invited every self-important civilian on the sodding planet and required the attendance of every senior, or long-serving officer available at Sobrik base.

As Malavai had been one of the soldiers assigned to the original pacification of the planet after the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant ten years ago, there was literally no one longer serving, and likely no one with greater loathing anywhere on Balmorra.

“Ah, Darth Lachris…” As always, Melchiro’s voice was as slippery as spilled guts, and equally full of shit. “Please allow me to present to you Lt. Quane, who has been such a great asset to us throughout his time here.”

It was somewhat gratifying to see the look of utter scorn laid upon Melchiro by Darth Lachris’ forbidding eyes as she held out a pale, calloused hand.

“Lt. Quinn,” she said, as he bent, breathing the Kiss of Fealty over her knuckles. “I have heard of you.”

It was a struggle not to flinch as he straightened, meeting molten copper of her gaze.

“As I have you,” he said, deliberately flooding his mind with the reports he’d read about the successes and exploits of only apprentice Darth Marr, the leader of the Dark Council, had ever trained. Lachris smirked, a vicious little curve of lips, the scarlet-black painted upper seeming to bleed malevolently down into a single drop on the pale lower, just waiting for her to lick it off.

“Only the good, I hope.” Lachris turned her head, just a little. “Go away, Melchiro. I’m certain that Lt. Quinn will be of greater service to me than you could ever hope to be.”

Melchiro huffed. “As you wish, my Lady…”

“My lord,” Quinn corrected him absently. “The proper term of address for all Sith is ‘my Lord.’ Or by their proper title – although, in this case you would foul Darth Lachris’ name merely by speaking it.”

“My, my,” said Darth Lachris as the man scurried away, “the Empire’s oldest Lieutenant has teeth.”

“I apologize, my lord, if you wished to be the one to correct him.”

“No, no,” her laughter barely trembled on the air. “That was perfect. What an odious little man. I’d like to gut him and hang his corpse from the highest tower here.”

“You probably should, my lord.” Quinn told her, enchanted by the idea. “I doubt that there’s a soul on the planet who wouldn’t be grateful.”

“We shall see.” Lachris looked around. “You’ve been here a long time, Lieutenant. Are you familiar enough with the offal to guide me through this cesspit?”

“If my lord so desires.”

“My lordship does.”

Malavai presented her with his arm, shivering slightly as she curved her fingers around it. Like many Sith, she wore the Darkness of her calling like a cloak, a shield of fire and ice that burned and ached when he came into contact with it. It was strange, navigating the social currents with her at his side. Normally he would have taken a glass of the rather foul sparkling wine they produced in Balmorra’s poisoned soil, each disgusting sip a camouflage he could hide behind while the local elite got drunk on the bitter vintage.

Instead, Darth Lachris pointed out the individuals that she was interested in meeting. Someone had clearly given her decent dossiers on the actual movers and shakers of Balmorra, as she needed no help in avoiding the noisome fluff and assorted hangers-on. Malavai had no idea why she’d singled him out as an escort, the entire command staff of Sobrik was present – foolish, but Melchiro was about as concerned with security as he was with governance – and so there were certainly men of rank that she might have chosen for the honor.

“You know, Lt. Quinn, I really have heard quite a bit about you. I’d say it’s a shame that you’ve been stuck here on Balmorra for so long, but given what I know of the situation, I suspect that we would be lost here without you.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Malavai did his best to mask his confusion. Darth Lachris chuckled, gripping his forearm hard enough to bruise, and waved lazily at a table near the back, scattering those already seated there like chaff in the wind.

He righted one of the chairs, moving to stand at her shoulder and she scowled prettily up at him. “Sit, Quinn. Don’t be shy.”

“My lord, surely there are others –”

“I have heard nothing but good of you, Lieutenant,” she slanted a look up at him. “Please don’t… mar the image with false modesty.”

Malavai licked his lips, startled. “Of course not, my lord.”

“Then sit, my pretty little lieutenant, and tell me about Balmorra.”

He squashed the irritation he felt at the epithet, causing the Sith’s lips to curl in their aloof and bloody smile. Righting another chair, he took the seat to her left, showing his subordination to her will. She hummed thoughtfully. “Very good, Lieutenant. Your reputation hardly does you justice. Would that more of our military men had your understanding of your place.”

“It is my honor to serve, my lord.”

“Indeed it is,” she told him. “And my pleasure to receive it.”

There was some kind of commotion at the door, drawing Darth Lachris’ attention, turning her smile from sly to genuine for an instant.

“Dr. Thalrassian!” she called, clapping her hands in a mockery of girlish delight. “So glad you could make it, my darling!”

The security at the door parted, revealing a lithe young woman of pure sith blood. She appeared to be barely out of her teens, though as a pureblood that could be deceiving; they aged differently than normal humans. The girl turned, grace personified, and Malavai felt a punch to the gut. Sexual desire hit him from out of nowhere, almost pulling him to his feet.

“Ah,” said Darth Lachris, eyes turned on him. “Won’t that be interesting?”

“My lord?” Malavai turned his attention away from the woman at the door with difficulty, barely processing what the dark lord was saying.

“Oh, don’t mind me, Lieutenant,” said Darth Lachris, waving to a server as the young woman wove her way toward them. The awareness he had of her was startling, almost extra-natural. Had Malavai been born Force sensitive, he might have claimed it to be the work of that mysterious potency, perhaps even the infamous Draw that those of the Old Blood were prone to. But he hadn’t so much as a flicker of that power. Thus the likely culprit was the trim, perfect figure clad in supple leather; the small, but perfect breasts encased enticingly in silk; the long, waving hair dyed in the variegated greens of Dromund Kaas’ jungle; or the face that bloomed scarlet, a wine-flower amidst deadly, verdant fronds.

“Darth Lachris!” The young woman held her hands out, an ancient gesture between Sith to show friendly greeting – which was to say that she was not visibly armed.

“It has been too long, my dear.” Darth Lachris rose, taking the girl’s hands and pulling her closer. The room fell impossibly silent as the dark lord brushed kisses on the girl’s cheeks, ending with a chastely carnal offering upon the younger Sith’s gold-painted mouth. Malavai’s brows rose. He’d heard of such greetings, of course. Painted as an ancient Sith tradition between friends and allies, it was always popular in holonet dramas. Yet he’d never seen such a thing in real life, even among his mother’s family.

Irrational jealousy spiked low in his gut as the women kissed, arousal burning as jeweled nipples clearly peaked beneath thin silk of the girl’s close-fitted blouse. Darth Lachris hummed, stepping back, mouth wet and slightly swollen.

“It’d delightful to see you, Daahzi.”

“It’s been three weeks,” the girl – Daahzi – retorted with a smile. “Unless I’m mis-remembering and that wasn’t you at my graduation party. I’m quite sure mom invited you and I seem to recall your august presence.”

“Impudent.” Lachris’ smile was indulgent. “But you always were, little imp.”

“Guilty as charged.” The young woman turned her eyes to him, and Malavai was startled to see that they weren’t bright in the usual shades of blood and gold, but instead a burning electrum like the heart of a star. She raised a brow, letting her gaze sweep over him. “Who’s this?”

“Lieutenant Malavai Quinn.” Darth Lachris’ tone was strangely smug, which was odd enough, but the young Sith’s mouth dropped open, her eyes wide, which was stranger still.

“Lieutenant Quinn?” The squeak that came from the girl was almost undignified, if such a word could be applied to any Sith. Distantly he became aware that conversation in the room had once again begun to flow, startled interjections reaching his ears at the doctor’s excited reaction to being introduced.

“Indeed, my lord,” he said, diffident. She blinked at him, tongue flicking out to wet her lips.

“Lieutenant, I would like to make you acquainted with my… cousin, Dr. S. Daahzi Thalrassian,” said Lachris. “We’ve been using her title whenever we speak to her, trying to break it in.”

“Honestly, my lord.” Dr. Thalrassian rolled her glorious eyes. “The way you talk, you’d think it was a pair of shoes.”

“Darling, the title is so new it practically squeaks when you touch it.”

“And goodness knows, you do enjoy things that squeak.”

“You know me so well, little imp,” Lachris smiled. “But your arrival is quite fortuitous, my dear. I was just enticing the Lieutenant to tell me all about Balmorra, but now that you’re here, you can lend me your assessment as well.”

“My lords –”

“Daahzi, please,” said Dr. Thalrassian. “I suspect that we’ll be working together, at least for a small while. Although I object to beginning work here – this is a party.

“It’s deadly dull. Politicians and sycophants, with a doleful smattering of actually useful people, like the lieutenant, here.” Darth Lachris took a sip of the wine the server had brought, spitting the foul beverage out almost instantly. “And absolutely dreadful alcohol. If ever a gathering called for a culling, it’s this one.”

Dr. Thalrassian laughed. “Honestly.”

“No? Pity. Here, my dear, keep my seat warm while I arrange to borrow the lieutenant from his superiors for a few days. With luck Balmorra won’t fall down around anyone’s ears for the duration. Lieutenant, do be a good boy and keep my dear friend company.”

“My lord –”

Malavai was left blinking at an empty chair before his protest could be fully formed, although what he would have said, he had no idea. One didn’t deny Darths anything, not if one expected to live very long.

“It seems that I am yours,” he said. Dr. Thalrassian gave him an odd little smile, sliding into Darth Lachris’ vacated chair.

“Lachris always has had a propensity for lovely gifts.” She eyed the glass of yellow-green sparkling wine before picking it up and sniffing at it. She set it back down, horror ghosting over her features. “But you are your own, lieutenant. You needn’t feel you must keep me company just because Lachris said so.”

“Darth Lachris may command me as she pleases, my lord, as can you.” Although, at that, Malavai was unsure. Darth Lachris had not introduced Dr. Thalrassian as Lord Daahzi, as he might have expected of a lesser Sith of house Thalrassian. The doctor was lithe. She was well-formed and athletic, as one would expect of a Sith – yet she was without weapon or armor. It was possible that she was one of the rare purebloods who had no Force sensitivity, and thus no real claim to the ancient privileges normally claimed by those of her evident blood.

She might be like him. Of good family and breeding, only without the single, defining factor of Force sensitivity.

“Oh, I may command you as I please?” She leaned back and his eyes were drawn to the sharp points of her breasts, their jeweled rings pressing obviously against the thin, jungle-green of her blouse. “And yet, you’ve yet to obey the only request I’ve made of you, lieutenant.”

“Quinn,” Malavai blurted. “I apologize, for my forwardness. But there is no need to address me by my rank in this setting, my lord.”

“Daahzi.” A smile flirted with the corners of her lips. “I’ve no desire to be ‘my lorded,’ Quinn.”

“Such familiarity is inappropriate, my lord.”

“So is staring at my breasts as though they hold the secret of life, and you manage that perfectly well.”

His eyes snapped to her face and he flushed. “I apologize my lord.”

“Oh, I don’t mind, Quinn. They’re perfectly lovely and deserve admiration.” She ran her hands slowly from the tops of her thighs upwards, swirling up the taut leather and silk until they cupped her breasts like an offering. She looked down, brushing the tips with a thoughtful hum. “Don’t you think so?”

Malavai crossed his legs, setting his folded hands over his burgeoning erection.

“I’m sure I have no idea, my lord.”

“You’re lucky I’m not Lachris,” she said, giving her breasts a slow, sensual rub before mirroring his posture. “She’d be insulted by your temperance. Not to mention the continued insubordination.”

“And are you, my lord?”

The twitches at the corners of her mouth bloomed into a toothy smile. Dimples, unexpected heralds of merriment, made their presence known beneath the cutting curve of her cheek. “Oh, no. I like a challenge. I rarely find one I can’t defeat with time and persistence. I’m certain I can loosen your hold on propriety, for at least a moment.”

“I’m sure it’s not worth your effort, my lord,” he told her primly, fully aware of the gauntlet being thrown.

“Darling, we are Imperial,” she said, standing. Daahzi leaned over, two fingers burning against his pulse as her lips brushed his ear. “Whatever we crave is always worth the effort.”

Her fingers left a burning trail across his neck as she flowed past him, a swirling current of heat and desire, and it was all Malavai could do to keep himself from being caught in her wake.

It wouldn’t do, he thought, to make the game too easy for either of them.

-0-

Malavai woke, gasping, from the most intensely erotic and terrifying dreams he’d ever had. Pleasure spilled over him as he came, hot and messy, into rough, military issue sheets. His mind’s phantasms splintered, scattering in the dim light of his clock and the ever-present glow of the secure holocom that rested on his desk, waiting to alert him to the next emergency. He sat up, staring down at himself in vague disgust. He wasn’t a teen, subject to the whims of a hormonal body – he should be long past the days when a pretty face brought about the mess of nocturnal emissions.

His cock hardened in defiance of his will and age, dream-fragments spinning bright behind his eyes.

Malavai considered ignoring it. He despised the idea of being a slave to his physical desires. That was for Sith, and often to their disadvantage and the detriment of the Empire as a whole. He was stronger than that.

His comm warbled at his bedside and he activated it. “Quinn.”

“My pretty little lieutenant, how delightful to find you already awake.” Lachris’ honeyed voice poured out, lightly mocking. He had the oddest urge to cover himself with his hands, despite the fact it wasn’t a video link. “I will be requiring your presence for the next few days, here in the governor’s rather squalid little shack, along with a number of your compatriots.”

“I see, my lord. Thank you, my lord.”

“So, delightful,” she cooed. “I know! I should like your presence for breakfast this morning, I had rather expected to have it, you see. I’m sure that Daahzi will be most pleased to see you.”

“Your will, my lord,” he murmured, as splintered images of crimson skin, petal-soft and fragrant, flickered in his mind. Expecting it? He hadn’t hidden his immediate desire for Dr. Thalrassian well, but surely Darth Lachris hadn’t assumed he and the bewitching sith would fall immediately into coitus.

“No need to thank me, Lieutenant. I’m sure it will be our pleasure.”

The comm fell silent and Malavai took a breath. Daahzi. No doubt the next days would be filled with her, and the strange, pulsing want that filled him when he looked at her. His cock throbbed. Malavai threw off the bedclothes and slipped out of the damp mass of the shorts he wore to sleep in. Relief was doubtless the better part of valor.

He danced his fingers around the head of his cock, rubbing lightly at where the tip peeked out from the foreskin. It felt good, the gentle rasp of callus against the sensitive skin as he teased it down and away from the swelling structures that would mark him as a full-blood sith, had he been born with the scarlet skin of his forebears.

Malavai wondered what it would be like to slide the flanged head of his cock into Daahzi’s cunt. Would she be smooth and hot and tight, the way a human woman was? Or would she have the ridges and hooks of the purest sith blood, a complicated lock for which he carried a rare key?

His hand slid down, loose and light, his fingertips dipping between fleshy ridges to catch the fragrant slick his arousal brought to the surface. Would she welcome it, his aaghaz, the fertile-oil that stimulated ovulation? Would her cunt become slick with ihighaz, spicy and rich, calling forth the most fertile and active of his seed? Would her quim fill with alzhe-tzir, grasping tendrils that would lock him in place, holding his cock tight against her cervix as her body took what it wanted?

Malavai shook, coming hard as his instincts reacted to the thought. A curse left his lips, as he lay gasping in the close, confined air of his bunk, damning his own physiology and its instinctual needs. Breeding a sith, the thought was as enticing as it was impossible. He could fuck her for power or for pleasure. But the drive to get a child on her? That was a torment that would likely never be satisfied, not with the Imperial Military medical protocols for unmarried officers in place; nor with the laws that governed marriage and procreation among purebloods.

Not that his body cared, the rush of endorphins leaving him languid upon scratchy sheets.

Sighing, Malavai pulled off his t-shirt, wiping himself clean before rising to shove his soiled laundry in the hamper. The advantages of his long service were few, but he had quarters he didn’t have to share; a small fresher; and a dedicated domestic droid, programmed for discretion.

He dressed with careful attention to his toilette, allowing his messages and assignments to download to his datapad as he made his ablutions. A message from General Tornik flashed red, followed by a spate of notes from Colonel Bentham, and a torrent from Captain Merst. Malavai frowned, flipping through them. The general’s was simply a missive about his current reassignment to the staff of Lord Anaela, Darth Lachris for an undetermined duration. It just went downhill from there. Colonel Bentham – and there was no small amount of acid spilled every time he saw the rank, as he’d attended the Imperial Military Academy with Bentham – requesting a series of status updates, along with a request to meet as soon as practical, given the circumstances. Captain Merst, unfortunately, was his direct superior, and as unimaginative and useless an officer as any Malavai had ever served with.

It took some effort to compose a message to reassure Merst that the men and women under his command would continue to serve flawlessly – Malavai demanded no less of them than he did of himself, to all of their benefit – and that the operations groups that unofficially reported to him, which was to say, all of the groups that should have been able to rely on Merst, would need direction in Malavai’s absence. He kept Bentham in the loop, of course. There was no reason for good Imperials to die because of Merst’s incompetence and his own team could only make up for so much.

To his surprise, Malavai found an approved requisition for a small shuttle, with Colonel Bentham’s electronic signature. It would make trips from the base at Sobrik to the Governor’s mansion, such as it was, far more convenient. The timestamp was for a few minutes after the call from Darth Lachris, and he almost smiled. How unlike a dark lord to ensure that her breakfast guest would have the means to make it to the meal.

He filed a flight plan and packed what he needed for a few days. It would, no doubt, be a novel experience.

-0-

“Well, look who it is, my dear.” Darth Lachris flashed a predatory smile as he entered the small room she and Dr. Thalrassian were using for their meal.

“Lieutenant Quinn.” Electrum eyes flashed with good humor as Daahzi looked up. “My lord, how early did you wake the poor man, to ensure he’d be here for morning meal?”

“Pish,” said Lachris as a liveried servant set another place at the table. “I’m sure such a dedicated man such as Quinn was already awake, just knowing I’d be calling.”

“I suppose you might say that, my lord. I was, as you say, already awake.” He took his seat, eyeing the proffered fare with approval. Imported fruits from Dromund Kaas; smoked meats and sausages, fried in animal fats; griddle cakes of the local cereal grains, light and fluffy; it was a repast almost suitable for a dark lord, and certainly far more appetizing than the indeterminate grey slop he would find in the commissary at this time. He served himself, careful to tread the line between insulting his host by taking too little, and seeming overly greedy by taking too much.

“Already awake?” Daahzi rested her elbow upon the table, resting her chin upon it. “Void and stars, Lieutenant, it’s barely past dawn now. Why in the galaxy were you already awake?”

Malavai glanced at her, feeling his cheeks heat. He could hardly admit that he’d been having dreams of her that filled him with need and terror, or that he’d imagined her locked tightly around him, wet and filled with his seed. “I’m sure I don’t know, my lord. Anticipating Darth Lachris’ call, I should think.”

Daahzi lifted a brow ridge, making an obvious study of the pink in his cheeks, and Lachris laughed, clearly delighted. “So adept at anticipating… pleasure, my pretty lieutenant. I’m almost tempted to steal you away and make you mine.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Daahzi snapped, before suddenly looking horrified. “I mean –”

“No, no, no – I understand. You’re so distressingly Thalrassian, Daahzi. It’s been what, sixteen hours? I’m half surprised you haven’t already stolen and freed my slaves into the Balmorran wilderness. It’s the sort of thing you would do.”

Daahzi snorted a laugh at this perplexing accusation, murmuring something about being better than that. Lachris merely smirked, lifting an ornate teapot and pouring out a cup of steaming crimson fluid. Malavai inhaled sharply, filling his lungs with a fragrance he hadn’t encountered in well over a decade. Blotidet, the blood-tea, so called because of its color and viscosity when properly brewed. It was frightfully expensive and near-impossible to get via military supply. Malavai could feel himself salivate, his eyes drawn toward the pot with disturbing intensity. Lachris raised an elegant brow. “Would you like a cup, my dear lieutenant?”

“Void, yes.

Daahzi hummed. “It’s been a while, has it?”

“I don’t know that anyone on Balmorra knows what it is. To be frank, my lord, I wouldn’t trust them to brew it even if there was a metric kiloton of it available to the commissariat to learn how. They’d likely ruin every precious drop.” Malavai lifted the cup, swirling it gently to release the perfume of Dromund Kaas’ violent storms and overgrown jungle. The first sip exploded in his mouth, ozone and fertility mingling like blood and earth on his tongue. “Thank you, my lord.”

He took another sip, before setting the cup aside and picking up his fork. He revised his opinion of the meal sharply upward and would have to find a way to send the chef his appreciation – each selected offering on the table was a perfect accompaniment for the tea. Malavai set to his meal with respectful enthusiasm without crossing over into lamentable speed.

“I’m mildly surprised you’re familiar with it, lieutenant,” said Daahzi after allowing some minutes for him to enjoy the meal. Malavai looked up, finding honest curiosity in her eyes. A glance at Darth Lachris only revealed a sly merriment in a burning copper gaze. A pale hand, scarred yet graceful, lifted the pot in silent question and Malavai nodded respectful thanks. He put down his fork and raised his napkin to wipe his lips, neatly precise, before setting the square of heavy linen aside.

“My mother is quite fond of blotidet, and I became accustomed to drinking it as a child.” He offered her a small smile. “It became rather more difficult to come by once I entered the Academy, of course. It’s not a beverage often wasted on youngsters.”

“Hmmm.” She took a sip of her own, meeting his eyes over the rim of her cup. “A shame she doesn’t keep you supplied, now that you’re an adult.”

“I’ll be sure to let her know you think so, when next I write.” For all the good it would do. Lord Betsina had long since divorced his father and functionally disowned her eldest son. He doubted that she actually read his missives – she had little use for a son who could not wield a lightsaber, nor the man who had unexpectedly gotten Malavai upon her. Malavai let none of the bitterness show on his face, instead meeting Daahzi’s silver eyes with a small smile.

The unexpected dimples flashed above the thin porcelain rim, before she lowered her cup to chime softly against its saucer. “Touché, lieutenant. My mom can’t stand the stuff, but my father – oh, he was a connoisseur. Mom made a point of having blotidet-ezhn every week after he died. I assume she still does, though I haven’t been home in quite a while.”

Malavai controlled his surprise at the offered intimacy of a family story and could see the twitch of Lachris’ eyebrow at the reciprocity.

“I had no idea. Your mother’s blotidet-ezhn ceremony is flawless. I would never have guessed that she didn’t like the tea.”

“There are a lot of things one wouldn’t guess about my mom,” Daahzi snarked lightly, raising a brow. Malavai was intrigued to see the fleshy tendril of her brow-ridge twitch; a tiny, curling snap that seemed to convey amusement. A glance at her mouth revealed a humor-filled curve centered above a strong but pointed chin. Elegant, pointed blades of flesh framed the strangely vulnerable cleft in her chin, their twitching ends adorned with rings of gold. She was beautifully and perfectly sith. Daahzi waved a hand at Lachris in easy familiarity, seemingly oblivious to his intent stare, and Malavai dropped his eyes. “So. Many. Things.”

Her laughter chimed, and he burned with low heat.

“True,” Lachris agreed. “But I didn’t invite the lieutenant for a round of ‘guess the Thalrassian.’”

Daahzi muttered something under her breath that he didn’t catch, though from the wicked smile on Lachris’ face, she did.

“Now, now. I thought it would be nice to spend some time with our longest serving officer, given my mandate from the Dark Council.” He looked up to see a vicious little smile on Lachris’ lips. “Our consolidation of power over this world has been… less than stellar, I’m sure you both can agree. And while as a perpetually junior officer, Quinn cannot personally be held at fault for this failure, he’s certainly in the position to tell us how it happened.”

Malavai’s insides froze, though he continued to sip his tea. Taking control of the planet had been at an impasse from the first Imperial footstep upon poisoned soil. He had studied Darth Tziebe’s Essays on Keeping while in school, and had seen every tenet of the dark lord’s methods to win over a sullen populace mangled and thrown into a poisoned crevasse.

“I will do my best, my lord.”

Lachris patted his hand. “Don’t worry so. We don’t bite. Much.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Daahzi.

-0-

Malavai spent the morning collating reports – many of which he hadn’t previously been privy to, and still didn’t technically have the security clearance for. He’d asked Dr. Thalrassian what he was looking for, and she’d just smiled.

“Trust your instincts, Lieutenant. Rest assured you’re not the only one sorting through them. I’ll be very interested to see the perspective you bring.” Brisk and no-nonsense, her tone was completely professional, without a hint of the teasing or sexual innuendo he’d heard from her so far. “I do apologize for leaving you here, but Darth Lachris wants me to perform individual interviews with Balmorra’s longest-serving military and civil officers, which means I’m off to wheedle some information out of Imperial Intelligence.”

He looked at her; she was soberly dressed, wearing the black-and-crimson livery of the Dark Council’s direct staff, which – he was a trifle annoyed with himself for noting – set off both the scarlet of her skin and the gold-washed silver of her eyes. “I’ve been assigned a shuttle for the duration, my lord, if you are in need of transport.”

“Clever of you,” she noted absently, shoving half-a-dozen datapads and a frightening number of memory-sticks into a carryall. “That could be useful.”

“If you needed a ride to the base…?”

She looked up. “Ah. You mean, right now? Brilliant idea, Lieutenant, but you have work to do here.”

Malavai held up his datapad. “I don’t need to be sitting in this room to read, my lord. It can just as easily be done from the cockpit of the shuttle. Please allow me to be there if you need me.”

Her dimples flashed.

“A most excellent idea, Lieutenant. I’d be pleased to allow you to give me a ride.” She pulled the strap of her carryall over her head. “I imagine it will be a long, slow process – I hope your stamina is up to it.”

“Of course, my lord. You’ll never have need to criticize my performance.” He felt his cheeks warm and she gave him a sudden, cheeky grin.

“Don’t forget to be prepared. It wouldn’t do for you to finish too early.”

He looked down, hiding a small smile. “I wouldn’t worry, my lord. There’s always something for my hands to do.”

She laughed, clearly relaxing. “Point to you, Lieutenant.”

“I’m sure I have no idea what my lord means,” he told her primly, lips twitching. “Imperial Intelligence has a cadre of agents operating openly out of Sobrik, of course. There are undoubtedly agents here in Bin Prime –”

She shook her head. “If I’d known the extent of what I’d be researching – well, I’d like to beg us a transport to Dromund Kaas and storm the Citadel for more information, they were clearly holding out on me.”

“That is most unfortunate, my lord.”

“That’s Intelligence, for you. Frugal as a miser with a single credit chit, while sitting of a vault of wealth.”

Malavai wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he said nothing. “I’ll file a flight plan to Sobrik, then?”

“If you would. Don’t be afraid to take a scenic route – I’d like to get a feel for the land, one that doesn’t rely on satellite imagery.”

“As you wish, my lord.” He tapped in his request, unsurprised to find that Bentham had also gotten him priority landing clearance. “It looks like all is ready. Although if I could ask for your indulgence, my lord. If you’re to be with Intelligence, I would appreciate being allowed some personal time.”

“I’m quite sure that I’ll be several hours, Captain – so long as you’re ready when it’s time to return here, I have no objections. And that you get at least some of the required reading done, of course.”

“Thank you, my lord. I am honored by your trust.”

“Shall we go, then?”

Daahzi was a pleasantly quiet companion on the shuttle trip back to base. He saw her taking notes as they flew over Balmorra’s poisoned landscape – lakes and ponds of industrial waste fluorescing visibly, even in the brightness of the afternoon sun. As he banked high over the toxic pools, her features were thrown into stark relief by the poisonous green light, and Malavai had the oddest sense of grief, though her expression was very carefully neutral.

“Is something wrong, my lord?”

She shook her head, looking away from the viewscreen and back down at her datapad as she tapped out more notes. He guided the shuttle over the contested canyons around Sobrik and circled high above the Sundari plains, where their soldiers engaged in trench warfare against the Resistance. The rebels maintained control of the famed Balmorran Arms Factory that had once supplied endless battle droids to the Republic, and even now supplemented ragged pseudo-soldiers with battle droids. Malavai suppressed a growl of frustration as he saw a new wave of the bots trundle out – a design he didn’t recognize and didn’t know the capabilities of.

He punched a number on the comm. “Get me Captain Merst.”

“Who’s this?”

“Lieutenant Quinn – and unless he’s in a meeting, I need to speak to the Captain. There’s a new battle droid coming out of the factory – a collocoid design.” He saw the viewscreen split. Daahzi’s hands danced over the co-pilot’s controls, coaxing scans and magnified imagery from the shuttle’s somewhat limited systems. “Nimble – much more so than the things they’ve got on the field right now, and looks to be more heavily armored.”

“I’m sorry Lieutenant, he’s not available at the moment.” The voice on the other end was smug. “I don’t know what you think you’re seeing, but I’m sure it can wait until the Captain is ready to speak to you. Or, you could submit your report through the proper channels –”

Under normal circumstances, Malavai would have been the so called proper channels, but if he’d been in his office, he wouldn’t be circling above the Factory, watching in dismay as dozens of the damn things assembled in the staging area.

“I believe they’ve noticed us,” said Daahzi, remarkably calm for a civilian. “You may wish to begin evasive maneuvers.”

“—so please feel free to submit your report to the threat assessment group.” The connection cut out and Malavai growled.

“I am the threat assessment group,” he snapped at the silent comm, banking sharply down and away as the turbolasers began to swivel in their direction. “I apologize, I believe we’ll need a small detour, my lord.”

“I agree,” she said mildly. “Is that common?”

“Is what common?”

“The disrespect.” He could feel her eyes tracing his profile, intent.

He bit back a laugh. “You and Darth Lachris both noted it, my lord. I’m the longest serving officer on Balmorra, and the oldest Lieutenant in the Officer Corps anywhere in the Military Spheres. There’re those who know my work, and those who know me as a laughingstock, and have no qualms in trying to embarrass me.”

“I see.” She pulled a high-capacity memory-stick from her bag and shoved it into the dataport on the console, beginning a data transfer. Her other hand danced over the surface of her datapad. He could see windows flickering open and then closing, a rapid-fire collation of the shuttle’s sensor data and what looked like real-time satellite feeds of the plains. “Well, we’re not going to let that idiot stop us, are we?”

Malavai swallowed. It had been years since the last time he’d been confronted with that kind of unquestioning loyalty from someone who barely knew him.

“Of course not – we’ll be landing at the Sundari outpost momentarily.”

“Good.” She pulled the memory-stick from the console. “I’m sorry that my analysis isn’t more thorough – this ship’s scanners aren’t designed for infiltration work. I’ll provide more detailed information as soon as I can.”

“My lord –”

“Lieutenant, I promise you – the Dark Council appointed me for a reason. I can do this. I know you don’t know me, but… try to have a little faith?”

Malavai said nothing, letting himself concentrate on bringing the shuttle down in the VTOL location the furthest from the medical tents. He ignored Dr. Thalrassian’s near-inaudible sigh as her half of the screen began to flash distractingly, a series of recognition algorithms running on the best images she’d gotten of the droids.

“The results will stream to our datapads,” she said quietly. “Lead the way, Lieutenant.”

He opened the hatch, entirely unsurprised to find armed soldiers waiting. Daahzi touched his shoulder, urging him to one side before striding down the gangplank, an implacable image of Imperial confidence and grace.

“You will take us to your commander. Now.”

The soldiers snapped to attention, the sergeant in charge of the unit responding with a brisk ‘milord.’ He walked behind her, just to her left, and could feel the confused eyes of the men on his back.

The sergeant led them into a large tent, where an older model holo-table sat, a map of the flatlands flickering. The grey-haired officer at the far end looked up, a grimace smoothing out almost instantly to a falsely welcoming smile.

“My lord, what a pleasure to have you here. I apologize – we weren’t informed that someone of your illustrious stature would be visiting, or we’d have better…”

“Oh, shut it,” snapped Daahzi. “I’m not here on inspection, unless you think I should be?”

The man’s mouth snapped closed.

“Colonel –”

“Davris, my lord.”

“Colonel Davris – a pleasure. I wish it were under better circumstances. Lieutenant Quinn and I have some data for you and our advance forces.”

“Quinn?” Davris looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Good man. Best of the lot they’ve got over in Military Intelligence. Deserves a bloody commendation for putting up with Balmorra for long.”

Malavai felt his eyes widen slightly before he managed to control his reaction. “Thank you, sir.”

“Even so, it ain’t like you to bring us information yourself, lad.”

“My fault, I’m afraid,” said Daahzi. “I’m Dr. Thalrassian, adjutant to Darth Lachris and on a fact-finding assignment. I co-opted the Lieutenant for the day as pilot and assistant. He was kind enough to risk a fly-over of the plains and that great void-damned factory at the far end.”

“Void-damned is right, milord. So long as the bloody thing is under Rebel control, there’s no way that we’ll manage control of the planet.”

“I would tend to agree – especially if it’s in the habit of spitting out dozens of battle-droids at a time, and in unfamiliar designs.”

“The hell you say!”

“We were on a high fly-by and happened to see them assembling,” she walked over and handed the Colonel the memory-stick. “I’m sure the information would normally go through Lt. Quinn’s group for dissemination, but as you can see – it’s imperative that you have the information as soon as feasibly possible. The shuttle has sent a feed of the images we captured, along with a partial analysis – so you should be receiving further information as soon as it’s processed. But neither Quinn nor I could rest easy without knowing you’d at least gotten a preliminary report.”

Davris shoved the stick into the port with undue force, causing the imaging on the table to jump and fuzz. Malavai frowned as the Colonel added a sharp little kick to the underside of the table, causing the holo-rendering to smooth out and sharpen considerably.

“Well, fuck,” said one of the soldiers behind Malavai as the partial schematics of the droid appeared, spinning slowly in place. The design clearly took after the grotesque native insect species that dominated the areas past the northern mountains. Three to four meters in height, with four powerful legs and two savagely clawed arms, the semi-sentient hive creatures were a deadly enough force naturally. Ennobled in durasteel and the best engineering the rebels and Republic could command – the droids were atavistically terrifying.

Various tags swept out, indicating armament. They were heavily armored, remarkably so, given the nimble speed at which they’d seen them move. Daahzi had noted that the sweeping claws appeared to be energy-augmented vibroblades and Malavai blenched. The things had torso-mounted plasma cannons, but it was clear that they were meant to descend into trenches or bunkers, and rip infantry physically apart.

Daahzi’s datapad beeped while his vibrated against his thigh. She glanced down at it with a small grimace. “Unpleasant – the talons at the ends of the legs seem to be disproportionately powered. It’s not clear if it’s a variant of a vibroblade, or it’s some kind of energy spike. Or something else entirely.”

He looked over her shoulder, considering what they could determine of the schematics.

“They must have a weakness.”

Malavai looked up at the words, impressed by Davris’ stoic impassivity, but for the minute tightening of the wrinkles around his eyes.

“I think there may be.” Malavai stopped the rotation of the image, and pointed to where the power conduits joined directly beneath the insectoid body. “Look here.”

“Mmmm.” Davris rubbed his chin. “I think you see what I mean.”

“Good catch,” said Daahzi. “There’s heavy armoring, but we saw those things move. Don’t be deceived, Colonel. They’re nimble – much faster and more maneuverable than one would expect for the thickness of the durasteel plates.”

“I believe they may be relying upon that. Any being or droid that comes close is likely to be dismembered. The underside is less protected – probably to reduce weight and help increase motility.”

“A hard shell, but a soft underbelly?” Davris’ lips slipped upward in a cold curve. “All the better for gutting. I believe we can work with that. I’ll contact the General – you deserve commendations, both of you.”

Malavai felt his face heat. Like him, Davris had been on Balmorra for years – a brutal tool of Imperial strategy against the Rebel forces. They’d met before, of course – but never directly worked together due to the difference in rank. The very ease with which they meshed infuriated him. If not for Moff Broysc – if not for the man’s ridiculous vendetta against him for the disobedience that ultimately won the Battle of Druckenwell, Malavai would have the rank and standing to work directly with this man. He would be able to present strategies and analysis without filtering them through idiots like Merst.

He shot a glance at Daahzi, who stood utterly unaffected by the unexpected praise. If anything she seemed to barely have heard it as she flipped through the data available to her. Graceful fingers danced over the screen and she scowled faintly.

Behind the Colonel a computer chimed raucously.

“There – the most preliminary report, with what conclusions we’ve already made.” She looked up. “I apologize for its incompleteness and brevity, Colonel. It seems that with the advent of their new droids, they’ve managed to put up a scrambler that’s blocking satellite and scanning feeds. There’s some data, but it will be hours before the computers are done with the number crunching.”

“My lord, you have my most sincere thanks – you’ve saved a lot of Imperial lives today.”

Her expression smoothed out, but Malavai had the oddest sense that Daahzi was hurt by the Colonel’s pleased surprise.

“I was born sith,” she said simply. “It is my duty and pleasure to serve the Empire. Even if it had not been Lt. Quinn’s immediate response to deliver the data directly to you, I would have ordered it. There is no need for thanks, where honor serves.”

Every soldier in the room snapped to attention.

“My lord,” said Davris, saluting.

“Doctor,” she corrected him gently. “And a book-learned strategist, to boot. I hope we will have an opportunity to speak further, Colonel, I would very much like to learn from you. But for now, I’ll need more computing power to complete my analysis of the enemy’s new weapon, and have an appointment with Imperial Intelligence to keep.”

“My lord,” Malavai said, wincing at the reminder. “– I’m so-”

She held up a hand, stalling Malavai’s instinctive apology. “There is nothing to forgive lieutenant. This threat is imminent and the lives of our soldiers are paramount. I’ve already alerted my contact at Intelligence of the delay.”

“I – Of course, my lord.”

“Next time I’m in Sobrik,” said the Colonel, “The drinks are on me.”

Daahzi flashed a surprised smile. “I look forward to it, sir.”

The remainder of the trip to base was uneventful, if Malavai ignored the constant vibration of his datapad, signaling both the initial reports of his team and the continuing analysis of their captured data. He landed the shuttle in its assigned berth. Daahzi remained quiet as he powered the shuttle down, fingers dancing over three datapads she’d managed to balance on the consoles without interfering with the controls.

Was it further evidence that she was Force blind? Or would a Sith consider it frivolous to use the Force?

Malavai shoved the thought away. Daahzi was lovely, and remarkably kind for a pureblood – but it wasn’t material. He didn’t have the impression that she would be long on Balmorra – and, barring a miracle, he would never leave. There was no purpose in trying to calculate if – when, if he was honest – they tumbled together, that it could be anything other than the satisfaction of mutual passion. She was sith, and Malavai’s blood had long been deemed thin and inferior. Even if she were Force blind, he’d never be allowed more than simple pleasure.

She twisted, unbuckling from the co-pilot’s seat and bumping the precariously balanced datapads, sending them crashing into the foot well.

“Fuck,” she said quietly.

“No harm done, my lord.” Malavai unhooked his own restraints and stood up, studiously attempting to stare into the middle distance as Daahzi folded herself in half, gathering up her things. She flashed him a glance, the razor curve of her cheekbones darkening before she looked away, shoving the datapads into her bag.

“Your people are very efficient,” she mumbled into the depths of her carryall. “I could have used them when I was researching… um, working on my dissertation.”

“I should hope so, my lord.” Malavai offered her a hand up, and she hesitated for a moment before taking it. Need, harsh and brutal, ripped through him as he pulled gently, an offering of assistance she didn’t really need to stand. “I hold my people to the highest standards.”

“I believe it.” She turned, letting her fingers slip from his. “Meet here for the dinner-hour?”

“The mess closes at 1900, my lord, and is hardly up to par for a pureblood’s palate.”

Her lips quirked. “You might be surprised.”

“If I may, my lord – there are a few dining establishments in the town of Sobrik. I would be pleased to escort you to one of the more palatable choices.”

“It’s a date,” she said, dimpling. Daahzi turned, heading confidently toward the offices of Imperial Intelligence. “I like Tionese noodles and anything that involves spice.”

The words drifted over her shoulder, though she didn’t look back. He waited until she was out of view, allowing his eyes to follow the easy glide of her movements, the fluid sway of her hips. Malavai bit his lip, forcing himself to breathe slowly. Flesh-to-flesh, the draw he felt to her magnified a thousand fold. Want fizzed in his blood, becoming a constant hum.

His communicator chirped.

“Quinn.”

“You’ve been a busy man, Quinn.” Colonel Bentham said without preamble. “I see you’re back on base – I expect your report.”

“I’m on my way, sir.”

“I’ll see you soon. Bentham out.”

It was a brief walk to Command. Malavai strode through the omnipresent buzz of the hive of junior officers and enlisted, offering appropriate respect when needed. Two holotables showed high-resolution imagery of the Sundari flatlands, with real-time satellite feeds showing troop movement. Bentham leaned over the one showing the Balmorran Arms Factory, scowling at the basic wireframe that had been built from known schematics.

“Quinn! You’ve caused quite the hubbub.” Bentham waved to the table. “New droids, eh?”

“Yes, sir –”

Captain Merst stormed in, red-faced and puffing. He pointed at Malavai. “You! You dare show your face after abandoning your post without so much as a by-your-leave, and you think to steal my recognition? Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, Quinn – you won’t get away with it!”

“Captain Merst.” Bentham pushed himself up and away from the holotable. “I believe I gave you an assignment.”

“Yes, yes,” Merst waved his hand. “I’ve already forwarded it to this cretin’s account to be processed, not that he’s so much as bothered to acknowledge receipt of it.”

“I see.” Bentham glanced at Quinn. “I know you received notice of Lt. Quinn’s temporary reassignment to Darth Lachris’ staff –”

The captain laughed. “As if that’d ever happen. Moff Broysc would never allow it. It’s why I knew someone had forged that ridiculous email from General Tornik. Service to a Sith? Ridiculous.”

“I assure you,” said the Colonel. “The orders are quite real. I’ll be sure to let Darth Lachris know that you took it upon yourself to assume you know her needs better than she does.”

Malavai stood at attention, schooling his features to utter impassivity as Merst paled.

“In fact,” Bentham mused. “I do believe that I’ll let General Torvik know that you believe his orders and signature so easily forged that you could ignore them.”

“Oh, come on – why would anyone believe a Sith wants him of all people? Useless bloody man; deadweight and ineffectual…”

“I advise that you quit while you’re behind, Captain.” Bentham tapped his fingers on the edge of the table. “Projecting your failings onto your underlings is the hallmark of the worst kind of officer.”

Merst snapped his mouth shut.

“Don’t think, even for a moment, that I’m unaware of your antics regarding Lt. Quinn, Merst, or that your great-uncle’s influence is enough to keep me from seeing you for what you are. Quinn’s team has submitted their preliminary findings, as has Dr. Thalrassian, Darth Lachris’ adjutant. I suggest you get to work on the tasks I ordered you to undertake this morning, as Lt. Quinn will be unavailable to do your reports and your teams are busy.”

“Colonel –”

“Get out, Merst.” The tone was mild, but Bentham’s eyes were not. “Credit will go where credit is due. And don’t think I’m unaware of your secretary’s little stunt. If not for Quinn and Dr. Thalrassian, we wouldn’t be in any position to adequately defend ourselves.”

Merst stormed back out – undoubtedly to file a complaint with his great-uncle, Moff Broysc.

“Useless, Hutt-fucking parasite,” muttered Bentham, causing a handful of stifled chuckles. “I’ll pay for that, no doubt. Quinn – my office.”

“Yes, sir.”

He followed Bentham into the small, ruthlessly pristine office the man kept in the operations center.

“Take a seat,” said Bentham, closing the door and shutting out the noise. Malavai complied, waiting patiently as the man strode toward his desk, leaning against it with studied nonchalance. Bentham gave him a once-over, nodding in seeming satisfaction, grey eyes sharp and cold against ice-pale skin. “It’s good to see you, Quinn.”

Malavai met his gaze with only a small, sarcastic lift of his brow. “I haven’t been hiding, Colonel.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Malavai – I was waiting to see if you’d come to me.” Bentham sighed. “Kriffing Broysc. I couldn’t exactly come down to your office and demand that you come and talk to me on your down time. It’s against regs. You know that.”

Malavai considered that. He didn’t know what Aeric Bentham had done to get exiled to Balmorra, he hadn’t wanted to ask. Between his own resentment at the enforced stagnation of his career and the polite – if generally thorough – snubbing he usually received from higher ranking officers, Malavai hadn’t really considered approaching the man behind his commanding officer.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Not knowing what to say?” Bentham snorted. “That’s not like you.”

Malavai barked out a short laugh. “I’m sorry?”

“So you should be.” Grey eyes lit up and a boyish grin flirted with Bentham’s mouth. “That said, you’ve done good work today. I’m surprised though, I thought you were supposed to be in direct service to Darth Lachris, not this… Thalrassian.”

“Darth Lachris tasked me with assisting her adjutant,” Malavai allowed his posture to relax. “Although I’m not certain that that’s the right term. Dr. Thalrassian doesn’t appear to be a member of the Sith order, for all she’s a pureblood, and she arrived for work wearing the livery of the Dark Council. Darth Lachris said that the Council had assigned the good Doctor to her.”

“Interesting. Do you know what for?”

Malavai grimaced. “Our lack of progress.”

Bentham scowled. “Kriff.”

Malavai nodded his agreement with the sentiment. There was a good case to be made for the lack of support from the various Spheres, from Logistics to Expansion-and-Diplomacy, but in the end the Dark Council was comprised of Sith and Sith did not take failure lightly.

Which was, undoubtedly, why they’d been gifted with a Darth of their very own.

“Ah. Well, there’s little help for it,” said Bentham. “I suppose that explains the little summons I got, to work with Darth Lachris for the next tenday or so.”

Malavai nodded.

“So. You had breakfast with her?”

“Rather to my chagrin,” Malavai admitted. “I still have no idea why she singled me out.”

“Got some sense, I assume,” Bentham paused. “Look, Quinn, I know what you did. Me and a bunch of others. There’s some that think you a laughingstock, but you should know, there’s plenty of us who know better. Moff Broysc and his cronies… well, they usually make sure that your supporters don’t get sent to this particular shithole. Fuck knows the Empire has plenty of other cesspits to lose personnel on. Anyway, stands to reason that there’s a Sith or five who might know, too.”

At least one, Malavai thought, rather grateful. After all, it was Darth Baras who had salvaged as much of Malavai’s career as had been possible. “I suppose.”

“Well, maybe Lachris is one of them.” Bentham shrugged. “No matter. I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone here, Quinn, regardless of what fucks like Merst might do. I’m putting you in for a commendation. I think there’s some kind of civilian thing, too, for the Doctor.”

“Imperial star cluster, bronze, third rank,” Malavai told him.

“Trust you to know off the top of your head.” Behntham chuckled a little. “In any case, Quinn, we aren’t the boys we were in the Academy, but there’s no reason we can’t be friendly here.”

“As you say,” Quinn said, slightly flustered. “I mean, it would be good to catch up. At some point, as our schedules permit.”

“Right.” Bentham’s friendliness retreated back beneath his skin. “Well. That will be all, lieutenant. Do you know how long you’ll be on base? Darth Lachris indicated that her little team will be expected to take up rooms in the Governor’s residence for the duration.”

“Only a few hours, until Dr. Thalrassian is done with her business on base,” said Malavai. “I intend to look in on my people and do some of the work that I was actually assigned for the day.”

“Very well,” said Bentham. “I will, no doubt, see you tomorrow.”

“No doubt.” Malavai stood. “Sir.”

“Lieutenant.”

-0-

Malavai returned to his quarters, the world seeming strangely disjointed as he moved through it. He’d spent years – indeed most of the last decade – serving directly under commanders connected to Moff Broysc. Each seemingly with orders to humiliate, stifle, and abuse him – in punishment for his actions at Druckenwell, or to drive him from the military, or both. But Malavai had been born to serve the Empire. He knew his service in his bones, and wouldn’t allow Broysc or his cronies to take that away from him. He’d fought back the only way he’d known how – a dedication to personal and professional perfection that could not be ignored or swept aside.

Surrounded as he had been by Broysc’s flunkies, Malavai had never considered that there might be others on his side. Instead of seeing mocking derision in every eye he passed, Malavai suddenly realized that there were many that held respect – and many more that were merely indifferent. It wasn’t as if every hand was turned against him.

It was strangely freeing.

He approached the door to his quarters, distracted by thought, when he was slammed into a wall. He could feel the muzzle of a blaster poking hard into his spine.

“You won’t get away with it,” a breath hissed against his ear. “The Moff don’t like you. You’re nothing but disobedient scum. You and that Colonel. And you’ll pay. The captain’ll see to that.”

“If you have something cogent to say, I suggest you say it,” Malavai returned. “You’re not going to kill me – not with a sith on base who has claimed me for an assistant, and certainly not with Darth Marr’s apprentice expecting me to work with her.”

“Sith won’t keep you safe.” The barrel dug in hard for a moment. “You’re nothing, Quinn. Remember your place.”

The presence at his back was gone in an instant and Malavai sighed. When he entered his quarters he was unsurprised to find that they had been trashed – a childish response from a childish man. There was a reason that Malavai kept nothing that could not be easily replaced. He scanned the programming of his domestic droid – the one that existed in no small part due to the frequency of such petty complaints – and finding that it hadn’t been tampered with, set it to work.

Malavai tapped the side of the secure holocom, setting it to scan the room for monitoring devices beyond the usual ones used by the Empire. He dropped into his chair, pulling out the datapad he’d loaded with files to review for Darth Lachris and began to read. The holocom chimed some time later, distracting him from his work.

He frowned at the interruption, faintly irritated by having his focus broken. Unexpected. An incoming call. Malavai glanced at the clock, noting the figures for Kaas City on Dromund Kaas, and swallowed. It was early morning in the Sith Citadel.

It was undoubtedly Darth Baras. He really needed to stop being surprised by Darth Baras’ ability to call him when he was alone.

Malavai tapped in the code to create a tight privacy shield around his desk, just large enough to stand by the holoemitter, and entered his encryption key.

“My boy,” said Baras, his Dark presence roiling despite the light-years that separated them. Even in miniature, Darth Baras’ tall, barrel-chested body managed to fill the room. “It is good to see you.”

“My lord, the pleasure is all mine.”

The dark lord chuckled, an eerie sound when paired with the neutral expression engraved upon the faceplate of Darth Baras’ armor.

“I’m given to understand that Darth Marr’s little apprentice has arrived on Balmorra.”

“Indeed Darth Lachris has, my lord.” Malavai kept his voice level. “On assignment directly from the Dark Council.”

“Yes. Lachris has been tasked with finally subduing the planet.” Darth Baras chuckled again. “Our plans move apace, lieutenant. I want you to do everything you can to assist Marr’s apprentice in her goals. She’s capable enough – and ruthless enough – to finally get the job done. It’s finally time to ensure that we have Balmorran weapons production under our control, and no one else’s.”

It had always been time for that in Malavai’s opinion, but he limited himself to a simple, “Of course, my lord. Darth Lachris has already approached me to assist her in her initial assessment.”

“Excellent, just excellent!” Baras laughed again. “You will, no doubt, impress her greatly. But that is not the only reason for my call.”

“My lord?”

“I have taken on a young apprentice, Quinn. Due to circumstances quite beyond the girl’s control, she skipped several layers of training she should have received – but even as powerful as she is, I cannot, in good conscience, fully accept her into my service without testing her more thoroughly than what Korriban offered.”

“I… of course my lord.” Quinn raised a brow. “How might I be of service?”

“I am sending her to Balmorra for a covert mission. You aren’t authorized to know all of the details. What I would like from you is a listing of all objectives on Balmorra that you believe would require Sith intervention to succeed, and rate their difficulty. I will intersperse some of these with the girl’s true objective.”

Malavai swallowed. “Of course my lord.”

“Excellent. I am uncertain as to when she will arrive. She is aware that her mission should not be detected by the Balmorrans or the Republic, and I have left her initial approach to her discretion. But she should arrive within the next standard month.”

“My lord,” Malavai paused. “May I know who I am waiting for?”

“She is Lord Saaraij,” said Baras, tone dropping to a menacing thunder. “She’s a bastard from a prominent family and seems to think it should gain her some kind of advantage. Her claim to the family name is questionable, so I choose to honor Sith tradition.”

Malavai nodded. Lord Saaraij would not be afforded the honor of her family name, or acknowledging it in any way. “Very well, my lord. Lord Saaraij. I imagine she’s, what, twenty or so? It was quite the favored name for a while.”

“As always, Quinn, your understanding exceeds my expectations. You are, without question, the best man for the job.”

“Thank you my lord.”

“Do not disappoint me. I would like that list within an hour.”

“Of course, my lord. I’ll get to work on it right away.” Not that it would be difficult, he’d been compiling a list of high-priority, ‘a Sith would be nice here,’ missions since his second week on Balmorra. Over the years he’d devised strategies to complete the some of the objectives, but it was rare that they had the time, personnel, or materièl.

“Good. Very good. I will speak to you soon, Quinn.”

Baras cut the call and Malavai stared at the space his image had been in for a while. In all the years he’d served Baras on Balmorra, the dark lord had never sent an apprentice. It was odd. The Academy on Korriban was the spiritual heart of the Empire, the first conquest in the last war against the Jedi and the Republic. It was the final and greatest test of any aspiring Sith. Why would Baras need to test an apprentice that had survived those hallowed halls?

Unless, of course, it wasn’t meant to be a test. Malavai rubbed the bridge of his nose, suddenly irritated with his mentor’s paranoia and opacity. Sith politics were the bane of any Imperial’s life. It was unusual for Baras to involve him so indirectly in such a move, and rarely so obliquely. The dark lord’s needs were generally straightforward – information, primarily, and the occasional targeted strike.

But now he was sending a new apprentice – one that would need to operate under scans. Someone who might not even be openly Baras’ servant. A lone Sith apprentice lost in a war zone – it happened all the time. Even now there were those aspiring Sith who opted out of Korriban by volunteering to stand upon the front lines, easy grist for the machine of war. Baras couldn’t be blamed by the girl’s family if she died unremarked and unmourned in Balmorra’s trenches.

Malavai grimaced. No. Baras didn’t want to test his new apprentice. He wanted to kill her.

Malavai cut the privacy field and slumped back into his chair. It wouldn’t be the first time that Baras sent him someone who was supposed to end up dead on Balmorra’s poisoned soil, but a nominal apprentice?  That was a first. It was a compliment, he supposed, that Baras thought he could engineer the death of a Force user.

There was a small clatter as the domestic droid cleaned up a broken shelf, the datapads that had been on it now residing in a small bin as the thing clicked and bonged in irritation. Much of the mess had been cleared up. A glance at the clothes hamper made it clear that he would need to requisition at least a few new articles of clothing, but the vandals hadn’t been particularly destructive as such things went.

The secure holocom pinged – the security scan complete. Only four new listening devices this time, all in obvious places. For the moment he let them be. He wouldn’t be using his own quarters for a few days and it would be more than sufficient to ‘catch’ them on a routine security sweep when he returned.

Malavai rose to his feet, stifling a small sigh. He needed to head to his office – his team would be hard at work on Daahzi’s data, he wanted to see their progress. It would be the work of a moment to prioritize his list of targets to send to Baras. It was unfortunate that this Lord Saaraij was expendable, but if nothing else, he could take advantage of Baras’ need to destroy her and advance their goals on-world at the same time.

-0-

He found Dr. Thalrassian leaning carelessly against the sun-warmed metal of the shuttle, having doffed the crimson-and-black robes she’d been wearing to reveal black, natural leather leggings and silk shirt the color of rusted blood. Unexpectedly delicate feet rested atop vicious punching daggers concealed as high-heeled sandals, and for a moment he wondered how she’d managed to walk from the shuttle to Colonel Davris’ tent.

“They were in my bag,” she told him, snapping his eyes from the graceful arch of her foot the blazing good cheer of her electrum gaze. Dr. Thalrassian shouldered away from the shuttle and into the late-afternoon sunlight, long golden rays glittering across the sweep of her cheek and the ironic curl of her lips, shimmers of gold that had not been on her skin when they parted. “You never know when a handsome Imperial might ask you out on a date.”

Malavai felt himself flush. “My lord –”

“Now, now, Lieutenant,” she grinned. “Don’t deny me a meal alone with a good-looking man in uniform.”

“I hadn’t quite –”

“A small, intimate meal,” she continued, “without any nosey Sith…”

“I had just thought –”

“Or, we can go to the commissary, where I’ll feel silly for dressing up, but I bet a lot of your peers would be jealous.”

Malavai opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap. “I apologize, my lord. It has been so long since I’ve been on a date that I didn’t recognize what is before me. Should I change?”

She looked him up and down, biting her lip. “No. Not unless you wish to. I imagine you make anything look good, Quinn.”

“I… well, thank you, my lord.” He offered her his arm, letting a smile tilt his lips as her fingers curled around it. Unlike the overpowering sense of cold and violent Darkness Malavai had felt coming from Darth Lachris, Dr. Thalrassian’s fingers only held the warmth of her body. It was strangely comforting. “Tionese and spice, I think you said? I know the perfect place.”

Malavai took her to a small, out-of-the way Tionese restaurant he’d stumbled upon years before. The owner’s eyebrows rose when she saw his guest, but her cheerful service remained much the same as it always was. Somewhat to his surprise, Dr. Thalrassian made a delightful dinner companion, thoughtful and inquisitive without being intrusive, and completely without the air of superiority Malavai expected from purebloods.

It didn’t surprise him when their meal was offered for free – it did surprise him to see Dr. Thalrassian drop a credit stick on the table despite that.

“You needn’t have done that,” he said as they walked out, pleasantly full and feeling mellow.

“I haven’t had a meal that delightful in weeks,” she told him, taking his arm once again. “She and her husband deserve every credit and then some.”

“I do enjoy coming here when I can,” he admitted. “Though it’s not as often as I would like.”

“Life in a warzone,” she said, pragmatic. “It must be difficult, knowing the base is the first line of defense for the civilians here.”

“Sometimes,” he said, nodding toward the shimmering dome that encased the base and the city that supported it. “It’s harder knowing that many of these people only see us as oppressors. That the smiling face across the counter may be a rebel waiting to gut you, or one of your men.”

Dr. Thalrassian hummed.

“As it is not yet that late, there are a few sights to be seen around Sobrik, if you’ve a mind.”

“I thought you said this wasn’t really a date,” she teased, eyes alight with humor.

“If you’re not interested, my lord…”

“Oh, I am. I’m very curious to see this world through your eyes.” She grinned at him. “Well, then. Lead on, Lieutenant.”

Malavai found himself strangely pleased to find that they were much of a height, although the weapons the doctor called shoes had given her a couple of inches on him. The feel of her body as they moved through the press of the pedestrians was pleasant, and the scent of her skin as enticing as the wine-flowers his thoughts had compared her to.

“What is your specialty, if I may ask?” They strolled up the street toward the town square, just in time to see the energy-shield that protected the city flare with bright, violent impacts. He studied the angle, musing that the resistance must have once again succeeded at taking gun emplacements on the high cliffs above the valley. A strike team would have to be sent to take them back, an expenditure of resources that made him weary.

“Military history,” she said softly, her own eyes tracing the impacts, “and Strategy. I’m on loan to Lachris for a bit. She wants a new point of view for some report to the Council. We’ll probably spend the next few days talking about the Imperial attempt to assimilate Balmorra and then I’ll compile a preliminary report.” She looked up. “Which may well start with that. I’m not familiar enough with the local maps, but I wasn’t aware that the resistance had any artillery that could be aimed toward the city.”

“Every once in a while, they manage to commandeer defensive guns.” He turned, scanning the city skyline and nodded toward the flashing red of the strategic alert. “They’re already mobilizing to take them back.”

“Is this common?”

“Common enough,” said Malavai, somewhat bitterly. “For all of the time that we’ve spent on Balmorra, we’ve done little enough to bring the planet actually under our control. Ten standard years, and still we’re limited to this pustulent little city, the capitol, and some of the plains beyond.”

He led her down some steps, toward an ornate fountain lit with multihued lights.

“The monument the first Governor erected to Imperial conquest.”

“It’s… I’m not even certain what it is.”

“I have no idea either,” Malavai studied it, as he had on and off in the years since the eyesore had been put in place. “It seems to include all of the signs and marks of the corporate oligarchy, but its seems to me that they all appear to be pissing upward to drench the Imperial Sigil, while it, in turn, dribbles rather uselessly.”

She tilted her head. “Hmmm. I’m sure there’s something, somewhere, that indicates what it’s supposed to mean. But, to be frank, that’s what I see, too. Not especially inspiring, is it?”

“No.”

“Surely Sobrik has more to it than questionable statuary and…” she looked around, “…frankly boring architecture. Kaas City is filled with clean lines, but it, at least, has majesty. This is just a bunch of unappealing boxes.”

Malavai looked around. It had been so long since he’d last been in an Imperial city – he hadn’t even been as far as Vaiken Space Dock, the hub of Imperial Military travel, since being stationed here – that he no longer noticed the pedestrian and soulless nature of Balmorran buildings. Kaas City, the heart of the Empire, was filled with towering sky scrapers, clean lines, and soaring grandeur, surrounded by the lethal beauty of Dromund Kaas’ jungle and ravaging storms.

“There’s not much,” he told her. “A side effect of the oligarchy that actually ruled the planet before us. Balmorra rebels against Imperial rule because of millennia of Republic propaganda. At least the Empire gives them a minimal standard of living and cares more about restoring the vitality of this world than the corporations that all but enslaved its people and near-irrevocably poisoned the biosphere.”

“Which was why they weren’t even part of the Republic to begin with,” Dr. Thalrassian noted, oddly neutral. “The Republic has laws against this level of environmental contamination and slavery, even if the Balmorrans didn’t call it that. Of course the Republic was more than happy to take advantage of the Balmorrans shitting where they eat if it meant more droids and weapons for the war effort. Hypocrites.”

“Indeed,” Malavai agreed with some distaste. “We offer these people a soul – a chance to succeed without the Republic or their own corporations holding them down, but all they want is a freedom that they clearly have no idea what to do with.”

Her lips curled in something both like and unlike a smile. “Well, their passion gives them strength.”

He choked on a laugh. “Indeed. But they could turn it toward bettering themselves and their world, and instead they squander it. No one achieves victory that way.”

“Lieutenant Quinn. One would almost think you know something about the uses of passion.”

“I wouldn’t presume to lecture one such as you, my lord.”

“Daahzi. Or doctor if you must. That’s a title I earned, not just one you assume applies because of the color of my skin.”

“I’m sorry, doctor. It’s extremely rare for purebloods not to be members of the Sith Order.”

She sighed. “And it’s a reflex, one that keeps non Force sensitives alive. I do know that, no matter how irritating I find it. Don’t mind me. It’s been a long few weeks.”

“I’ll do my best, doctor.”

“And, from what I know of you, your best is very, very good.”

Malavai flushed. “You and Darth Lachris keep intimating that you know who I am.”

“I spent the trip from Kaas City reading assembled reports, Quinn. There are a few things that are hard to miss. One is the gross incompetence of the moron throwing that party. The other is that many of the actually useful strategic and tactical suggestions for Balmorra have tended to come from you, your team, and people that you’ve trained who were promoted ahead of you.” She shook her head. “It’s a travesty you’ve been held in your position so long, although I’m grateful that you’re here. If not for your insights and work, it’s a fair assumption that Balmorra would have fallen long ago.”

“I… thank you, my lord. I mean, doctor. It’s gratifying to know that someone notices.”

Dr. Thalrassian gave him an odd little look, and a stranger smile. “Thank you, Lieutenant Quinn, for continuing to serve the Empire, no matter how terribly it has returned your loyalty.”

“It’s my pleasure to serve.” He tilted his head, indicating a side street, and the brightly-lit thoroughfare beyond. “If you’re looking for interesting architecture, that’s the only thing I can think of.”

A tributary of the Sobrikil river ran through the city, having given its name to the first settlement of the colonists that had founded the planet. The bridge was an old construction of native stone, soaring high above the rushing waters. Its supports were decorated with artfully embellished lights that hung like silver stars over the roadway.

“It’s almost romantic,” she said, leaning against a plinth and looking out over the glittering lights of the city.

“I suppose so,” said Malavai. “I’ve never really thought of it that way. It’s mostly just the most expeditious route back to my quarters.”

The doctor cast him a sly glance. “So, you’re trying to take me home with you, Lieutenant? A little early on in our acquaintance, don’t you think?”

“My lord, I would ne—”

She swallowed the rest of his words, bracing herself against him, hands on either side of his hips. Malavai gasped into her mouth, shuddering as her tongue swept in, demanding yet playful. His hands settled at her waist of their own accord, fingers brushing restlessly against the silk of her shirt as she slotted her thigh between his, undulating gently.

“Are you so certain,” she breathed against his lips, “that you wouldn’t take me back to your bunk, Lieutenant?”

“My lord – doctor –

“Daahzi,” she nipped at his lips, sharing the breath of life as it passed over his tongue. Her thigh rubbed maddeningly up against him, applying the perfect pressure against his cock. “When you’re as hard for me as I’m wet for you, you should call me Daahzi.”

“This is entirely inappropriate, doctor.” He rubbed his thumbs over skin warmed silk, quelling the need in his voice by sheer dint of will.

“I know.” She nibbled her way to his ear. “Do you want me to stop, Lieutenant?”

“Void help me,” he breathed, reaching for practicality. “No. But it is inappropriate. You’re a pureblood. I can’t – I don’t deserve even to touch you. What… what would Darth Lachris think?”

She pulled away so suddenly that she stumbled, and Malavai felt his face flame. She righted herself, seeming to hunch in on herself and shake, and after a single, horrified moment, he realized she was stifling laughter.

“Lieutenant, if you wanted to break the mood, bringing Lachris into it was a good choice,” she looked at him, electrum eyes gleaming. “But unless I’m mistaken – and I’m not – Lachris will laugh at me for being such a piss-poor seductress that you’d ask that instead of shoving me up against a wall and fucking me raw.”

“You can’t mean to tell her about this?”

“Lieutenant, she’s hardly going to hold you responsible for my failures,” she paused, finally stifling her chuckles. “Well, not sexual ones, in any case. If we were to plan a military campaign that failed, she’d skin us both and use the leather for lightsaber grips. So, too aggressive? Is that the problem? Do you like your partners meek and mild? Do you prefer being the one to give chase?”

Malavai looked into her flashing eyes and saw the humor bubbling there. His lips twitched.

“Doctor, I’m not going to give you advice on how to seduce me. It would be counter-productive if I wish to protect my virtue.”

“Oh, your virtue, is it? I’ll figure it out, Lieutenant,” she told him cheerfully. “I didn’t make it through the accelerated Ph.D. program at Uni on good looks alone. I’m a strategist and a tactician. And I have a distinct advantage.”

“And what is that, my lord?”

She brushed a finger down the centerline of his jacket. “I’m quite sure that you’re very good at denying yourself what you want, Lieutenant. But you leave yourself vulnerable to the things that you need.

“And I need you?”

“Don’t you?”

Her smile was all teeth and confidence and Malavai found himself inexplicably charmed. Memories of his morning dreams flashed behind his eyes and he found himself stepping forward, leaning in to catch the spice and musk of her arousal. Dr. Thalrassian was young, beautiful, and wanted him, against all odds and rational experience. His fingers brushed her cheek, running his fingers along a curve that looked sharp enough to cut. The desire that had clawed at him all day rose up, making a mockery of his control.

“Yes,” he said, discarding caution. It did not do to disappoint a sith pureblood, even one who carried no lightsaber, he rationalized. She would not be long on Balmorra. There was little enough chance that he’d become mired in Sith politics, nor could his reputation among his peers become any worse than it was. Why, then, deny either of them? He touched her lips, shivering as her tongue flicked out, brushing his thumb before his hand slid deep into her hair. “My lord.”

She chuckled, warm and throaty as he brought their mouths together. There was some poetic hyperbole he was supposed to use to describe the slick heat of her mouth, the subtle glide of her tongue, but Malavai could not think of what it might be. He combed through loose, silken waves, before returning his fingers to cup the back of her neck, changing the angle of the kiss with subtle nudges as she stepped in to him, bringing their hips together again.

Her hands undid the belt of his uniform coat, gliding against the stiff cotton of his shirt greedily. Slim fingers undid the button at the waist of his pants, sliding the zipper down with practiced ease. Jealousy sparked, somewhere deep within him; he wanted to claim the brazen sprite in his arms as his, and the thought of those clever, perfect fingers touching someone – anyone – else made him burn.

She bit his lower lip, scraping back on just this side of pain as she pulled her mouth away.

“Greedy, aren’t you?” The words scorched his cheek as he felt her fingers free his cock into the cool night air, his coat the only thing masking the wanton slide of blood-red fingers along its hard and weeping length.

“My lord, I…”

“Daahzi,” she whispered against his ear. She pulled back slightly, watching the movement of her hand. “Void, you’re built like a pureblood, aren’t you? All ridges and flanges, and native slick. You feel so good…” She lifted her fingers to her lips, licking the mix of precome and aahgaz from her palm with a thoughtful little hum. “So perfect.

He groaned against her neck as her fingers curved into a tight and glorious fist. His hips jerked as she pulled, twisting and gripping.

“That’s it, Lieutenant, fuck my hand. Void, look at you.” Her grip was hot and perfect and he obeyed, beyond consideration that they stood atop the bridge between civilian Sobrik and the base; too lost in pleasure to care as the lights of passing speeders swept over them. His lips found her neck, and he set his teeth against her exposed collarbone, tasting the richness of her blood as he came in the small, shadowed dark between them.

Daahzi shuddered, musk and spice perfuming the air as he gasped against her skin. “You’re perfect, aren’t you? How unfair is that?”

“My lord –”

She shook her head, licking her blood from his lips, somehow gentling him as her fingers tucked his cock back behind a thin veil of virtue. “Shhh. It’s just. Void and stars, I want.”

“I still haven’t pleased you.”

“You could start by calling me Daahzi,” she said, fumbling a communit from her pocket. “Blast it, what’s the faster, your bunk or a hotel?”

Malavai burned at the thought of her spread out upon his rough sheets, scowling slightly at the realization that it would be a few days before the vandalized mattress could be replaced.

“Hotel,” he murmured. “That way, my – Daahzi. It would take longer for a taxi to get to us than it would be for us to walk.”

It was hard to say in the light of streetlamps, but Malavai thought she blushed at his verbal misstep.

“We… we don’t have to,” she told him softly, looking away. Malavai blinked down at her, puzzled at her sudden uncertainty. “You don’t have to come –”

“It is more accurate to state that I already did, my lord.” He pasted a small smirk on his lips, re-arranging his uniform so he looked marginally less debauched. Her flinch at the title surprised him.

“No.” She shook her head, stepping back. “Void. I’m sorry. I just wanted to have some fun, not duty. You’re not obligated to accept my advances. Fuck. What was I thinking? I should have stopped. I know better than anyone how everyone in the Empire is conditioned to obey someone… someone like me.”

“Daahzi. Stop.” There was a sweetness to her name as he said it. Who would have thought a sith of all people would be concerned about consent? “I’m the one who’s sorry. I expected you would want that kind of game.”

“Does it show?” she asked, a little sly. “But, just this once, I wanted equality. Or something like it. Just a scholar and a soldier. I should have known better.”

“Equality? Well then, you will have to allow me to reciprocate.” Malavai plucked the comm from her fingers, reserving a room via the holonet with ease. A request for taxi pickup followed, a delay built in as she stared at him wide-eyed. “A taxi will be here in fifteen minutes, headed for the Novastar Hotel, where I intend to spend the night.”

He pulled her into the shadow of the plinth, pushing her up against the rough stone, shielding her bodily from the street as he ran his hands over the fitted silk of her blouse. He pressed a thigh between hers, catching her gasp in his mouth. “Not quite enough time to fuck you raw, but enough, I hope for your pleasure.” He ran a finger down the center of her chest, pausing briefly at the fastening of the sleek natural leather of her leggings. Her breath caught as he teased the lacings open, letting his fingers slip inside. “Just you and me and the dark.”

She gave a breathy little laugh even as she shivered at his touch, thighs spreading a little wider as she gripped his shoulders for balance. “So sure I’m the kind of sapient who will put out on the first date?”

His fingers slid between the lips of her cunt, slick and slow. “I have no idea, my lord, but I think you’ll find that, for you, I, indeed, am that kind of sapient.”

-0-

Malavai couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so frantic with want. Even in adolescence his desires tended toward obeying his will and his control. While his brothers had always been ridden hard by their wants, he’d rarely found his burgeoning sexuality to be anything more than a minor nuisance.

But here, in the shadowy darkness of the hotel suite, with a beautiful young sith sprawled out beneath him on cloud-white sheets, the urge to take was almost overwhelming.

“You’ve never been with a pureblood, have you?” he asked, running a hand down the center of her body, playing with the hardened ridges that armored her vitals. A trail of small, golden studs pierced the plates, from sternum to the smooth mound of her cunt, lytis-pragzumas that would have been granted in her first sexual rite of passage, along with the jeweled rings threaded through her nipples. He slipped his fingers back between the slick folds, making Daahzi shudder as another wave of slick drenched his hand. Her thighs opened wide, and Malavai groaned at the sight of bright red flesh blooming, slick beneath his finger as he toyed with the jeweled clip seated upon the hood of her clitoris.

“N-no….” She shuddered. “Studied… standard curriculum. But… Lots of humans in the University. Not so m-many sith. You’re not… you’re more sith than human. Void. Your skin. Your scent.” Her hips undulated against his hand, her hands rising to her breasts, twisting and pulling as she writhed against his touch.

“Yes. It’s different,” he said softly, sliding down between her legs. He felt Daahzi shiver as small, fleshy tendrils emerged, undulating rhythmically around her clit. He leaned in, tracing them with his tongue. A hand fisted in his hair as he licked, and he slid a finger into her impossible heat, rubbing and searching. “Pezhe­-nha. I’d heard it was possible… Human and sith pleasure centers.”

Quinn,” she gasped as the tendrils swayed, seeking the wet pressure of his tongue, and he slipped another finger inside. “Good… so good.”

It was beautiful, how her back arched, hips twisting beneath his hand as he slid his fingers into her, the sound of her wetness deliciously obscene to his ear they fucked in and out. He let them dance inside her as his tongue played, searching for the alzhe-tzir, the mating hooks, that marked the women of the purest blood. Small, grasping tendrils that only responded to males worthy of breeding. He’d been a disappointment to his family – Force blind, without the scarlet flesh of his mother and brothers, inheriting only the secondary sexual characteristics of his grandfather – but here, with a pureblooded woman writhing on his fingers, he knew how wrong they were.

Her body didn’t care about the paleness of his skin, the seeking hooks brushing his fingers in time to Daahzi’s increasingly needy cries.

“Please,” she husked as he rose above her, mouth stained with her pleasure, and he thrilled to the sound of the word on a sith tongue. “Please, Quinn.”

He breached her depths in a long, slow slide, groaning as the tip of his cock brushed the locked entrance to her womb. He pulled back, reveling in the blissful pleasure offered by the alzhe-tzir as they both shuddered with each long, slow stroke. Daahzi’s legs wrapped around his hips as he moved, and Malavai threaded their fingers together, blood and bone against the sheets, pinning her hands beside her head.

“How long can you hold out?” he murmured in her ear, as he thrust achingly slow. “How long until you lock me in and hold me still, little sith?”

She twisted her head, catching his lips in a biting caress, and rolled her hips, teasing them both. “How long until you lose control, secret sith?

Malavai juddered, burying his mouth in her throat and biting down on the rasping laughter that echoed there. Daahzi pulled her hands from beneath his, running them up his arms in a bruising caress. Close cropped nails scored long weals down his back and Malavai spasmed, thrusting hard and deep. Daahzi pushed, sith strength and cunning gleaming in her silver-gold eyes, rolling them over. The roll of her hips brought an agonizing pleasure, the curve of her lips an irrepressible challenge. She slid her hands up his chest, fingers dragging teasingly along the ridges of cartilage and bone that rested beneath his pale skin.

Fire bloomed, ravenous in his blood as she rested her palms teasingly above his nipples, changing the angle of her movement. Malavai trembled, looking into fierce, predatory eyes as she rose, her wet heat sliding up by aching millimeters.

“Oh, Quinn,” she breathed, fingers twisting, sending bolts of pleasure straight to his cock. “Let’s see who breaks first.”

-0-

It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that it was him. Every time.

-0-

The next tenday passed in a whirl of production and pleasure. True to her word, Darth Lachris had requested his aid – and that of the few Imperials who had spent more than a year on Balmorra – to assemble a preliminary report on the planet’s ongoing issues with occupation and pacification. Working with her was interesting – Malavai’s familiarity with working directly with high Lords of the Sith had long been limited to his mentor and protector, Darth Baras – but he found the experience to be enlightening. Contrary to the popular view of Sith, Lachris was neither volatile nor particularly violent.

That was not to say that she was safe; Lachris was free with threat and more than willing to follow through, but often said more with a scathing glance, or blood-red sneer than she did with her fists or with the Force. Daahzi’s position of favored aide was cemented within hours, her intelligence and skill overshadowing her lack of a lightsaber. It appealed to Malavai to know that there were some Sith who accepted the skills and talents of the Force blind, and did not treat them as disappointments to be shunned, no matter their accomplishments.

He had not felt so useful in years, taking a place at Lachris’ table during the day and Daahzi’s bed at night. In a way it was terrible – an agonizing glimpse into the life he might have had, but for his actions at Druckenwell and Moff Broysc’s continued inane and pointless vendetta against him. Yet it still filled him with satisfaction and purpose, to see his work as more than a hopeless battle against Governor Melchiro’s incompetence.

“Well done!” said Lachris, snapping her personal datapad shut with decisive little click. “It’s been a great pleasure to work with you all. Commendations are in order, both for your perseverance and your persistence on behalf of the Empire.”

“My lord? If I may ask, what purpose will this report serve?”

Lachris’ raised an eyebrow before glancing at Daahzi, who shrugged. “During the course of certain research, things were brought to the attention of members of the Dark Council. I believe you will find the results of our efforts most beneficial. Daahzi?”

“I’ve already transmitted my preliminary conclusions, Darth Lachris. I’ll be departing for Vaiken Spacedock soon.” Daahzi stood. “I do wish to thank you, gentlebeings, for your service to the Empire.”

“And our service to you?” sneered Sargeant Oleg under his breath, next to Malavai.

Daahzi shot a glance at him but said nothing. “My lord, everyone, it has been a pleasure.”

She walked out of the room, all grace and regality, while Darth Lachris stared Oleg down with a gimlet eye. “Whatever services Dr. Thalrassian may have partaken of, Sergeant, is none of your business.”

“Ain’t the job o’ a commissioned officer to be a whore for some piddly, Force-blind scholar of a sith,” Oleg spat. “Ain’t no need –”

Oleg caught his throat, gasping, before flying into the wall. Bones shattered with a myriad of audible snaps.

“Just to be clear,” said Darth Lachris. “It is of no consequence if Dr. Thalrassian can use the Force. She was appointed by the Dark Council to serve as my assistant and provide strategic analysis. Any being honored by her desires should be grateful for the opportunity. Now, someone clean up the mess.”

“As you say, my Lord,” said Malavai.

“Not you, Quinn.” Lachris smiled at him. “Daahzi and I will be having dinner this evening, and I would like you to share the meal with us.”

He smiled politely. “Of course, my lord.”

“Do dress… casually,” she told him. “It will be a proper Sith entertainment, tonight.”

“As ever, my lord, I am at your service.”

-0-

“Are you going to be all right, Quinn?” Aeric walked into his office, frowning slightly. “I hadn’t said anything about your assignation, as it wasn’t any of my business. But if you’ve been pressured to give her Service, I won’t have that in my command.”

“There has been no coercion, Colonel,” he said primly.

“Not that you’d admit it if there were.” Bentham stepped in and closed the door. “Honestly, Malavai – swear to me that you’re not being some kind of martyr for the rest of us and I’ll try to believe you. Remember that I know quite well what you’re willing to do for your men, and how much you’re willing to suffer.”

“Aeric –”

“It isn’t right, what they did. If not for you, those damn Pubs would have taken half the fleet at Druckenwell.” Aeric snorted. “So, I know, Quinn.”

Malavai shook his head. “It’s hardly a burden to pleasure a beautiful pureblood.”

Aeric snorted. “And hardly in character, not for you.”

“Perhaps.” Malavai set aside the datapad he was working on. “But, as you said, it’s not your business. I can assure you that Dr. Thalrassian has done nothing to influence me into her bed. If anything she’s far more reticent than I’d expect from a pureblood and far more concerned with consent. Even if I had offered Service, I’m not certain she would have accepted it.”

Aeric stared at him for a moment. “Unusual. I suppose it can’t hurt to have a pureblood who thinks well of you, especially if she’s got some kind of in with the Dark Council.”

“Quite,” said Malavai, who hadn’t considered it the first time Daahzi had spasmed tight around his cock, but couldn’t deny that he’d thought of it since. It had only been a ten-day, but the sex had been more than satisfying, and he told himself that having her favor was certainly worth the effort of ensuring her stimulation, whether it was sexual or intellectual.

“Very well, then. I won’t try to interfere – void knows you deserve far better than what the Empire has given you. If it takes a pretty little sith to get you off this rock and back out where you belong, I’m all for it.” Aeric grinned at him. “You might want to dress up a little for her, if it’s your last chance to impress.”

Malavai flushed. “Get out of my office. Sir.”

“All right, Quinn. It’ll be a damn shame to lose you. I don’t know what we’d do without you here, other than lose far more often.”

“Out.”

Aeric put on a sober mien and opened the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir!”

Malavai shook his head, bemused. He wondered if any others would try and curry favor in the hopes that the partiality that Daahzi and Darth Lachris had shown him would fall upon them as well. It didn’t seem likely, as Bentham was the first to make such a ham-handed attempt. Of course it might have been real concern, given Aeric’s initial response to Malavai’s temporary posting.

Still, the Aeric wasn’t wrong – this would be the last chance he’d have to impress the doctor and the Darth. Malavai glanced at the clock. He had little in the way of civilian clothing, none of which was appropriate wear for Sith entertainment. There would be shops open in Sobrik, of course, but he could hardly rely upon them to carry appropriate garb to please a dark lord.

A quick look through a directory of Imperial owned businesses gave Malavai an idea, and the chat he had with the owner put the smallest, satisfied curve on his lips.

-0-

“You smell like blood and secrets,” said Darth Lachris, greeting him at the door of the suite she held in the Governor’s mansion. “How delightful, Lieutenant. And full dress uniform… not the casual I asked for, but Daahzi will be pleased. She’s always enjoyed peeling away layers.”

“My lord.”

“For tonight, you may call me Anaela, and I will call you Malavai,” her smile was sly. “It’s not my name, of course, but it is close enough to serve.”

“Your will, my lord.”

“But of course,” she turned, leading him into the room and he took a moment to appreciate the picture she made. Lachris had traded the imposing armored robes she habitually wore for a loose gown of crimson silk so finely woven it flowed around her like a shroud of blood. Her pale skin glowed against it, bleached bone amidst the roots of a wine-flower vine; a warning and a summons both. She trailed her fingers up his arm as he came within her reach, and she brushed his mouth with her thumb. “A taste, if you will, dear Malavai?”

He shivered at the chill her fingers imbued, and leaned in, consenting to the brush of her lips.

“Sweet,” she murmured against his mouth. “You would be a joy to break, I think. What I could do with you. But, alas, I’ve promised not to break other people’s toys… and your master would not appreciate it if I snapped your leash.”

“My lord?”

She bit his lip, just shy of hard enough to bruise before pulling away.

“Tonight I have another name, Malavai.” Eyes of molten copper danced. “And for what little it’s worth, I approve.”

“Of what?”

“Of what you will become.” She nodded. “Indeed, it will be glorious.

A pleasant chime rang through the room, and she urged him forward, toward a table set for three.

“Get that, would you?” she called, though he’d seen no sign of servants.

“Yes, my lord.”

Malavai turned, stunned to realize Aeric stood, naked, in the corner near the door.

“Pay him no mind,” Darth Lachris instructed. “He offered me Service this evening. He’s so pretty, how could I resist?”

“How, indeed?” Malavai kept his eyes away from his commanding officer and instead upon his host.

“Sit, pour some wine – it’s from my private stock, never fear. Ah—Daahzi!”

His lover stepped in, clad in a short, pristine white slip of a dress that barely kissed the tops of her thighs. Malavai wondered, vaguely, how the wisp of silk stayed on, as it seemed both strapless and backless, and was cut to reveal a trail of jeweled teardrops that ran from her sternum to the thin band of cloth that barely concealed her quim.

“Anaela.” As she’d done the first time he’d seen her, Daahzi held out her hands to Lachris, who took them with a smile. “You look lovely this evening.”

“I know,” Lachris dimpled. “And you. Has your mother seen that dress? You look positively delicious. Don’t you think so, Malavai?”

He swallowed hard, trying not to think of kneeling between Daahzi’s thighs and fucking her with his tongue.

“That would be one word for it,” he noted, moistening suddenly dry lips.

“Now, now,” said Lachris. “It will never do, spoiling your appetite for dinner. Best save those thoughts for dessert. Please have a seat.”

She clapped her hands and liveried slaves appeared, carrying various delicacies from a variety of worlds and setting them out upon the table. Malavai, relying on manners instilled in him by his father, pulled out a chair for Daahzi and she flashed him a surprised little smile as she sat down, murmuring her thanks. Lachris chuckled, taking her seat, Aeric kneeling submissively at her side. Long, pale fingers threaded themselves in the colonel’s hair and she tugged sharply.

“You have your instructions,” she said, a little sharply, and the man nodded, running his hands lightly up her legs before vanishing beneath the table. “Good boy. I suggest that you impress me.”

Malavai flushed, glancing over at Daahzi. Her lips curled downward, a strangely disappointed curve, before the expression vanished.

“Wine?” he asked, lifting a bottle. Daahzi nodded, striking up meaningless conversation as he poured some for all of them. The repast was perfect, the company lighthearted and congenial. It was both strange and familiar – the scent of wine and the musk of sex stirring old and fragmented memories. His mother had held dinner parties like this when he was young. Small talk and sexual pleasure vibrating in air chilled by Darkness. How much practice did it take, he wondered, that the barest hint of orgasm was a hitch in the breath and a replete little sigh?

Malavai felt the weight of Daahzi’s hand on his thigh, an unsubtle offer as Lachris briefly lost her train of thought, and he caught it in his, bringing it to his lips.

“Later,” he whispered against her palm, closing her fingers over the word like a gift.

“Perhaps it’s time for dessert,” Daahzi suggested with a sly little smile, and Lachris laughed, easing away from the table. Bentham slid out from beneath, lips swollen and shining.

“Go to the kitchens, colonel. The cook will know what to send up.”

Bentham grimaced, flushing, and Lachris slapped him.

“Do you take issue with my orders?” she asked, poisoned honey dripping from her lips. “You specified no limits when you offered Service. Surely a naked trek to the kitchens isn’t beyond your ability.”

“Of course not, my lord.” Bentham stood, revealing flaccid disinterest in the proceedings, and Lachris snarled.

“Go, and I suggest you find a way to be more interesting by the time you return, or I’ll be forced to find another way to entertain myself.” Lightning crackled on her fingertips. Malavai concealed a wince, suddenly appreciative of how different Daahzi was from her Sith mentor.

“He’s fortunate that he has quite the talented mouth,” Lachris remarked, eyes snapping fire.

“Peace, Anaela.”

“Hah! The man who thinks to curry favor with his cock needs to be able to make use of it.” Lachris laughed, soft and terrible. Her eyes slid to Malavai. “And a Force-blind fool who thinks he can influence a Sith… well.”

Malavai swallowed, forcing himself to meet her gaze with a slow, almost infinitesimal nod. She smirked.

“You will stay for the final course, yes? I had my cook concoct something especially for you, Malavai.”

“I am humbled by your attention,” he murmured, failing to mention the terror she also induced. Daahzi’s fingers brushed his leg and he turned to her, offering a smile. “Indeed I must thank you both, the last ten-day has been… inspirational.”

“Indeed it has,” said Lachris, standing. “Your work has been exceptional, and your company quite… stimulating.”

He found himself charmed to see Daahzi’s cheeks darken, though her dimples flashed.

The lights in the room flickered, followed by the bleat of an alarm.

“Well, well, well,” Lachris drawled, as he and Daahzi rose to their feet. “How… unexpected. An entirely different form of entertainment, I wonder?”

Lachris raised a hand and closed her fist, motioning sharply down. An electrostaff flew to her hand from where it was displayed upon the wall. She tossed it to Daahzi, who plucked it from the air like an exotic flower.

“War blade.” Daahzi twirled the double bladed staff around her hands, curious. Brilliant bands of energy flared across the wicked edges, filling the air with a vicious hum. “Cathar – at least four centuries old. I’m impressed the power cell still functions.”

“What matters is whether or not you can use it.” Lachris turned to him and pointed to his sidearm as Daahzi spluttered indignantly. “Please tell me that’s not a purely decorative part of your uniform, Lieutenant.”

“No, my lord.”

“Good.” The dark lord’s lips spread in a predatory smile. “It seems that the Colonel has acquired a small problem. We should go relieve him of it.”

Her fingers snapped, and a lightsaber hilt flew into her hand, a bright red blade flaring malevolently into existence. The war blade twirled slowly in Daahzi’s hands, the blue-white of its power crystals describing shining arcs in the air.

“Daahzi –” Malavai broke off. “My lord, neither of you is armored.”

“That’s what will make this fun, my dear,” said Lachris. “Although your concern is noted –” her eyes slid to Daahzi, “and likely appreciated. Come along.”

The door to the suite opened and the cacophony of screams and blaster fire that had been dampened by the room’s soundproofing.

“I didn’t know you were weapons trained,” he murmured to Daahzi, pulling out his sidearm as they followed in Lachris’ wake.

She snorted, positioning herself in front of him like a shield. “Raised by Sith.”

It was, he supposed as she threw herself into the fray, a kind of answer.

-0-

Ending his evening back on base, eating blotidet-infused sweetcake in a debriefing with General Tornik, was not quite how Malavai had envisioned this last night with Daahzi. Aeric had, at some point, located a pair of pants, and they all could hear the gasping whimpers of the man Lachris questioned in the next room. Daahzi’s dress showed almost decorative spatters of blood, an almost unbearable accent to the sweaty glow of effort she wore like a cloak.

“More tea, General?”

“No, my dear. Good show, this evening, I must say. Colonel, you must be commended for your quick thinking. There’s no way to know how far the rebels might have gotten if you hadn’t been there.”

Aeric flushed. “Thank you sir.”

“I’d like to recommend you as a permanent addition to Darth Lachris’ staff. She seems to like you.”

Malavai admired the ease with which Aeric managed to say “Yes, sir.”

Like Aeric, he knew that far from being a promotion, it was a punishment for the security failure, and an offering for Darth Lachris’ just outrage. Assignment to a Sith was nearly always a death sentence.

“And you, Quinn – how did Military Intelligence miss this?”

“General, I offer no excuses,” Malavai said cooly. “I have no need to do so. I believe that if you check the reports submitted over the last six standard months, you will find that my team, along with Imperial Intelligence, has repeatedly reported a rising probability of an attack against the Governor. From what I understand, these reports have been dismissed out-of-hand by others. On the day that I was assigned to Darth Lachris’ task force, we calculated that the odds had risen to the high eightieth percentile, and recommended that security be increased. I believe that this was met with ‘A Darth assigned by the Dark Council is capable of taking care of herself.’ Which, given this evening’s events, proved quite true.”

“I see.” The general took a bite of the cake. “How is it none of these reports crossed my desk?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.” Malavai took a small sip of the bloditet, letting it settle upon his tongue like his enemy’s blood. “I imagine you would need to speak to my commanding officer. All reports are filtered by Captain Merst for distribution, though they are also copied to the secure uplink to Dromund Kaas as a matter of routine.”

The whimpers stopped abruptly, a curse sounding through the open door. Lachris stepped out, cold brutality crackling around her like a cloak. The lights seemed to dim, though Malavai knew that was just the sense of Darkness Lachris carried with her.

“Tea?” asked Daahzi, as though blood-spattered Sith were commonplace.

“That would be lovely.” The room brightened. “Oh, you had someone bring the cake, too! I hope it meets with your approval, dear Malavai.”

“I would never have thought of the citrus-vanillin blend for the frosting, but the effect is delightful,” he told her earnestly, standing to offer her his chair. “Please allow me to cut you a slice.”

“Mmmm.” Lachris accepted the cup offered to her by Daahzi, and took a sip. “It’s nice to know that there is some civility in this barbarous wasteland. Thank you, Malavai, that would be welcome.”

“Darth Lachris,” General Tornik began. Lachris silenced him with a look.

“You have quite the little mess to clean up for me, General,” she said quietly as Malavai slid a slice of cake in front of her. “Malavai, Colonel… cousin. You are dismissed.”

He saw Daahzi’s eyes narrow, but she said nothing, rising like bloodied mist. She bowed and Malavai and Aeric followed suit, following her out in silence. The door slid shut behind them and Malavai took her hand, bringing it to his lips. “Are you all right? This can’t be common at the University.”

She gave him an odd little smile. “You might be surprised by how cutthroat academia can be.”

Aeric chuckled beside him. “I’m sure. Quinn, take the day off tomorrow. You’ve earned it. And you, Dr. Thalrassian – it’s been a pleasure. I hope that we’ll meet again.”

“Likewise, colonel,” she murmured. Bentham headed off toward his quarters.

“Not quite the evening I was hoping for,” she said quietly. “Quinn –”

“Malavai,” he said, pulling her toward him. “For tonight, please.”

He kissed her, uncaring that they were in a hall made quiet only by the lateness of the hour, his hand slipping into her hair as her arms came around his waist. Need bloomed under his skin, hot and desperate as he tasted blood and tea, and the faint sweetness of the cake. Her hands slid down, gripping tight as she pulled him closer. He pulled on the forest silk of her hair, exposing her throat to his lips and she breathed his name.

“Didn’t lose you,” he murmured against her skin, tracing the pulse of her life with is tongue.

“Never.” The word vibrated against his lips like a promise.

“Come with me.”

“Back to your bunk?” Laughter trembled in the words made breathless by passion.

“Yes,” he said, pivoting to push her up against the wall, settling within the cradle of her thighs and grinding slowly. “In my bunk, across my sheets. Come with me.”

“Yes. Please.”

The door opened behind him.

“Your passion is distracting,” Lachris said, irritation and amusement vying for dominance in her voice. “Get a room. And… cousin? You forgot this.”

Instinct made Malavai spin to the side, dodging the Cathar war blade that the dark lord tossed carelessly out of the room. Daahzi caught it with grace.

“Where’s the Colonel?” Lachris asked.

“We were dismissed. I believe he headed for his quarters, my lord.”

“I see.” Lachris’ lips curved. “I shall have to seek him out.”

“Anaela.”

“I won’t harm him,” Lachris said softly. “Not more than he desires. Do enjoy yourselves, you two. That’s an order on behalf of the Dark Council.”

Daahzi smothered a laugh as Malavai took her free hand, guiding her through the maze of Command and out toward the buildings that housed Military Intelligence.

“You’re not in the officer barracks?” she murmured.

“No, my lord,” he led her toward his quarters – distantly recognizing the strangeness of his permanent assignment to the emergency on-call station, but was too grateful for the relative solitude of his quarters to care.

“Where d’you think you’re going? And where did you get a sith willing to whore for you?” Captain Merst blocked the corridor, bringing their movement to a stop.

Malavai stopped, saluting as required. “Captain. I’ve been relieved of duty for the next twenty-four hours, per Colonel Bentham and Darth Lachris.”

“Likely story. And you can’t think of anything suitable for the redskinned little tramp you have with you?” Captain Merst leered, licking his lips, apparently indifferent to the blooded war blade currently strapped over Daahzi’s shoulder. “Quinn’s useless. You want power, you should take a ride on a more… powerful officer. One that has connections.”

Daahzi raised a brow, the fleshy tendrils curling in subtle amusement.

“Captain, if I offered my body for money or power, I still would not choose a sycophantic lackwit like you.” Merst’s comm trilled. “I suggest you take that, Captain.”

“You little bitch.” The comm trilled again, flashing red. Merst ripped it off his belt, clearly irritated. “Merst, here. What do you want?”

“I see that civility will likely be wasted on you,” said Lachris, her image clear. “Good, you’re dressed. You will report to Command immediately for questioning.”

“What, can’t it wait until morning? I’m disciplining an officer for being out of bounds after curfew and bringing a jumped-up whore onto base.”

“An officer and a whore, you say?” Lachris sounded amused. “Would that be Lt. Quinn and a pureblood carrying a Cathar war staff?

Merst’s face froze as he looked up. “Yes, my lord.”

“Oh, good. They’re actually following orders then. And as I said. You will report immediately. And I suggest you come up with a reason why you would assume that any sith is – as you called her – a jumped-up whore.

“Do run along, Captain.” Daahzi made a shooing motion with her hand. “I’m certain Darth Lachris has all kinds of questions for you.”

“I’m not afraid of Darth Lachris. Don’t you know who I am?”

“An idiot I wouldn’t fuck with someone else’s droid,” said Daahzi. “The real question is why you don’t know who I am, but I’m certain Darth Lachris will get to the bottom of that. Now, go. Dark Lords generally do not appreciate waiting.”

Merst sneered, but went.

“I hope she sends me a copy of the security footage.”

Malavai choked back a laugh. “I think I’d rather like to see it, myself.”

“Now, where were we?”

“Perhaps twenty meters from my quarters, my Lord.”

“Lieutenant.” Her lips twitched. “Shall we?”

“I believe we shall.”

Malavai keyed open the door, feeling relieved to find that everything was in its place as they entered. A new mattress laid out in place of the old, with crisply turned white sheets.

Daahzi stood in the center of the room, silver eyes gleaming. “Alone at last.”

“If you don’t count the mandatory surveillance of the emergency on-call quarters.”

“Maybe they’ll send us copies of the holos,” she held out the war staff. “Do find a place for this, Malavai. I don’t think we need any weapons between us.”

He took it, setting it upon the small weapons rack that held the vibrosword he trained with and his back up pistols. Daahzi’s arms slipped around his waist, loosening the belt that held his jacket closed, and Malavai stilled her fingers, before turning in her embrace.

“My lord – Daahzi. If I may make a request?”

“Of course,” she said.

“As you may know, I graduated at the top of my class from the Imperial Military Academy.” He pulled her close. “I’m a brilliant strategist.” He brushed his lips across hers. “And I am very good at what I do.”

She hummed as his hands smoothed down her back.

“And what do you do Lieutenant?”

“Gather information,” he pressed a gem that glittered at the base of her spine, just above the curve of her buttocks, causing the nanofibers that kept the slip of her dress adhered to her skin to relax, “analyze it for relevant data,” he swept his hands back up, running his fingers beneath the loosened silk, “and apply what I’ve learned.”

“Malavai,” Daahzi’s eyes fluttered closed as he cupped her breasts, his thumbs resting lightly atop their jeweled crowns.

“You were made for pleasure, my lord,” he said softly, “let me show you everything I’ve learned.”

The scrap of white silk fell to the floor.

“By all means, lieutenant.” She ran her hands up the scratchy wool of his coat.

“You like the uniform,” he said softly, nipping at her neck. “A symbol of earned power to offset your native privilege.”

“I do,” she acknowledged, head falling back has his mouth trailed lower. He ran his tongue down the pulsing artery, sucking lightly as his lips found the thin, golden collars that graced the long line of her neck. “I like ruffling you; knowing how stiff and wet you are under all your layers and propriety.”

“Yes,” he murmured against her skin. “You certainly do. I should punish you for that, my lord.”

“For what?” she asked, gasping as he nuzzled her breast, “breathing in your vicinity?”

“For your perfect propriety at work,” he traced a jeweled nipple with his tongue, “when I wanted nothing more than to spread you out over the conference table and take you.”

“You should’ve said. I might have let you.”

He shuddered at the thought of it, Lachris’ hot eyes on them as they rutted; the dripping jealousy of his peers as he was locked inside of her. Something in him shifted, dark and dangerous. “Would you have me share you?”

Her hand fisted in his hair, pulling his mouth to hers. Daahzi bit his lip, drawing the faintest hint of blood. “One day, you’ll regret that question. I’m not yours to own.”

“Tonight, you are.” He pushed her back toward the bed. “Mine to touch. Mine to pleasure.”

“Am I?” she challenged.

“Aren’t you?” He unbuttoned his jacket, pulling it off efficiently and draping it over a chair. “You can leave any time, my lord, if you don’t like the terms of being in my bed.”

Her eyes flashed, and then she laughed, leaning back on his narrow pallet. “Well played, Malavai. What would you have of me?”

“It’s not what I would have,” he unbuttoned his shirt slowly, watching her face as he pulled it open, “it’s what I would give.”

“Pragzumas.” Her eyes lit upon the ruby-studded bars he’d had set in his nipples earlier in the afternoon, then trailed down his chest, following the red-gold trail of piercings that trailed from his sternum to the waist of his pants. Her breath shortened, pupils blown wide. “Lytis-pragzumas. How far do they go?”

He shrugged out of his shirt, folding it neatly and setting it aside. He slid his belt open and unfastened his pants. “All the way down, my lord.”

She ran a hand down her own piercings, toying with the sparkling crystals she’d trailed from breastbone to quim. “Malavai.”

“You’ve been my lytis-kutualas, my awakening,” he said, revealing the trail that led to the ladders that now decorated the ridges his cock. “No matter my skin, I am as sith as my brothers. I’ve as much right to mark myself as they did. To live by the Code as they do, with or without the Force.”

He toed out of his shoes, so he could step out of his pants and fold and store them.

“We have only this left, these few hours,” he sat beside her on the thin mattress, the scratchy, military-issue sheets, “but I would spend them, as sith should, with passion.

“Thank the Selkath for kolto,” Daahzi said, strangely breathless as she trailed her fingers down the piercings, intense pleasure catching him by surprise. “You’re well healed.”

“Yes,” the word hissed out as her hand drifted lower. “Had to be perfect for you.”

Izkeon sithas,” she whispered in his ear, “Izkeon mad’uo.”

He whited out as she touched his cock, the pleasure sparked by his piercings an unexpected surge. Malavai heard a delighted laugh as something shifted in his belly, slow and stiff and ponderous as he ejaculated over her eager hand.

“I had wondered,” she said softly, crawling into his lap as his cock remained impossibly hard, his arousal as intense as it had had been before he came, stiffened by bone instead of blood. “Kietasi-sith, the perfect hardness, the arousal of sith, how could you not have it?”

Malava panted into her neck as she lowered herself upon him, hot and tight and impossibly wet. “For you… supposed to please you.

“Then fuck me,” she told him, her hands coming up to play with the ruby-studded bars that pierced his nipples. “All. Night. Long.”

He tumbled them over, spilling her like blood over his sheets, and thrust. He took her mouth, biting just hard enough to draw blood as they kissed, pleasure swelling between them. “Let’s see who breaks first, shall we?”

“You always lose,” she gasped into his mouth, undulating as he rocked into her. “Void, yes. Like that. Harder, Malavai.”

“As my Lord commands.” Harder. Faster. Deeper. Her hands gripped his ass, nails biting deep and laughter rumbled in his chest. His lips caught a nipple, sucking hard as his tongue pulled the jeweled loop. Malavai slid his fingers between them, playing with the jewel that rested above her clit and the grasping flesh that surrounded it.

Daahzi shattered, locking him deep as she screamed her pleasure into the still air, the rhythmic dance of the hooks inside her pulling his orgasm close behind.

“You lose,” he said, panting into her skin, still hard.

“I don’t lose until I can’t come any more,” she told him, rolling them over. “Best two out of three?”

Malavai laughed as she began to move.

-0-

Daahzi’s comm warbled a reminder that she was due to board the Fleet shuttle and return to Vaiken Space Dock. She stared at it from where she sat on his bed, covered loosely by a short, silken robe he’d been gifted long ago, and then to him. He lay, loose-limbed and languid, bruises peppering his skin from the third or fourth time they’d wrestled for dominance, and raised a brow. Her lips curled upward as she watched his hand trace the trail of his piercings to slip eagerly over the sensitized flesh of his cock. It was easy now, to move from the shallow depths of his human arousal to the storm-sea of his sith physiology.

Daahzi licked her lips, nostrils flaring. The unit warbled its reminder again and she rose, a goddess of passion and power. Malavai felt a vague disappointment as she picked the offending unit up, tapping something into it, silencing the irritating sound.

Daahzi turned, loosening the belt around her waist, leaving bruises and love-bites framed by black silk. She flowed like blood, desire staining the air around her as she stepped toward the bed. “You’ve at least twelve more hours of leave. And tomorrow is soon enough.”

-0-

“You’re looking good for a man who spent at least a day in Service,” said Aeric, dropping down beside Malavai where he sat in the commissary. Malavai took a drink of his caf, raising a brow. He’d never been one for fuck-and-tell, though he allowed himself a small smirk.

“No one offered anyone Service,” he said. “Except you.”

“Eh. In the end it wasn’t so bad. As you said, pleasuring a beautiful woman is hardly the worst fate a man can have.” Aeric looked down at his grain-mush and grimaced slightly. “Still… it’s just…Dr. Thalrassian’s sith. They aren’t usually ones for wild affairs on backwater shitholes. Or with non-sith, for that matter.”

“She is that,” Malavai agreed, choosing not to disclose his own nature, it wasn’t Aeric’s business. Instead he went with distraction. “She’s also Thalrassian. The Family is known for more liberal views.”

“I suppose,” Aeric said, dubiously. “As long as you’re all right.”

“I’m fine.” Better than fine, really. Malavai hummed with energy, even after well over a standard day sequestered in his quarters in a sexual endurance contest, with only a few short breaks for sustenance and water.

He chose not to consider the fact that the food – and Daahzi’s luggage – had been delivered by Darth Lachris’ slaves. He still had to be able to look the Dark Lord in the eye.

“Lachris says that we’ll be getting some reinforcements soon. Seems that your girlfriend has pull with more than just the Dark Council.”

“Oh?”

“We’re expecting a clan of Mandalorians to arrive in about thirty-eight hours.” Aeric paused, sweetening this grain-mush with the thin, honey-like substance excreted by local ground-grubs and sampled his breakfast again, sneering a little less at the flavor. “Clan Ka-Dan, under the alien that calls itself ‘The Iron Bull.’”

Malavai barely kept his caf from hitting the table. “But that means…”

“Darth Teizibe, your hero. And his consorts.”

“We have a chance,” said Malavai, ignoring the comment. “We finally have a chance.”

“Better’n a chance, I’d say. And Darth Lachris’ll call for you, probably early afternoon. Seems that Merst’s had a bit of an accident, along with a few of his cronies. Turns out that if you threaten local kids into serving your every need, instead of using the approved sex services, it doesn’t end well.”

“He was what?

“I’m not sure what part of it irritated her the most,” Aeric said, meditative. “Sith are known for taking what they want, whenever they want it, but I don’t think she approves of rape, with or without the added benefit of Merst being fool enough to leave unsecured information in his quarters.”

“Damned fool.” Malavai set his cup down. “How did we not notice?

“You couldn’t have, not with living down the hall from where you work,” said Aeric, “And that entire barracks is rotten with a certain Moff’s kin and cronies. Each of them thought they were as untouchable as Sith because of it. Like I said, I’m not sure which part of it irritates the Dark Lord more – the stupidly unspeakable things they thought they could do, or the fact that it was basically usurping Sith prerogatives.”

Malavai groaned. “Never mind the effect on the population. Void. It’s things like that that make it so hard to pacify them. It just encourages the rebels.”

“Well, Lachris exempted you from watching the executions, since you were busy,” Aeric shuddered. “I’m not sure that the people will like her any better for frying them in a public square, not when she executed the spies, too, but discipline might be a bit easier to maintain for a few days, at least.”

“A few,” Malavai agreed, faintly. They finished their respective meals in companionable silence, ignoring the glances sent their way. As Aeric predicted, Malavai was summoned to Merst’s old office.

“I can’t do much at present regarding a promotion,” she told him, oddly apologetic. “As you know, there are certain… difficulties with your file, though I am looking into it. That said, I want you to take over for the unlamented idiot that was commanding you. You’ll hold the same authority as Merst by my decree. If anyone gives you trouble, I want to know about it.”

Lightning sparked over her fingers.

“As you say, my lord. Have you heard from Dr. Thalrassian?”

“Missing her already, my pretty Lieutenant?” Lachris smirked. “Her ship made the jump to hyperspace on the correct vector, but as you know, communication won’t be available until they reach Vaiken Space Dock. I’m sure she’s fine.”

“There wasn’t time for a long goodbye,” he murmured.

Lachris laughed aloud. “Lieutenant, I have to wonder what you call a long goodbye, if thirty-some-odd hours is short.”

He flushed.

“Now, get to work. You have teams to organize in preparation for our guests.” Lachris’ burning copper eyes sparkled. “I’ll have to thank Daahzi the next time I see her, she’s always been one to suggest the proper tool for the job. You’ll be assigned a liaison –” she looked down at her datapad, “—a warrior named Saaraij Darika, it looks like. My, my, the Iron Bull is efficient, already with assignments. I always look forward to working with him.”

“Isn’t he an alien?” Malavai asked. Saaraij. Mandalorian. A clever disguise if it was one.

“Mmmm. Yes.” Lachris looked up at him. “Will that be a problem?”

“Not for me, though I’m sure there are those who will have issues.”

“Well, I expect those to be handled. I admire efficacy far more than bloodline, you see.” Lachris smiled. “And I assure you that if I have to become involved, it will be most unfortunate for someone. I’ve had a modest chance to exorcise my temper, but I wouldn’t say no to another opportunity.”

“Of course, my lord. If I may be dismissed?”

She nodded, returning to… whatever it was that Sith Lords did when consulting datapads and Malavai made a dignified retreat.

Three days later, after the initial force of Clan Ka-dan arrived, Malavai was in the midst of correcting an idiot corporal. It was unacceptable to assume that because the Mandalorian troops were essentially alien mercenaries, they didn’t need complete and accurate intel. They hadn’t been brought to Balmorra to die, they’d been brought to win.

“If that’s your best, then you’re useless to me. I can shoot you dead with a clear conscience.” He grabbed the idiot by the collar and shook him. “Is that what you want?”

The fool stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes, and Malavai felt a surge of satisfaction, something cold, dark and terrible. Or wonderful. He wasn’t sure which.

“N-no, sir.”

“Then focus, Jillins. Dismissed.”

A pair of soldiers entered, Mandalorians in fine, but well-used armor. One was a blue-skinned twi’lek, with a mischievous expression. The other – if not for the sense of Darkness that spilled off of him – Malavai checked himself – or her, he would have assumed that it was just another one of The Iron Bull’s clan. But ever since Daahzi had left, and Malavai’s acceptance of what he was – Imperial, sith-blooded, if not accounted among the purest – he’d found a clearer sense of who walked with the Force and who did not.

The newcomer blazed in a way that no other Sith on Balmorra did. Not cold, like Lachris, or the sardonic silk of Teizibe, nor yet the insipid shadows of the acolytes that hoped that victory here would be enough to keep them from Korriban’s bloody halls.

No, this Sith was the seething heat of a dark star. Even in her generic, genderless armor, she radiated sex and death, causing Malavai to swallow hard against unexpected arousal. There could be no doubt, this had to be the apprentice that Baras had spoken of. Malavai bowed, giving himself a moment to compose his expression. It was a shame to lose a power like this, but in the end, he owed everything he had to Darth Baras, and Baras had ever worked for the good of the Empire.

“I apologize for the delay, my Lord,” he said, staring into the blank face plate of the armor. “Lieutenant Malavai Quinn. I’m to be your liaison here on Balmorra.”

“Darika, please,” the soldier’s voice was a contrived contralto, cadence and timbre masked by the voice modulator of her armor. “If I’m to maintain confidentiality, I cannot be known as Sith.”

“Of course, Darika,” Malavai nodded. “Darth Baras contacted me while you were still at the orbital station – he’s waiting to brief you now. I will return when he is done.”

“Thank you,” the young Sith nodded.

He took refuge in his quarters, composing a letter he knew he’d never send. Like the Sith in his office, Daahzi was far above his station and beyond his reach. He sighed, centering himself. At least his sith was safe in the heart of the Empire. It was more than he could say of himself. Now he had only to conceal his master’s purpose from a powerful Force sensitive and hope to survive intact. If he did, perhaps he would indulge the urge to communicate with Daahzi. Surely she’d like to know their progress, perhaps even return to see how well the Empire fared.

His secure comm chirruped, signaling the opening curtain.

Malavai stood. Let the play begin.

aaghaz: sith males are self lubricating, complete with a pheromonal load that can stimulate ovulation in some species

alzhe-tzir: tendrils that emerge in the vaginal canal of the sith female, that trap the penis during orgasm, locking it in place while the cervix opens to admit semen. These do not always emerge during sex — it requires a high level of arousal and compatibility.

blotidet: blood tea

blotidet-ezhn: tea ceremony featuring blood tea

ihighaz: female version of aaghaz — stimulates movement and overall fertility of spermatazoa.

Izkeon sithas: Pursue perfection

Izkeon mad’uo: Pursue pleasure

lytis-kutualas: Sex(ual) ritual.  One of the Old Ways of the sith people. Not necessarily about virginity, though it is about sexual maturity and awakening.  Once complete, one is marked as a sexually mature adult via a variety of piercings, most notably those of the nipples and sexual organs.

Lytis-pragzumas: Sex(ual) piercings.  The piercings granted once one has gone through the lytis-kutualas.  No longer a particularly common practice, though not unheard of.

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