Milivai – Malavai’s younger brother. Imperial Agent. He became the head of the Sith Intelligence after the had forced Lana Beniko to step down for her fiasco during the Ziost crisis.
Nayel – Malavai’s cousin. Sith Inquisitor. Dark Lord in the Dark Council known as Darth Nox, responsible for the Ancient Knowledge Sphere of Influence.
Attira – Sith Warrior. Married Malavai Quinn. Frozen in carbonite for 5 years. The Commander of the Alliance.
Nil’awr – Malavai and Attira’s son. 4 years old at the time of the story.
The story takes place shortly after Malavai Quinn was imprisoned by Minister Lorman for refusing to abandon his search for the Empire’s Wrath.
“Coward,” Mili muttered to himself. “I’m surrounded by cowards.”
He took another look at the datapad in his hand, and sighed. He was running out of favours and contacts, and still not getting anywhere closer to his goal.
He couldn’t leave his brother behind bars for innocence. Trying to find one’s wife was no crime. Trying to find one of most valued and important for the Empire Sith should be a priority, not something to be abandoned, buried, and now also forbidden. Mili had no idea how come such a pathetic, cowardly worm like Lorman had so much power, but apparently someone up there found him useful enough to keep him around, and allow him do such stupid things.
Mili’s eyes narrowed. Lorman was Acina’s footstool. Was it Acina’s decision? Was she afraid that the Wrath – a powerful, patriotic Sith – would challenge her claim to the throne, and try to take it? He had no doubts Acina would never be able to be any threat to Attira; she’d also have no chances against Attira. The Wrath was an unstoppable force that had reached her position through power, strength and cunning. Acina was a glorified archivist, who became empress by utilising chaos, not by proving her strength. A half-forgotten Sith who took the throne behind everyone’s back, because no one was looking.
But it was also entirely possible the self-proclaimed empress had no idea what Lorman was doing. He was a coward, but those were good at scheming necessary to survive. It was safer than openly express their opinions and actions.
He considered applying for an audience with Acina for the third time, but he was certain it would be pointless. Whoever had refused his previous applications, would stop this one too. Lorman, most likely, or one of his lackeys.
He was running out of ideas how to save his brother, and how to get him out of this mess. If only Malavai wasn’t so stubborn. If only he considered his search a secondary matter, and did it in his spare time. But he wanted full resources, he wanted everything at his disposal to be most effective, and efficient. Mili knew he had calculated numbers in his head, coming to conclusions that then had driven his actions.
Sometimes Mili wondered why his brother was so attached to that Sith. He was in love, fine, but this seemed like… like he could not live without her – literally. Maybe actively searching for her was helping him with dealing with this loss.
If she was even alive, and not many believed that was the case.
The door to his office opened. Surprised, he looked up. His door didn’t open without him being notified earlier who was coming.
Something was wrong.
Blasters held by the visitors confirmed his suspicion.
“Good day, Commander,” said one.
Mili’s eyebrow raised, as he assessed his assailants. Right now they had the advantage, so he had to make sure it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
He rose from his chair, from the corner of his eye noticing a message blinking on his display: Trap. Leave office now! Lost in thoughts he hadn’t noticed it in time.
“What’s this?” he asked, although he had a very good idea what it was about.
“Minister Lorman sends his regards,” said the man in front, and made a motion with his blaster.
Before he had time to pull the trigger, he fell forward face down. Mili ducked behind his desk, scrambling to grab his toxic toys. First he rolled from under the desk, sending poisoned darts ahead, hoping many of them would find their targets: the attackers’ calves. Some fell, but he wasn’t certain it was due to pain in their legs, surprise at it, or as a result of blaster bolts that kept taking their heads off. He threw a toxic grenade, which added to the confusion, as the toxin filled the air. Holding his breath, he grabbed the anti-toxin, and injected himself before the poison could harm him.
When the commotion finally quieted down, and the toxin dissolved in the air, Thanishar entered the room. He had suspected it was her; her sniper skills were not a secret, and many bodies had clear marks of carefully placed targets on their heads.
“Thanks,” he said, panting slightly from exertion.
“You’re not making any friends recently,” she observed. Her glowing red eyes watched him carefully, as he was getting up from the floor.
“Lorman really wants Malavai to stay in prison,” he said.
“I wonder if it’s because Malavai is defying him or there’s something he should worry about in case of the Wrath’s return.”
“I’m not sure it matters.” He approached the main computer console, and accessed it. He scanned the offices to make sure they were safe for now. “What I’d like to know if how they got here without triggering any alarms. If a group of unauthorised men can roam here freely armed to teeth, there’s something very wrong with our security measures.”
“Couldn’t agree more.”
“You sent the warning message?” She nodded. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Mmm, this is not good,” he muttered to himself. The Chiss didn’t have to ask what he meant, as she was right next to him seeing the same data.
“You can’t stay here, Mili,” she said softly.
“I’ll deal with it.”
“Mili.” She put her hand on his shoulder, and turned him to face her. “Lorman will not stop until you are prevented from freeing your brother. He wants him locked up. He doesn’t want you to change it. At best he is going to imprison you too, at worst… kill you.”
“What do you suggest? Give up?” He shrugged her hand off. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Mili, you know the reports. You know everything that happens in the Empire. It’s your job to know, so you must be aware of plots he puts in motion. You cannot withstand that kind of attack.”
Mili frowned. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew she was right. Lorman was a half-wit but his scheming was surprisingly clever, and the commander spend many an hour untangling the minister’s traps. What was worse, Lorman was clearly losing patience – or perhaps Mili’s efforts were closer to fruitful resolution – so now the minister simply resorted to sending a death squad.
“He must have some story to cover this up…” he said, pointing at dead bodies on the floor.
“Most likely some fabricated charges against you that justify immediate execution.”
They looked at each other for a short while.
“You probably don’t have much time,” she said eventually. “I’m sure he’s waiting for their report, and if it doesn’t come, he’ll know they failed.”
Mili shook his head. “I can’t leave my brother.”
“Mili, Lorman wants to kill you. Malavai wouldn’t want you dead for him.”
She was right.
“Take my ship. I’ll let Vector know what’s going on. They probably know we’re friends, but they’ll look for your transponder first. Hopefully, they’ll think of searching for mine when you’re safe away from here.”
“I have to get Nil’awr.”
He headed for the door, then stopped.
“I’ll clean this up, don’t worry,” she said.
That wasn’t what was worrying him.
“Where will I go?”
“Try that Outlander person. He destroyed the Star Fortress above Alderaan. Vector said Kilik larvae are not sick any more, and eggs hatch healthy again. Whoever that is, he’d doing a great job fighting the real threat of the Empire. I’m sure he could use a good slicer.”
An alert sounded.
“Go!” Shar said. “We have a breach, and I’m sure they won’t be as easy as these wimps.”
“Thanks. For everything.”
She smiled at him.
He turned and ran down the corridor, trying to reach the back entrance before Lorman’s people spread in the building, trying to find him. He hoped Thanishar was safe but he also knew she could take care of herself. She’d survived as many scrapes as he had.
His chamber was quiet and dark. The lone lamp over his desk gave sufficient light, while surrounding darkness helped him concentrate.
“Master! Master!” Herneth’s voice disturbed the silence, echoing in the corridor. She ran into the chamber, her purple skin a darker shade than usual.
“What is it?” he asked, not trying to hide his irritation. He’d sent her for a couple of tablets, but he expected them to be delivered in silence without disturbing his work. That’s how the quiet young Sith always did it.
“There are people headed here,” she answered, catching her breath. Apparently, she ran all the way. “Armed. They asked acolytes if you were in your chamber.”
“They wanted to make sure I was in?”
“Seems so… Master…” He raised his hand to calm her down. “Again?” she asked.
“Again, Apprentice. This never ends. A powerful Sith is always challenged, and has to constantly prove his – or her – position is deserved.”
She shook her head. “Master… this is more than attempts at taking your position or defeating you to prove anything. They are not only Sith. They are Imperial military and Sith. This is more than that.”
He sighed. Another batch of Lorman’s soon-to-be-dead minions. It happened every time he was one step closer to freeing Malavai. He’d been told this was not a Sith matter, that he shouldn’t bother himself with Imperial affairs, that it was below his position, but he wasn’t going to abandon his family. He wouldn’t even if Malavai had committed a crime, so he certainly wouldn’t for his cousin’s innocence. Wanting to find one’s wife was not against any rules he knew.
The door opened, and without any warning blaster bolts flew inside. Herneth deflected them all with her dual lightsaber, giving Nayel time to fetch his own, leap between the attackers, and with immense pleasure cut them to tiny pieces. While fighting off their attackers, he couldn’t not feel pride at his apprentice’s skills. He always knew this reluctant Sith was exceptional, even if this was the last place she wanted to be… the last person she wanted to be.
The fight didn’t take long, but before the last body fell, they heard more rushing steps in the corridor. Another batch.
Herneth looked at him. “Even Lorman learns, albeit slowly,” she said. “He knows by now a couple of Sith wouldn’t take you down. He knows a couple of Sith with Imperials can’t take you down. Sooner or later he’d send an overkill team just to be sure.”
“And you think this is the overkill team?”
“Master… even if not now, it will come,” she replied, emphasising ‘will’. He had to agree with her.
He considered his options. They could fight them. They would either win, and then fight another day again or they would lose and die. Bottom line: Lorman was set to get him dead, and would not stop until that happened.
Nayel’s fury grew. A growl came out of his throat, making Herneth give him a worried look. By now, she knew she didn’t have to fear him, but she also knew this sound meant someone should. He looked at her. That idiot minister was after him, not the girl. She didn’t have to sacrifice her life.
“We’ll defeat this group, then you will take the west corridor, you know – the one that leads to the secondary archive – and leave the building.”
“And you?” she asked looking at him.
“I’ll take whatever is coming.”
She shook her head, making jewellery on her lekku clatter quietly. “No, Master. Where you go, I go. I’m merely a slave without you.”
“You’re not a slave, you’re a Sith. Like me. You’ll be fine.”
He gave her a surprised look. Such a harsh word in her soft voice was unexpected. But before he had time to argue, the rooms started filling with more future corpses. He rained lightening on them, so the room filled with screams of pain. A Force push splat one of them on the wall, making a shallow dent in it.
“We need to go, Master,” Herneth said.
“Bossy today,” he joked.
But she wasn’t in a mood for jokes. She headed toward the door, then stopped to wait for him. He didn’t like that thought but he knew she was right: Lorman would keep sending assassins until they’d succeed.
Feeling guilty, he followed her, and they headed outside, utilising little frequented corridors well known to the Sith Academy residents but unknown to visitors.
They reached his ship just in time only to discover troops surrounding it.
“I guess we’re stuck on Korriban for a while,” he dead-panned.
“Not as if we don’t have plenty of places to hide. Who knows, maybe we even find some unknown crypt.”
His face was brightened by his loopsided grin for a moment but then regained its serious expression.
“I need access to a holocomm unit,” he said.
“I can get some acolytes smuggle one,” she said.
“Let’s find a safe place, and then plan our next move.”
All Phantom-class ships were the same, yet it was clear to Mili this one was not his. He set up Shar’s room as his own, and dropped a box of hastily collected toys on the bed. Then he returned to the bridge. Nil’awr was still in the captain’s chair, playing with a toy Fury Malavai had given him for his fourth birthday.
He unlocked the bridge’s controls, and set course for Korriban. He had considered talking to Nayel on holo, but their conversation could be eavesdropped, so he’d decided to pay him a visit in person. His cousin was the only one he knew that had any chances of fixing this mess.
He heard a quiet thump behind him, so looked back to see his little nephew asleep. The little starship toy had fallen out of his tiny hand to the deck, making the sound. He took off the spaceport, set the course, jumped into hyperspace, then stood up and went to the boy to scoop him into his arms to put him to sleep.
The boy woke up on the way to the bed.
“I want daddy,” he murmured.
Not again, Mili thought. They had been through this several times already, and while it happened more and more rarely, it was still happening.
“Daddy can’t come.”
“I want daddy!” His thin voice was stronger, more stubborn, and his chin started trembling.
Mili put him on the bed. “If you want a story, I’ll tell you the story.”
“I want daddy!” Tears filled Nil’awr’s green eyes. “I want daddy tell me story! I want daddy!”
He sat on the bed, took the child into his arms, and cradled him, trying to calm him down.
At first crying had taken place every evening after Malavai’s arrest. Nil’awr couldn’t understand why daddy wasn’t coming to him, like every night his whole short life. With passing weeks, the boy started adapting, but apparently complete change of surroundings – the ship, the room, not his own bed – were enough to bring all insecurities out of the little boy.
Mili’s heart was bleeding at the suffering of the innocent child. He tried his best to fill in the void, but he knew he was just an uncle, not daddy.
Eventually, Nil’awr fell asleep tired out by his own crying. Mili put him gently on the bed, and covered with a blanket. He watched him for a while: the red, puffy face still showing signs of the boy’s sorrow. He set a little doodad to notify him the moment the boy woke up, and returned to the bridge.
He was in the middle of planning his next steps, mostly of retrieving his emergency assets, when the holo sounded, informing him of an incoming message.
He stood up to receive it. Thanishar.
“He contacted us on your ship, so I’m patching him through to you,” she said, then disappeared. A second later another figure shimmered in. Nayel.
“I need your help,” he said without preamble. He sounded urgent. “I need you to get me off Korriban.”
“What? What happened?” Mili asked shocked, as he was checking the security scrambling of the connection. Fortunately, Shar had done her job perfectly, and their conversation was private.
“I’m sending you co-ordinates,” Nayel said. “You will have to pick us up here. There’s sufficient space for landing. Don’t get anywhere near the orbital station.”
“Herneth and I.”
“I’ll be there in a few hours.”
Nayel only growled in answer.
Mili and Nayel
Nil’awr seemed to be calmer and happier in Nayel’s arms. Mili suspected it was because of the Force – the boy could sense his uncle, and it offered him a feeling of security his non-Force sensitive family members couldn’t.
“Soooo, are we going to do it?” Nayel asked.
“Shar thought it was a good idea, and to be honest I agree. Lorman’s message was clear: if we don’t try to return, he won’t send any squads after us.”
“As if his word was worth anything,” Nayel grumbled.
“True. But we certainly have nothing to return to in the Sith Empire, he made sure of that. Do you want to be a farmer somewhere?”
“I’d rather be a chef.”
Mili smiled. Nayel was a splendid cook. He had been raised in a kitchen as a slave worker of a wealthy family, and food had no secrets from him.
“At least we will do something useful. Vector’s contact seems to be ready to get a message from us. All I have to do is to type in the holo number… and scramble the signal.”
Nayel nodded toward the holocom.
Mili sat at the comm station, and started working on the connection. The projected face was the last person he’d expected to see.
“Milivai Quinn,” the SIS agent said, mirroring Mili’s astonishment. “The commander of Sith Intelligence.”
“Former commander,” Mili corrected him. Saying it felt like a stab in the heart. He’d worked hard for his position, so to lose it to scheming of a lesser man was humiliating and infuriating.
“I was informed you’d like to… join our cause.”
“Indeed. Time to fight the true enemy of our galaxy. That is, if your commander would have us.”
Nayel leaned forward, so that the camera would pick him up. “Hi, Theron,” he grinned.
Mili was under impression the Pub agent’s face darkened with a blush.
“As handsome as always,” Nayel mumbled, returning to his seat.
“Come to these co-ordinates,” Shan sent the data. “We will talk.”
“Received. We’ll be there the day after tomorrow. We need a small detour first.”
Theron nodded his acknowledgement, and closed the channel.
Mili looked at Nil’awr. “Shar said he’ll be safe on Alderaan, while we… check this Alliance out.”
“Good,” Nayel nodded. His whole attention was seemingly on the boy, who laughed out loud at another trick his uncle had just shown him.
Theron Shan led Mili and Nayel to a lift, which then rode downstairs.
“The commander has been informed of your arrival, and is expecting you,” he said.
“Is all they say about her true or legend?” Mili asked.
Shan smiled. “Depends on what you heard, but I suspect a lot of it is true… or there is truth in a lot of it.”
They left the lift, walked downstairs toward a large holo table.
“Commander,” Theron said.
She was turned with her back to them, but Mili recognised her immediately, and knew whom he was looking at before her eyes lay on him. She turned to look at her new recruits, her green eyes opened wider, and she ran to him.
“Mili!” she shouted, wrapping her arms around his neck. He returned the hug, ignoring Nayel’s asking look. “Where is he? Where is he? Where are they?” she started asking. Mili had no doubt she mean Malavai and Nil’awr.
“I…” he hesitated. He knew her feelings for his brother were as strong as his for her. He knew she’d do everything to free him. He knew he couldn’t allow it. “I don’t know,” he lied with a heavy heart.
Nayel’s eyebrows raised in astonishment but he thankfully didn’t say anything.
Her arms fell to her sides. “You don’t?” Her disappointment was palpable.
“I’m sorry,” he replied.
For a moment she stood, staring somewhere in front of her, then blinked, composed herself, and straightened. “Glad to have you here,” she said.
“This is Nayel,” Mili said.
“Darth Nox,” she stated, looking at him.
“Apparently, formerly of the Dark Council now,” Nayel muttered bitterly.
“Welcome aboard,” she said politely. As usual when two powerful Sith met, there was some initial tension between them. These two were no exception but Mili was certain that would dissolve soon. She was family, and Nayel had an extremely soft spot for everything “family”.
“Before you return to work,” Mili said, “I just wanted to add that I’ll bring Nil’awr here soon.”
Her eyes brightened again, and a small smile played in her lips. “We have a lot to catch up.”
“We do indeed.”
“Theron, get them settled,” she ordered Shan, who nodded. Then she turned back to Mili. “I’ll see you later.”
Then she turned back to the holo table, resuming her discussion with her people.
“Why did you lie to her?” Nayel asked when they were finally alone.
“For several reasons.”
“She’d do everything to free him. She’d take her resources, her people, her ships to attack Dromund Kaas, to storm Kaas City, to set him free. Peaceful, legal means don’t work, as we both learnt. Force would be the only way of getting him out of prison, and the destruction and body count would be immeasurable!”
“I can’t allow that, Nayel! What’s more, Malavai wouldn’t want that. He’s my brother, but he’s one man, and she’s a Sith who would burn half the planet to get him out of there.”
“I can’t risk it! And your reaction only confirms that Sith disregard life.” Nayel snorted but Mili ignored him, and continued. “Well, I don’t. Malavai doesn’t. Not Imperial lives.” He paused for a moment. “I’m not sure he’d forgive her slaughtering so many people merely for his freedom, and the last thing I want is to draw a wedge between them.
“We’ll get him out, Nayel,” Mili promised. “But not this way. Not at such high cost.”
“What about the cost of your lies? Will they forgive you that?”
“I’ll live with the consequences,” Mili muttered.
Nayel shook his head. “I’ll play your game… for now. But let me ask you something: can you live with yourself knowing they could be torturing him right now, and you could stop it but don’t? Will you be able to live with yourself if he dies in there, and you could prevent it but don’t?”
Mili gave Nayel such a look the Sith didn’t press any more.