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Retracing Steps

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#21
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

"Well done, Connor, very well done," she commented once he was done eliminating the Bloodhounds. She could tell he had enjoyed it, the feeling of having power over life and death for these beings... of being their executioner, of being superior to them in every way. While he might pine for the authority he wielded as a Silver Jedi, he had never been destined for the path of Light. He had always been destined to walk the darker path, it had only taken time for him to realize it.

 

"What the hell are you people?!" the leader of the now deceased gang groaned.

 

"I am Sith," she replied, bending down to be at eye level with the man. "This could all have been avoided if you had just given me what I wanted. I would have had information, and you would have made a small fortune in credits... and my eternal thanks and support."

 

"Wa... wait! I can still be of service to you!" the man cried. How pathetic, bargaining for his life right after he had attempted to kidnap them and hold them hostage. Such a disgusting, vile example of a man. If he hadn;t turned her offer down, she might have had a use for him. "I can tell you who has the artifacts from Zakuul!" 

 

"It's far too late for that," she whispered, a hand placed lightly on his cheek. She looked up at Connor and smiled. "Watch."

 

The hand on the leader's cheek turned hard, holding his head in place as she gripped his jaw. From her other hand, dark tendrils of energy formed, driving themselves directly into the man's head. His mouth opened in a silent scream as she tore his memories from his mind. Could she have used a simple mind probe? Yes... but this was infinitely more satisfying. Her spell drew memory after memory from the man, and if didn't hold the information she desired, she obliterated it.

 

At last, she landed on the memory she desired. The one that revealed who might very well still owned Vitiate's holocron.

 

The small box of artifacts had been included in last year's prize pot, along with plenty of credits. The man before her had assumed that they could get all the winnings back from the rigged race, but he hadn't counted on Kurt Meyer winning... and his little girlfriend getting free. They had taken the box that contained the puzzle box she desired, the holocron itself.

 

She pulled out of the man's mind, and with a twist of her hand, killed the husk that was left after her invasion of his mind.



#22
Connor Harrison

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No words were needed, the Master was at work again.

Connor stood back and watched. He was always wanting to learn new things, to see how the Dark Side manifested in people and what he could take to apply else where. It seemed now a form of Force Drain was being used, with mentalism? Taking memories and thoughts from the minds of a mortal, ripping them from him without care and reducing the brain and nervous system to mush in the process.

He watched intently at the tendrils of dark power as they drilled into the man and took what they needed, Taeli's eyes burning with a dark glow as she held him in her grasp before he withered to nothing. He was already dead in mind when she put him out of his misery.

The pressure in the room eased and those cowering did nothing and tried to remain in the shadows before these two dark figures standing around the bodies and small fires on the bodies of those with blasters.

"What did you find. Where do we go. Who stands in our way?"

Stepping over the body, he moved to look out of the viewport at the race going ahead, and all the excited patrons without a care in the world.

"If it's in the First Order sector of space then you will have no issue getting where you need, I will make sure of that."

Taeli Raaf

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#23
Taeli Raaf

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It was far closer than she had ever thought it would be. She had anticipated following person to person until she finally obtained her prize, but now... oh now it was so much easier.

 

"It was part of the prize pool for the Podrace last year, all of the Zakuul artifacts... including the holocron," she stated. "This deceased fool thought that when their fixed race was won by their man, they would be able to take all the profits and get the artifacts back. The plan was ruined when Kurt Meyer won the race. Apparently they were blackmailing Meyer into throwing the race by kidnapping someone they assumed was his girlfriend, but she escaped and he won."

 

She recognized the girl from the man's memory and from Alliance command meetings, an SIS agent that had been a thorn in the side of the Galactic Empire, and also a on-again off-again member of the New Jedi Order.

 

"It's back in Alliance space," she laughed. "Its been right under my nose for the last year. Ah, but this is perfect."

 

She wouldn't need to go around killing anyone, all she had to do was go to the girl and explain that Kurt was imminent danger from an ancient Sith artifact that she and her Inquisitors had been tracking.



#24
Connor Harrison

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Connors eyes followed the dust trails of the podracers on the horizon, but he listened intently to Taeli. The names didn't ring a bell.

"So we find this Kurt person, or the girlfriend." He turned. "Simple enough. Who is the girl and where is she?"

But, then, he stopped himself and chuckled a little, folding his arms.

"Ah. Of course. Alliance space. So this is where you don the cowl of the Jedi again, smile sweetly and go about the business I can't be involved in. So does my role end here, or what? It's safe to say I'm not a welcome man since breaking out of Sullust under arrest for the orbital bombardment of Skor II."

He gave a small, innocent smile and shrug.

"I was confused, it was a long time ago."

Taeli Raaf

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#25
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

"No, you're right... you are not the most popular figure in Alliance space after that stunt," she responded. "There's a capture or kill order out on your from SIS. But... we can get around that easily enough. As I mentioned in the bazaar, the other reason I called you here was to continue your education."

 

If she was honest, she hadn't needed Connor to come along on this little expedition. She and Eldaah would have been more than enough to acquire the holocron's location, but... she was not without pity for the former Silver Shadow, and had plans to draw him into her web and sphere. Eyes and ears within the First Order as it were.

 

"But first, we can't have any witnesses to our actions here today," she said, looking over at the cowering gangsters. "And unfortunately for them, I don't see any purpose for keeping them alive or their organization intact. Finish the work, Connor, and then I'll teach you a technique that will allow you to go anywhere you want without worry of being recognized."



#26
Connor Harrison

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He shot her a double take.

"Capture or kill?"

While he couldn't expect anything less, it seemed this was the first time any organisation had paid interest in him since leaving the Silver Jedi. But it didn't worry him - there was no time to worry about things anymore. He was a small blip on the Alliance radar.

Connor came back to the now, and heard Taeli's request. For Connor, he didn't see any other way out for the cowering few, yet he had nothing against them if they managed to get out anyway. But that wasn't to be today.

There was no grand conjuring of the Force, no dramatic speech or reflection of life and death. No - he just looked at the two groups of a couple and three friends. He saw them, felt them, and ended them one at a time in quick succession with a contracted grip on their windpipe and bone structure. A moment of panic and no pain as one by one they saw what was happening, but crumpled over a second later.

It was just the two of them and the baying crowds outside.

"You were saying something about a technique...?"

Taeli Raaf

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#27
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

She watched him dispatch the few remaining people in the booth besides themselves quickly and efficiently, just as she normally liked. No need for grandiose displays, that had been covered earlier. Still, she also took note that his chosen method of execution, quick and clean, also suggested a certain level of detachment from the killing themselves, viewed as a duty.

 

"If I recall, you had been intrigued by Sith sorcery and alchemy in the past," she said, slowly circling around Connor. "You've heard stories, and seen many actions of sorcery or alchemy in play. You've witnessed monsters and their creations, the use of spells to conceal or harm others. You've seen the aftershocks of truly powerful rituals, wounds in the Force that bleed the dark side into our mundane realm of existence. Today, I intend to teach and show you one of the more... creative uses of sorcery and alchemy, something that I believe you'll be capable of using to great effect."

 

She turned her face away for a moment, and when she turned back a face that had haunted Connor for some time had taken its place. The face of her sister, Corvus Raaf.

 

"Today, I intend to teach you the technique of the Mask," she said, even her voice sounding like her sister's. "Today, I intend to teach you how you can take on the appearance of someone else entirely."



#28
Connor Harrison

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There was something ritualistic in the few seconds that followed. A dream like moment where he felt he had proven himself and stood beside the great Siths whom he had tried to defeat for years. Respect was there, admiration was there and understanding was there.

Taeli circled him and made Connor feel invincible. He took slow, peaceful breaths in and out, taking everything in at that moment. She knew what he was after, and what had been after since they had first met and she left a mark he still bore today - the taste of the darkness had never left him.

The promise of teachings, of power and dark arts was inviting, and he was standing with the best of the best to help him.

A confident, tiny smirk on his lips slowly dissolved when she turned. Sure, he kept the posture and the calm exterior, but at those violet eyes looking back at him, his skin crawled and the hairs on the back of his neck did their primeval teasing of his nerves.

The face belonged to Corvus, as did the physical - but the aura was not her. They both knew it, but that first few seconds - the seconds between life and death in battle - threw him, and Connor was looking back at the woman he had made a makehift grave for on Tatooine and hadn't seen for a good couple of years.

He nodded, and swallowed.

"And yet, Taeli is right there looking at me and talking, to anyone else around us, but me. Without even knowing it or feeling it, my mind is twisted. Fascinating."

Connor took a couple of steps towards her.

"Truly fascinating."

Like a fool, he reached up and brushed a thumb down the cheek of 'Corvus'. He scoffed, and smiled.

"Seems like I'll never really be free of her with you here, eh Tae."

Taeli Raaf

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#29
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

"You misunderstand, my student," Taeli replied. Of course Connor had likely had not encountered use of Mask in his meetings with other dark siders. This was no mere illusion affecting his mind, oh no. "This is no mere illusion or mind trick. But I can understand why you would think so. A demonstration that you can see then."

 

Still facing him, she began to use the dark side to change and twist the molecules of her face. It only took a moment for her, having practiced and used this technique and others for so long in her... tasks. To Connor, he would see her face changing, the eyes becoming wider and a bright blue, her nose shrinking, her complexion paling, a smattering of freckles appearing on the bridge of her nose, even her hair changed from her normal family brunette to a bright blonde. At the end, he was looking at a complete stranger.

 

"You can use the dark side of the Force to change your appearance on the molecular level, much like Art of the Small," she explained, changing her features back to her normal features, dropping the Mask away. "You can take on any appearance you so desire, changing the very features of your body, your outward appearance of age, you can even influence scars and other deformities to appear or disappear. True masters of the technique can even change someone's species."

 

She started to circle him again.

 

"But, a warning. If you suffer an attack of significant power in the dark side... the Mask will melt and forever disfigure your features, much like Darth Sidious, and you will be unable to use the power again. I feel you can see the usefulness of this technique for someone such as yourself, hmm?"



#30
Connor Harrison

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As Taeli changed again, Connor turned his head and gave a very curious look to her. It was a surreal sight to see, a human changing appearance twice before ones very eyes. As much as Connor had studied the Force all his life, alchemy and dark magic of the Sith was near alien to him.

He reached up again and placed the backs of his two fingers under Taeli's cheek and chin. It was still her; he could feel the skin and the pulse on her neck. He chewed his mouth a little.

"So the Dark Side practitioners literally change their own physical appearance, as the Force is a natural energy within them, it's a practice that literally changes them. The Force itself changes them."

Over the years he knew of the Sith Lord Sidious, and the greatest myth was his deception of the Jedi when he stood beside them for years but masked his very aura.

"Are you doing this with your Alliance allies? Masking your aura at least, or is that something else?" He turned away, but stopped for a second. "And, yes, I could think of a few scenarios this would be handy but would it benefit me? Probably not. But I like it."

Taeli Raaf

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#31
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

"No, that is something else entirely for how I work within the Alliance," she replied. She had to confess a small amount of disappointment that he felt the technique did not benefit him. What sort of training and tactics did he use as a Silver Shadow then if he didn't see the value in being able to change his appearance? Odd, she would need to see if Grandmaster Kitra would allow her access to the records or even an interview with Coci might reveal those answers.

 

"That is a spell of my own creation that I use to walk among and act as the Jedi," she continued saying. "But that's not what I'm teaching you today. Today, we're going to give you an invaluable weapon. You might not see the benefit yet, but consider these options. Changing your appearance to fool security cameras or enemies into thinking you are an ally committing some vile act, changing your appearance to slip in among your enemies, unknown to them, to gather intelligence or assassinate. Using this power to fool even your own allies. Using this power to usurp control of an organization, posing as the previous leader. The possibilities for cloak and dagger operations with this power are numerous. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't much of your skillset and training from the Silver Jedi within the realm of special operations?"



#32
Connor Harrison

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With a keen ear, Connor painted more and more of the picture with Taeli's help.

Of course - again he was thinking narrowly. The old Connor Harrison blinkered view of the here and now, not the grand tapestry he was painting. The First Order. The Silver Jedi. All stepping stones. But to where? To what?

Revenge. He lived for only that. When had had it? Then what? Was he a useless shell? Could he look BEYOND Coci and Thurion and what they did to his Jedi path? A sly grin crept over his lips at the practicality of using this molecular alteration. He could access top secret information, board superior vessels and obtain secrets for himself. Return to Voss - or as the latest umour was, Kashyyyk, and turn out the Silver Jedi. Or even Midvinter.

Taeli had moved around the room and spoken more he focused back on her.

"The Silvers? Er, yes that was the Shadows. Covert operations behind enemy lines. Getting the hands dirty so Jedi didn't have to. Interrogation. Assassination. Infiltration. My issue right now? I need to serve an ideal. Without one, I feel I have nothing. I need to belong. To unleash that power you wanted me to find with others at my beck and call, to follow as I lead and to lay waste to everything that has taken from me." He caught himself, and laughed a little. "Jesus I sound like a holodrama."

Connor glanced around the room again to compose himself.

"It will come in very handy. But what else can you offer besides a lesson?"

Taeli Raaf

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#33
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

Ah, that was what he was ultimately after. He always had wanted to get involved more deeply with her plans, and yes right now, he was sounding a bit like the old Connor. Hmm perhaps it was time to see if he could hold his weight and contribute to her plans. But... she would need to do some... risk aversion first. He might be loyal today, but who was to say that once he got a taste of power and influence, he might turn on her. And at this critical juncture, she couldn't afford any leaks or wild cards.

 

"Show me you can learn this skill... and we can discuss your future," she answered neutrally. Give him hope that she would involve him deeper, and he would never be able to leave her web.

 

"Because you are a neophyte in alchemy and the deeper arts of the dark side, we will have to... do this the hard way the first time," she continued. "As you are familiar with by this point, the best way to learn the Sith arts are to have them applied to you. In this case... we're going to need a basin and some blood, preferably some spilled in anger or some other dark emotion."

 

Her eyes traveled over to those people Connor had killed, her order implied.



#34
Connor Harrison

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Connor was confident he could learn the skill. He could learn anything. As such was his confidence , he was eager to progress and not adverse to questioning things, not now. He stepped away from Taeli at her request for a rather morbid blood basin, but there was no emotional connection to anyone or anything in the room, so it didn’t bother the man bred for the battlefield.

He stepped over the smouldering body of the gun-toting head honcho and knelt down by a long table to the rear wall. A few glasses, some plates that he moved aside looking for something to make do.

Some tall beakers, decanter and a steel bowl. That would do. No punch or cocktails this time.

The bowl clanked down and he hoisted up the limp body of one dead grunt, head placed inside the bowl. Propping his body up on the table with his knee, Connor pulled over the small amulet given to him by Lord Abyss to be used as a dagger, and penetrated the man’s neck. The body was still warm and the blood flowed easily. Connor raised the man’s left arm to get the blood to drain a little easier.

He looked to Taeli, waiting, as if at a taxi rank with no care in the world.

The blood was pouring into and out of the bowl, dribbling down the man’s flesh and table. Enough was cast out to at least cover his fingers placed down inside. He let the man drop down to the floor and turned to the Sith Lady.

"Do your magic," he said, slipping on the blood stained amulet with blood stained hands.

Taeli Raaf

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#35
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

She sniffed, whether in displeasure or not Connor would have to guess, as he conjured the dagger and began the bloody work of bleeding the body of the being he just killed. She could smell the decay clinging to the amulet, the diseased feeling magic that she was almost certain came from another Sith Lord. One that she was always... iffy about because of his knack for necromancy and what he had done seeking immortality. Once the blood had pooled sufficiently in the basin, she pluck the basin with the Force and had it float beside her.

 

Delicately, she dabbed a finger into the blood and started to draw arcane Sith runes on Connor's face. As she painted the runes, she infused the dark side into each one, giving it an ever so slight sinister glow as the power built. Unbeknownst to Connor, she added one more rune on the center of his forehead that was not part of learning the Mask. It was designed to be... a first step, one where she could keep track of the man if she needed to or contact him telepathically. She wouldn't hollow out part of his mind... not if she didn't have to yet.

 

"I warn you," she said, cleaning her fingertip. "This is going to be extremely painful. The runes will pull a face from your memory and shift your face into that. It's your task to figure out a way to revert the change. Once you do, you'll have control of the power to a degree."

 

With that said, she activated the ritual with a surge of dark energy.



#36
Connor Harrison

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The blood was cold somehow as she applied it to his face, painting whatever markings she had to do. He stood patiently, eyes glancing to the side where her finger went to see what impossibly he couldn’t, but was intrigued by.

His skin tingled. Taeli explained the process to which he had seconds to process before the tingling turned to needle-like pain.

Connor winced, pride preventing him from crying out or protesting; simply seeing it through. The markings on his face felt like each one was a thousand needle heads pushing and pressing against his flesh trying to burst free from under the skin. He wanted to touch and steam the painful itch, but he had to see it through.

As the pain increased, the needles began to burn at the same time under his skin, as if it was cooking his muscle tissue and spreading over him. This time, he did cry out in agony and frustration, turning to the far table and leaning over it. Grunts and low groans emitted from his throat as he battled the dark magic that caused his knee to buckle. The table his fingers were dug into splintered and cracked right across the fibres as he pushed everything outwards as his face felt like it was shifting and his throat contracting.

Then, the pain stopped and everything felt tight. Connor gasped and banged his fist down again on the table to distract himself as an ice cold feeling now ran over his face. His skin and muscles felt raw and new, and he opened his eyes and his mouth slowly, getting a sensation from feeling them move.

He gingerly turned to Taeli, her face giving nothing away as she watched him. Running a finger gently over his chin and felt thin fibres of hair which stopped him in surprise. He looked to the bowl of blood beside her and moved to see his reflection.

The face that greeted him was nothing short of mind-blowing.

Thurion Heavenshield, former Grandmaster of the Silver Jedi and husband and father looked back, mirroring Connor’s hand movements and turns of the head left and right. The hair seemed to be dirty blonde and black; it wasn’t perfect, but the face was eerily accurate. That Midvinter bone structure and arrogant face that always talked down to Connor.

”Trul – “ the sound of Thurion’s cracked voice bled with Connor’s shocked him, and he looked at Taeli. ”Truly – this is beyond any Jedi power.”

Looking back at the reflection a final few touches of his chin and cheek, Connor nodded and turned away and looked out at the pod race. Now to bring his features back. The manipulation of molecules was a corruption of the Dark Side, which meant it was carried through by the Force. The Force that was inside him and was at his control.

Standing still. Controlling breathing. Not overly thinking about it. Connor drew in the Force inside him and looked at nothing with open eyes, but concentrated on ridding the mask of Thurion to let Connor’s facial hair, structure and voice return. In turn, this meant he rejected the memory of his former Master into the depths of his own brain and returned to the here and now; of his understanding of Dark Side alchemy and the possibility of a darker, more powerful future.

His deranged tear duct began to weep blood as he concentrated a little too hard, straining and seething his breath to pull the Force in and have it return his natural face. The tight sensation returned and the needles felt like they were retracting under the skin, but Connor maintained his focus on the Dark Side and that it was all a manipulation of the Force, and that was in control.

Fists clenched again, and his body went tight….and then it was over.

Sweat beaded his brow, and a hand went to touch the features he felt were familiar. He returned to the bowl to see his own face, looking a little dishevelled, looking back. He glanced over to Taeli, feeling worse for wear but slightly pleased.

"It’ll get easier, right? And without the blood? What happens now?"

Taeli Raaf

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#37
Taeli Raaf

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Connor Harrison

 

Interesting, she thought, as Connor took on the visage of Thurion Heavenshield. The Heavenshields were always there in his head, driving him to greater depths of power in his quest for revenge against them. It only made sense the former Grandmaster of the Silver Jedi would be the form the spell would draw out. It wasn't perfect, but she hadn't expected it to be. Only practice with the art could create a perfect replica of another being. She stayed silent as he examined himself, and he began the process of turning himself back into his normal form. He knew the answer she was about to say, but always best to hear it aloud.

 

"It will be easier the more you practice it," she confirmed. "The blood serves as a catalyst to unlock the power, nothing more. You won't require it for later use, and yes it truly is a power beyond the Jedi."

 

In her opinion, the Jedi teachings had stagnated. They were afraid of pursuing greater mysteries in the Force, content on mastering the abilities passed down through generations. The Sith, on the other hand, were always striving to grow their power, increase their knowledge of the dark side and pushing those boundaries further. Once again, as she had mentioned a long time ago, it was the difference between evolution and tradition.

 

"Now, I return to Alliance space to recover the holocron," she continued. "My plans are about to accelerate, besides the holocron, as Eldaah was meeting an informant here I have within SIS. The Alliance move to take Byss as they have found out a Sith listening post was stationed there that facilitated the Sith attack on Thyferra. That listening post is mine, and is a trap to draw in the Grand Marshal. Soon... you'll be looking at the new Grand Marshal of New Jedi Order."



#38
Connor Harrison

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He touched his face; cheek, brow and jaw as Taeli talked. There was still a tingling sensation there, and it was almost alien that the Force had been able to pull his identity into that of another. The Dark Side was truly a pathway to many abilities he had never thought about.

As she spoke, he moved over to her, the pieces of the Sith and Alliance puzzle falling into place. Always a woman with a plan...but, it wasn't over yet was it?

"Wait."

Connor cracked a bone in his neck and stepped back to her, taking the basin of blood and throwing it out of the way.

"What about us? What now? This seems to happen - you give me a taste of things, and you go, and I fade away. I don't want to keep fading away. Let me help you. Let me...let me be what you thought I could be. Please."

His hand was on her arm, and he pulled it back, unaware he was practically pleading with her. That was something he didn't want to be seen as doing.

Taeli Raaf

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#39
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Connor Harrison

 

"Don't worry about fading away this time, Connor," she replied soothingly. She knew he was desperate for a cause, to assist her in her goals. No, this time she would soothe the ego and bring him in... somewhat into her plans. Her comlink beeped to inform her of Eldaah's success in retrieving the information they needed for the Alliance push on Byss. She would review it once she was back at her ship. As for Connor... the time had come for him to finally decide.

 

"You will be of use to the Sith now," she continued saying. "If it is what you desire, to further my plans and those of the Sith... kneel before me and pledge yourself and your destiny to the Sith."

 

If he chose to take this pledge, to take a new name and join her cause, then she would bring him further into her plans. If he chose not to, well... he would remain on the outside looking in, always an occasional associate and kept away from true power.



#40
Connor Harrison

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Connor gave a laugh; the sort you blow through the nose, as in it was amusing but with a heavy heart he found much truth in her words and actions.

Glancing to her com as it sounded, he lost himself in thought. Kneel and pledge. There was nothing left to question.

Hand covered in blood of a nobody. Attacking Alliance ships for the First Order. At the thought of the First Order and what he had done, he pursed his lips. A nod of the head confirmed it.

"Our paths crossed years before the Force brought us together. Then you left a mark on me that never left."

He was Connor Harrison and had so much more to give those who appreciated him and his resolve. With that, he knelt and looked down at Taeli's gown on the floor. There was no room for false ego; this was the bottom of a ladder he couldn't afford to fall from again.

"Everything I have, everything I am, belongs to the Dark Side and to you."

Connor breathed out slowly.

"Those who stand before the true servants of the Dark Side - the Sith - shall fall by my hand."

The pledge was made.

Taeli Raaf

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