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Black Hearts

- - - - - Connor Harrison Tmoxin Temi

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#1
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Old Imperial Outpost
Lok, Karthakk System


The Sith Empire was expanding, and Connor was determined to expand with it in terms of power, ability and influence over others. First? Expand resources and take what he needed.

There was one place that the former Jedi had been to that had been of interest. Lok, and a military outpost seemingly in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by desert and far reaching cliff-races. What better place to investigate for a training facility for the Shadows.

Plus, it was South of the Silver Jedi. Best to cover all angles.

Landing his small transport to the rear of the facility atop a small cliff outcrop, he could see various sections of the outpost down below. Training grounds that looked abandoned, assault courses, storage facilities and corroded vehicles left to rot. Whatever had drawn the Imperials away must have been pretty important.

He hopped out and felt the ghostly quiet all around him. The cool cliff surrounding the installation shaded this side from the glaring sun out front, and he wanted to traverse through the entire facility, top to bottom through to the other side to make a decision.

Cracking a stiff bone in his neck, he walked across the steel and stone walkway from the landing pad towards the blast door that was half-open and leading down into the outpost.

Tmoxin Temi

#2
Tmoxin Temi

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If the Imperial Garrison seemed abandoned it was because it was just that. Deserted, dilapidated and useless. No secret lair had been built inside the mountain, no endless tunnels descending to the core of Lok, hiding personnel and intelligence hardware and software to spy on the rest of the galaxy.
 
Tmoxin preferred to hide in plain sight, meaning her base of operations was situated directly under the Morpho Sports Arena, which was once the garrison that Connor Harrison may have remembered. The one before him was a physical remnant like so much else on the desert planet. Nothing more.
 
If the former Jedi wanted to use the location that was a possibility, and Tmoxin always needed another project to sink her perfect, white teeth into. She’d tracked his transport’s descent to Lok, picking up the dark Force signature. And then found it familiar though she could not detect the individual by the aura. Someone from her past had come to visit, but taken a detour to that antiquated garrison. Traveling alone, she’d ridden a swoop bike to the location. No bodyguard droids would be a match for a Sith Lord in any case.
 
He would likely be able to feel her there before he saw her but if he didn’t he would hear her boot steps approaching on the durasteel behind him. By this point in time, the Hapan had figured out who the Force user was, but she hadn’t expected Connor Harrison.
 
Why have you come back after all of these years and in such a somber state? He is no Jedi any longer, she mused. What secret did he think she had? Or had he buried his own on the planet where Tmoxin had spent so much time for two years?
 
Connor Harrison

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#3
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The Sith hadn’t made it far through the blast door before he heard footsteps. Not heavy, nor hurried. It was her, and she was still here? Dedicated, or desperate.

"Commander Tmoxin Temi. Leader of the Blood Monarchs and trained in the Force. Imperial and Sith ties. Businesswoman." Connor turned to the woman. "A pleasure to meet you finally."

Finally. Of course this was a chance for the Sith to meet the woman Connor had previously tangled with and her legion of troopers in the very base they were stood in. Yet now there was no thriving Imperial activity or training routines.

No gleaming white Stormtroopers or hulking Sith warriors.

Just two equal minds where only one could really get the upper-hand.

"Seems your outpost is a little run-down. Tired. Shouldn’t you be commanding armies or fleets by now instead of skulking around ghosts of the past?"

Tmoxin Temi

#4
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She tucked the swoop bike helmet under her arm. She’d worn her armor as this was not a business meeting in the boardroom.
 
His vaguely insulting words? Sure, they got her hackles up a little, but she smiled just the same, intrigued by his visit. Most of Tmoxin’s visitors of his caliber were on Lok to try and arrest her, although she’d been left to her own devices most recently. Thank the stars, as all that constant evasion was tiring, indeed, she mused.
 
The wind blew her chin-length red hair into her face, until she took a few steps, a high bluff now to her side to buffer the strong breeze.
 
She spoke slowly with a clear tone of amusement in her voice, just a trace of her Hapan accent left: “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? You seem different, Connor. Let’s see... when we last met it was here on Lok, and you had an apprentice with you. I can’t for the life of me remember what we talked about.”
 
Avoiding the question of what she’d been up to with her troops, she came close now to the tall former Jedi and side stepped him gracefully, pushing open the door to the old garrison.
 
“Would you like a tour?”
 
Not waiting for an answer, Tmoxin slipped inside the darkness swallowing her up.
 
Connor Harrison

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#5
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Tmoxin may have been a different person from the last time she met the old Connor. He knew of her name and standing and that was it. Right now she looked like a fighter and a warrior. It was an approved look. With a grateful nod, Connor accepted her invite for a tour and walked into the cool outpost behind her, the darkness taking out the light from where they came.

"I am sure his visit was rather un-eventful, and if there was an apprentice involved it would be a soft assignment for sure. Target practice with your garrison I expect. "

The apprentice was not a memory he had, or cared for. Connor looked around with a slow walk beside her.

"Tell me, Commander, what is it you exactly do. I know a little of your past, but nothing of your present. And to be honest I didn’t expect to find you here at all." He started down some steps. "It’s a little unfortunate you are here because it will make what I wanted slightly…difficult."

He didn’t wait for her at the bottom as he continued walked, hands behind his back, looking at the design of the interior and where certain places led to.

Tmoxin Temi

#6
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His transformation fascinated her. Tmoxin had been lucky to avoid the ravages of the Darkside of the Force, though her Kaminoan pharmaceuticals certainly helped with that. Her brother Armand was the actual scientist though his sister fancied herself as some kind self-taught researcher. 
 
She watched him pass her and the quickly followed, having to pick up her pace due to his long strides. “Do you want my resume, Connor Harrison?” she asked, with a soft chuckle. “In a nutshell, after commanding armies for the One Sith, I built a Keffi ranch on Bothawui, and that’s what I’ve been doing, along with running my other businesses. The huge complex you likely saw on your way in, was the imperial garrison you remember. This one has never been operable. Doesn’t mean it cannot be resurrected.”
 
Tmoxin suddenly gripped his cybernetic arm, and since she’d expected a flesh, blood and muscle limb, a clouded expression graced her freckled face. “Slow down. You can’t just march around here without telling me what you plan on doing. We’d be neighbors, after all.”
 
“And by the Seven Moons of Hapes, why would it matter that I’m here?”
 
Connor Harrison

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#7
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He took in everything about what she was saying. Her experience with Sith, expanding her reach and involved in business. It was....

Connor glanced down at his cybernetic arm as she touched it, and he flicked his eyes up to her, but didn't move. He wasn't a fan of being given orders.

"I will march where I want, and you are not in a position to give orders yourself, Commander Temi." The arm moved from her touch. "Being a neighbor isn't what I wanted at all."

He turned and waved his arm and pointed at the facility as a whole.

"It matters because I want this place for myself, for expansion. You are out of business. This place has no need for forgotten leaders now. So, maybe you could do us both a favour and leave as quickly as you arrived."

With a sharp smile, he turned and continued walking on his own.

Tmoxin Temi

#8
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Harrison would be able to feel her anger rising, an ink-black wave of it emanating from her as he got right in there and poked the hardest at an old, half-healed wound. She loathed the thought of being forgotten almost as much as she loathed exile - something that the Hapan brought upon herself as a Commander.
 
“You underestimate my influence here on Lok. Anything you build here is subject to my jurisdiction whether you like it or not.”
 
A smile still lingered, though her body tensed. She saw his taunts as nothing more than a challenge, if only to prove him wrong. The planet on which they stood may have been dusty, hot, barren and smelled overwhelmingly like sulfur, but she considered herself its unofficial ruler in some way.
 
“Unless you’ve cashed in your pension from the Jedi Order, just how are you going to pay for the refurbishment of this garrison?”
 
Tmoxin followed behind him, her boot heels clicking upon the stone floor as though to punctuate her own pointed, deliberate words. “You’ll need a communications tower, reactor, thermo-infra-ecto multivariate sensors and of course, a shield defense system. And that’s just to start. Need I go on about how expensive it is to build a base?”
 
Access to financing was one of the primary sticking points between the former stormtrooper commander and the One Sith military industrial complex. It’s part of why she went into business for herself rather than find her efforts continually underfunded.
 
Connor Harrison

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#9
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A smile cracked on his lips, and he cocked his head, unsure if she could hear herself.

"Your jurisdiction? What would you call upon to stop me if brought my Shadows here to take this place by force? I don't see your Blood Monarchs anywhere, unless they are hiding in the cracks around the walls."

He stopped before a set of steel stairs that went down into a spiral to the lower levels. He didn't know where this was leading, simply walking and talking, but if she DID have some tricks up her sleeve, then best for her to lead.

"I am more funds than I ever need, don't you worry. This place sounded perfect from what he noted about it and I think, for the Shadows or not, this would be a worthy investment." A thought crossed his mind. He turned his head to the Commander. "If you repair this base and build it up for me, I'll make it worth your while. You will have the protection of the Sith Empire and anyone who wants to question you will have to come through me first. And you don't really seem rushed off your feet, so maybe you can get your teeth into a new project for me."

Connor looked for her reaction.

"So?"

Tmoxin Temi

#10
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“Oh the Monarchs are here. As well as hundreds of security guards just waiting for a distress signal. "
 
On one hand Tmoxin enjoyed the verbal parrying that someone as intriguing as Harrison provided - she did recall that intellectual spark about him when they’d first met each other so long ago - but at the same time she was quite sure she did not want to engage in a territorial pissing match with a Sith. They had a tendency to turn a minor slight into the greatest affront to their pride. Truth be told, if she called her Morpho Security Detail, he would only slaughter them, and Tmoxin wasn’t in the business of sending good men and women to their deaths. Not unless the cause was worthy. Then he would have to face her in battle - and she was having far too much fun for that.
 
Sighing, she began down the spiral staircase, carefully taking each step as she turned around to make sure he could hear her:
 
“The Shadows… what do you plan to do with these so-called Shadows? And Connor Harrison, I’m not a contractor, I’m a galaxy CEO.” Her voice held more annoyance now than amusement, but she wasn’t afraid. If anything, she felt a kinship with his Dark aura, fully appreciative of his transformation. Hopefully he’d indulge her with the story of how he came to fall.
 
With a small skip she hopped off the bottom step and faced him as he descended. Since the room they stood in was now likely embedded into the mountain, it could be used for secure communications or even as a prison.
 
“But this has piqued my interest, given recent circumstances.”
 
If Tmoxin could secure the protection of the Sith, that might help her with her Kyrel Ren situation, at least if she attempted to break their fragile alliance and anything built upon such scandal and blackmail was bound to be paper thin at best. Yet what intrigued the Imperial-minded Hapan the most was that, unlike Kyrel Ren who guarded Tmoxin’s secret, she would be the conservator of Harrison’s privileged information. 
 
“This room has such natural sound-proofing that no one can hear you scream.”
 
It wasn’t said as a threat, just an observation… a hint that the Dark Jedi was already trying to figure out the best purpose for the subterranean part of the garrison.
 
Connor Harrison

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#11
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He didn't look at Tmoxin when she made it quite clear this was a sound-proof area.

"I hope for your sake that wasn't a threat. I don't take kindly to them."

Now he took a stroll himself around the lower level. There was no sound, bar his footsteps. Flakes of dust could be seen from light in cracks through the ceiling and it was rather cool.

"Can you pull up blueprints of the layout or anything?" Connor wasn't an architect. He could map rooms and tell people where things should be, but for the technical aspects? No. "You do not need to bother knowing of my Shadows. They are nothing but an outfit to help fight against the Jedi, to do what must be done by any means and be an expendable asset to serve the Dark Side."

His amber eyes glanced around and he could almost the bark of orders ringing out, the hum of activity and sound of agents preparing for action.

"What is your position as a Commander? Who do you serve and where do you stand in the war between Light and Dark?"

Tmoxin Temi

#12
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“The blueprints are back in my office in the Morpho complex. But it’s a typical garrison, much like the Empire’s Peacekeeper, except it's more like a tower as its built into the mountain itself. It was meant as a complementary structure to the Imperial Outpost where the Morpho now stands.”
 
For a moment, Tmoxin recalled her AT-ATs moving slowly across the desert like leviathans, but she blinked back to the present when the former Jedi said: "You do not need to bother knowing of my Shadows.”
 
But of course I do, she thought. There were to be no secrets between them if she could help it, or at least she would make it her business to know Harrison’s.
 
“I am no longer a Commander, but I am consulting for a couple of prominent groups in a military and tactical capacity. The First Order, primarily.” No need to mention Kyrel Ren.
 
She sat down now on a long metal table, bolted to the wall, crossing her long legs, sheathed in flexible black armor that almost resembled leather.
 
As the Dark Jedi spoke without missing a beat, the cadence of her voice betraying many years of Hapan finishing school, she began to probe his mind using the Force in order to extract the information about the Shadows. Tmoxin would not be able to fully hide the fact that she was performing this physically and emotionally intrusive mental examination - it would feel as though something was slithering around inside the folds of his brain - but given her strong mentalist ability, she only could hope for swiftness in this task.
 
“I’ve never been on the light side of the fence. You should know that by now. Unlike you, Harrison. You’ve made quite an admirable transformation.”
 
Almost there… just a few more seconds, and I’ll have what I need.
 
She now traced those neural pathways which specifically encoded his memory of the Shadows from his amygdala to the visual cortex to the hippocampus.
 
Connor Harrison

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#13
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Connor felt it. Felt her. He cursed himself - he had already said too much. He turned his head to look at her while she talked, trying to distract him while she poked and prodded around his mind.

"An admirable transformation indeed."

He walked straight across to where she was sat, perched on the table as if she was a lord and commander of everything. Connor looked straight into her eyes and cut the distance within seconds.

"What are you looking for. What are you prying into my head for? All you'll find are his broken memories."

With that, he swung his human hand out backwards to slap her across the face, and his cybernetic arm came up to grab her lapel to stop her falling back.

"If you do that again, I will break your bones with my bare hands. This is not a threat, it's a promise. You show me some respect."

Pushing her away, he turned back around, as if nothing happened.

"Can you bring those blue-prints please, Commander?"

Tmoxin Temi

#14
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As Harrison walked over, Tmoxin knew that he felt her in there twisting through his brain, and she also knew damn well from experience that it was an exceptionally invasive maneuver, one that would cause its recipient to feel the kind of complex and miasmic emotions that most individuals tried to suppress.
 
At his approach, a sinking feeling took hold as whatever he planned to do she would not be able to immediately counter, her energy so focused on the mental attack. The slap was unexpected, but not completely unwarranted, through her Dark energy pulsed, threatening for a moment to cause the Blood Monarch to lose her poised demeanor. A younger and more immature woman would have shrieked out obscenities, stamped her pretty foot and threw a temper tantrum like an out of control shrew.
 
But the sudden violence from Harrison was all part of the game, a fact of which Tmoxin was quite aware.
 
Breathing heavily through her nose, slender fingers touched her pale cheek where Harrison struck her.
 
“That’s the most interesting foreplay I’ve encountered in awhile.”
 
Lowering herself off the table, one boot on the floor then the other, the Hapan stood watching him for a moment with a half-smile. He’d struck her with his real hand and not the cybernetic one, but she tucked that away for analysis later.
 
Respect. Yes that word comes up often, doesn't it?.” With a beleaguered sigh she said, “That’s the problem with the Sith. So many bloody words. Demanding respect with a string of hollow, empty… words.”
 
She took a few steps towards him, the scrape of her boot heels breaking the silence. 
 
“That slap commanded more respect than any claim upon it.”
 
Tmoxin positioned herself right up to Harrison’s back, within inches of touching him, but keeping that miniscule amount of distance between them. “A true leader takes what they want. I can feel that hunger inside of you… to control, to conquer. It’s what propels me forward as well.”
 
Her next words came out in a low, almost raspy whisper. “If you want it Harrison, you just need to grab it like a golden ring."
 
Connor Harrison

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#15
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Connor didn’t move as Tmoxin wove her way around him, like a predator. She took the blow well, showing strength and knowing when she had stepped out of line. Connor wasn’t afraid to tell anyone they were out of line, or afraid to show it.

He stayed still but moved his eyes this way and that to follow her, until she went behind him and then he just looked forward.

It was evident this Commander of dark forces was one who sat on a seat of power and had a vast network below her, one Connor wanted in on. It was what he had been told time and time again; to grasp opportunities with both hands and take it. Build the network. Build the alliances. Build a reputation that rippled out.

As her raspy voice echoed what he knew, he turned his head a fraction to the left so she would see the nasty scars traversing down his eye.

”The blueprints. Please. And then I think we need to talk about just how far your network reaches. I want it."

Tmoxin Temi

#16
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Up close, Harrison’s scar appeared more pronounced and fresher as though it was recent. And perhaps it was. The glimpses of memory she was able to pull out of his mind included injuries from a duel and what appeared to be an operation after… but there was nothing medicinal and calm about the healing process for him as though even the surgical wounds were created on purpose.
 
“I told you. The blueprints are back at Morpho. We will need to go back for them.”
 
The “we” made it clear that she expected the Sith Knight to follow her, that she wasn’t going to let him out of her sight that easily.
 
“If I can hitch a ride on your transport, I’ll tell security we are on our way.”
 
A sudden recollection of Mother Temi warning her at age eighteen about jumping on transports with strange men transports caused her to smile momentarily. But why, she countered? Our ancestors were pirates after all. Her mother would just groan and tell her she was too argumentative for her own good.
 
“On the way, I’ll tell you all about my network, and the plans I have to expand it.”
 
Connor Harrison

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#17
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Perfect.

”Forgive me. Slightly deaf in one ear."

As if the two were sizing each other up like animals, wondering whether the other was a mate or a meal, Connor walked around Tmoxin to mirror how she stood behind him a moment ago.

”Time to take it then, Commander."

He stepped back.

”This way, remember."

Conor indicated with his head for them to retrace their steps back. He still didn’t feel any threat or ulterior motives from the Force user. She was not like others. No brazen claim of standing with Jedi or Sith. It reminded him there was another angle to the Force spectrum than just the colour of a lightsaber and the title one took.

”I do like hearing about expansion. It’s what I am eager to excel in and I can’t think of a better opportunity than now."

There was much more to the Force than just Jedi and Sith indeed, and Connor indented to find out just how much.

Tmoxin Temi

#18
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Tmoxin felt equally at ease around Harrison despite his gift of the red splotch on her face when she’d attempted the mental probe. Of course, with her former military training including a stint as secret service for the Hapan Queen, she’d always have a prickle of anxiety no matter who was around, one that kept her senses sharp. She managed to lose that caution with only a very few in her life, those she considered close friends and those who’d shared her bed - sometimes one and the same.
 
As she followed him to the ship, walking up the ramp to the interior, she said, “Lok is a strategic area of the galaxy for a multitude of reasons. I’ve always found it easy to hide here as the Sith’s headquarters were on Coruscant. With the Sith now on Bastion it’s just as remote. Mind you, I’ve been pardoned for my transgressions, but I do keep a wary eye out for your ilk. Their intelligence leaves a lot to be desired so instead of an iron fist, they tend to stuff a sledgehammer into a velvet glove and swing it around.”
 
One corner of her pink lips quirked upward to gauge Harrison’s tolerance for vague insults of the group in which he served. “I’ve already told you that I work for the First Order, but another assemblage is taking shape in this very sector. If you and I come to a mutual understanding about what we both need you’re more than welcome to join me.”
 
Tmoxin strapped into the co-pilot’s seat and turned to her new acquaintance. “Morpho is south of here. Huge arena. You can’t miss it. Just radio the signal #904, and you’ll be allowed to land on an executive pad.”
 
Connor Harrison

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#19
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Strapping in, Connor shifted in his seat and leant over to see the read-out Tmoxin brought up once they had reached the ship. It literally was a sports complex. With a frown, Connor looked up to her.

"A sports complex. Really?" He nodded his head. "You better not be wasting my time."

The engines were fired up and they rose from the landing pad, and he carefully took them out between the rocky structure of the hidden base and down to the surface for a flight close across the ground.

"All intelligence is flawed, but yes, the Sith have been known to strike first and ask questions later. Sometimes it work, most of the time it doesn’t and they look inept for it. Hopefully they have learnt from their mistakes. Yet if you are pardoned, then there is nothing to worry about."

As Lok whipped by below them, Connor readied the security code to transmit and after a few minutes he did so at the request of a strict sounding female voice. Tmoxin watched as he did so, and as a number of spires came into view and a large basin, Connor pulled up to fly over just what she had said was there. A sports complex.

"Wonderful. Maybe we can go for a swim and a nice bite to eat once we’ve had a game of football."

He looked down through the viewport, and his face was less than impressed.

Tmoxin Temi

#20
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Just to the left of the main complex, the landing pad came into view. A high security fence ringed around the area, along with a liberal amount of gun turrets for protection. This particular feature of the location did retain somewhat of an imperial flavor and was one of the original ports of entry spots into the garrison when Harrison had visited Lok a few years back. 
 
“Guess what funds war? No, it’s not shiny, state-of-the-art toys or little alchemical pets. It’s not young, pretty and painfully willing acolytes to serve their master’s whims and needs, to be discarded if not honed into a proper warrior.” Her voice was edged with annoyance, but her freckled face remained impassive.
 
“That particular arena with its football and its entertainment brings in more credits in a week than the One Sith ever gave me to maintain my operations here on Lok and in the field.”
 
He’d struck the rawest nerve as though an errant string plucked in a symphony.
 
“I complained. And I networked and I politicized. I just about got on my knees and begged… can you imagine a Hapan woman genuflecting to the male Generals and Admirals.”
 
Her hand moved again to the red mark upon her cheek, hiding a resentful smirk. “Needless to say my Hapan ideals were the least of my worries.” Hasn't it always been that way, Tmoxin?
 
The vessel touched down with a whoosh, engines droning down to a quiet whine and then silence.

Connor Harrison

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