Chapter Three

The ship entered Hyperspace with no sign of pursuit. Vax breathed out a sigh of relief. Those Jedi had seemingly come out of nowhere, but he didn’t think they knew he had been on-planet.
            He stood from his seat at the controls and went to check on Talyc. He put a hand on the unconscious Mandalorian’s face. He felt warmer and the colour was returning to his skin with some pink on his cheeks. Vax observed him for a few moments. He dared not to think what could have happened had he not found him at Awgro’s mercy. While Vax had known Awgro meant to kill a Mandalorian, he had not known the Mandalorian in question was Talyc. The Sith had also not told him was why he wanted to kill him. At least he knew the prototype energy shield functioned as intended.
            Vax went to the holoterminal and contacted the Minister of Intelligence; he only now realised the Minister had tried to raise him earlier.
            The holoimage of the Minister appeared.
            ‘Minister,’ said Vax.
            ‘Cypher Five, I’m glad you are reporting in. I hope you are no longer on Mandalore. The Sith you were accompanying has gone rogue and is no longer to be trusted, as per orders from the Dark Council.’
            Vax nodded. ‘I saw that. He tried to kill Clan Leader Talyc Kandera. I arrived in time and had the opportunity to test the prototype energy shield. It works. It saved both of us from Awgro.’
            The Minister narrowed his eyes. ‘Now, when you say “both of us,” what exactly do you mean?’
            ‘I mean precisely that,’ replied Vax. ‘I saved Talyc, and now he’s in my care.’
            The Minister stood. ‘You mean to tell me you’ve kidnapped a Mandalorian clan leader?’
            ‘Kidnapped is a very strong word, Minister,’ said Vax. ‘I saved his life!’ Vax put enough emphasis without raising his voice. ‘Awgro was trying to kill him and he is not stopping there. The Jedi and his clan failed to protect him from Awgro who remains on Mandalore; therefore I deemed it best he come with me. He will be better protected on Dromund Kaas.’
            The Minister sighed. ‘Very well. I suppose it is too late to return him now. I hope you know what you’re doing, Cypher Five; technically, that man is our enemy.’
            ‘He doesn’t have to be,’ said Vax.
            ‘I want you to bring him in for questioning as soon as you touch down on Dromund Kaas, and I mean immediately when you arrive.’
            ‘Understood. Cypher out.’

* * *

            A small contingent of guards took Talyc from the med bed and lifted him, carrying him from Vax’s ship; the Mandalorian’s feet dragged on the ground. Vax did not particularly like the idea of Talyc being taken in this way, but he had to follow procedure, given he’d essentially acted out of order.
            When they arrived at the Minister’s office, the tall man sat behind his desk, scowling.
            ‘I hope you know what you’re doing bringing this man here to Dromund Kaas,’ he said.
            ‘You’ve said, yes,’ replied Vax.
            The Minister looked at the guards. ‘Remove his armour. Regular procedures.’
            The guards removed the armour pieces, as others continued to hold Talyc up. Not quite the way Vax would have imagined watching Talyc being stripped of his gear, but he stood watching, hands behind his back, and did not object to the procedures. The guards put the armour, vibroblade and blaster in a crate and tossed it aside.
            ‘You’ll safeguard his things,’ said the Minister.
            ‘Yes. He can stay at my apartment,’ said Vax.
            ‘With a guard outside your door,’ added the Minister. ‘Now search his person for anything that might be hidden: datapads, recording devices, trackers, anything at all.’
            The guards began searching as Talyc started to come to, his head lolling, and his eyes slowly opening. He moaned in discomfort before his eyes went wide and he began wrestling the guards, fighting them as any skilled warrior would. He had one in a lock as another shocked him and punched him in the gut.
            ‘That’s enough!’ Vax called out, stepping between the guards and Talyc, taking hold of Talyc to help him stand. ‘I did not bring him here to be tortured. I brought him here so that the Empire could protect him from that Sith Awgro.’
            The Minister walked from behind the desk. ‘That man is our enemy, Cypher Five, he must–’
            ‘He doesn’t have to be,’ came the voice of Lord Void, who entered the Minister’s office. Vax nodded towards the Minister, giving importance to the Dark Lord’s words, which echoed Vax’s earlier statement. Lord Void walked around the guards and dismissed them. He looked at Talyc. ‘Clan Leader Talyc Kandera, I apologise for this inconvenient misunderstanding.’
            ‘Misunderstanding?’ said Talyc. ‘Vax, you captured me.’ Talyc shook his head.
            ‘Actually, Cypher Five saved your life,’ said Lord Void. ‘It seems you owe him your thanks.’
            Talyc looked at Vax. He shrugged him off and stood on his own. ‘Is this true, Vax?’
            ‘He did not know that Awgro, my apprentice, had gone rogue when he was recruited by him for a mission on Mandalore,’ continued Void.
            ‘I walked in on Awgro draining you of your life,’ said Vax. ‘He would have killed us both if not for the prototype energy shield.’
            ‘Cypher Five acted on his own when he chose to bring you here,’ said the Minister. ‘Understand that you were not our target.’
            ‘I will have to run this with the rest of the Dark Council,’ said Lord Void, ‘but the Empire is willing to discuss a potential truce with your clan, with Mandalore, to allow them to come for you, and for us to assist each other, given we have a common enemy.’
            ‘Why does Awgro want to kill me?’ asked Talyc.
            Lord Void and the Minster looked at each other. Lord Void stepped forward and handed Talyc a datapad.
            ‘His father,’ Void said bluntly. ‘Kelbourn Kandera.’
            Talyc hissed. ‘That’s just my luck.’ He glanced at the datapad. ‘I remember Kelbourn talking about this woman.’ He pointed at her image. ‘He was so young.’ Talyc swayed a bit, then steadied himself, but remained in a hunched position.
            Vax understood now. He swallowed hard as the gravity of the situation settled in his mind.
            ‘It appears that my apprentice is trying to claim the Crypt,’ said Lord Void.
            ‘Everything he said was true, though,’ said Talyc. ‘Fane and Shadie and everyone else, they could sense it. He must have worded things very carefully.’ He turned his head. ‘Like I had with Kromus,’ he added under his breath. 
            ‘Indeed,’ said the Minister. ‘You will stay at Cypher Five’s apartment. You understand that while you are on Dromund Kaas we must follow standard procedures, given you are not yet an ally, nor might you technically ever be. A guard will stand watch, and you cannot have access to your weapons or armour.’
            ‘In other words, I’m your prisoner,’ said Talyc, disdain in his voice.
            ‘You’re under our protection,’ said Vax.
            ‘I can’t protect myself if I can’t have access to my weapons and armour. And I’m certainly not going to entrust my protection to you.’
            That stung. ‘Talyc, the Jedi failed to protect you,’ said Vax. ‘Your clan failed to protect you. Awgro is still on Mandalore as far as we know. I will protect you.’
            Talyc didn’t reply. He stared at Lord Void for a good moment.
            ‘How long will it take to arrange for my clan to come for me?’
            ‘If all goes well, it shouldn’t take more than a week,’ said Lord Void.
            ‘A week? I have to suffer your company for a full week?’ The question had been directed at Vax. Talyc turned towards the exit. ‘Show me where I’ll be staying then.’
            ‘Clan Leader Talyc Kandera,’ the Minister said authoritatively, ‘you will be dismissed when we decide–’  
            Lord Void stopped him, holding up his hand. ‘It’s all right. You may go.’ Talyc stopped, turning his head to look back at Lord Void. ‘You probably need rest. Just tell us the name of your clan’s second leader.’
            Talyc took a breath and seemed to nod to himself. ‘Agent Knarf,’ he said.
            ‘Thank you,’ said Lord Void.
            Talyc glared at the Dark Lord as Vax led the way out of the room.

* * *

            There were two guards standing watch already. Talyc followed Vax into the apartment. It was fairly roomy, sparsely decorated, but it had a nice look to it. There was a central lounge and Talyc sat down, taking in a deep breath, feeling weak. He felt dizzy, as though he had been drinking, drunk when he wasn’t and probably should be.
            ‘The kitchen is that way if you need to eat anything. The refresher down that hall. The guest bedroom is this way. I’ll have to head back out, but I’ll be back later.’ Vax paused. ‘You must feel completely drained after that ordeal,’ said Vax.
            ‘I’ve suffered worse,’ said Talyc. ‘You didn’t see what Relsor did to me.’
            ‘Relsor would already be dead if I had.’
            Talyc looked up at him. ‘Did you really save my life?’
            ‘I swear to you, Talyc. I had no idea you were the Mandalorian Awgro wanted to kill. That energy shield saved both our lives.’
            ‘Thanks, then…I guess.’
            Vax crouched in front of Talyc. ‘Whatever else you think of me, Talyc, I still care about you.’ Talyc rolled his eyes. ‘It’s true!’
            ‘That why you infiltrated Mandalore and captured my friend?’
            ‘I did that for the Empire.’ Vax took a beat. ‘You tried to kill me,’ he snapped back.
            ‘That’s rich, coming from the man who abandoned me once,’ said Talyc. ‘You are my enemy; of course, I’d shoot at you while defending my clan.’
            ‘I don’t have to be your enemy, Talyc, just like Lord Void said.’ Vax leaned in a bit closer, too close for Talyc’s comfort. ‘Not a day goes by when I don’t think of you, when I don’t regret leaving you. But I can’t change that past now. I put my Empire first and you second.’ Vax looked right into Talyc eyes. ‘I’m sorry.’
            Talyc studied Vax for a moment. He didn’t possess the Force, and he thought he had been a good judge of character. Though, of course, he had misjudged others time and again, only to be hurt or disappointed.
            Vax seemed to be sincere, and Talyc hoped he was. Vax leaned in closer and Talyc turned his head to the side, feeling Vax’s breath on his cheek as his forehead touched the side of his. Talyc felt his heart pounding. He had once loved that man, but he also loved another now and that love was truer and stronger than anything else he could ever feel.
            Vax backed away. ‘Sorry.’
            ‘You think you can come back into my life, especially after you betrayed my trust on Mandalore, and think that all of a sudden, because you saved my life, all the wrongs you did to me don’t matter anymore?’
            Vax stood. ‘I understand your anger towards me. I hope we can move past this, we will after all be cohabiting for a little while.’
            Vax left the apartment and Talyc closed his eyes. He sighed. Vax was right, he was angry, and maybe a part of him still felt something, but even now, all Talyc could think of was his man, Fane, and how the Sith, the Empire, the dark side, always seemed to try to keep them apart, and how the dark side could take Fane away for good.
            Talyc looked out the viewport into the rain outside. ‘Fane, if you can feel me through the Force, please come for me.’ There were few Talyc trusted his life with, and they were all on Mandalore.

* * *

            When Talyc awoke from his nap, he could not tell whether it was still day, or if evening had arrived. It was still raining outside, that he could tell. He freshened himself up and then stood in the central living area, just looking out at Dromund Kaas.
            The door slid open and Vax entered the apartment. Talyc turned his head momentarily and then looked back out the viewport. He had no desire to speak with Vax at the moment, but he was bored and wished he had someone with whom to share his thoughts.
            Vax approached him and stood near him, facing him. ‘You must be hungry, Talyc.’ Talyc shrugged. ‘Why don’t you join me for dinner; I know a good place nearby, fit for a Mandalorian warrior like yourself.’
            Talyc looked at Vax; he seemed jovial enough. ‘Why would I want to have dinner with my captor?’
            Vax bowed his head. ‘I wasn’t trying to capture you, Talyc, I truly was trying to save your life.’ He looked back up at him. ‘I want you to be safe. I don’t want you to die, whatever you might think of me.’
            ‘It sure feels like some sort of imprisonment,’ said Talyc. He looked back out the viewport.
            ‘It doesn’t have to be. We can get along.’ Vax paused. He took a step forward and came closer. ‘Please. Come eat with me, let me explain myself to you. You deserve that much.’
            Talyc turned his head. ‘Explain what exactly?’
            Vax looked down. ‘Why I left you. Why after a year of gallivanting around the galaxy with you, I left without a word, without an explanation…’ Vax looked up at Talyc, ‘and why I regret it to this day.’
            Talyc swallowed. ‘It’s not going to change the way I feel,’ he said. ‘I want that to be clear.’ He took a step closer and leaned towards Vax. ‘I have committed myself to a man who has devoted himself to me, my man, who will not abandon me.’
            ‘Are you so sure that he won’t leave you for the Order he serves?’ Vax snapped back.
            That hit Talyc with an intense fear, the fear of Fane’s Jedi duties and his commitment to the Jedi Order.
            ‘Sometimes we have little choice when we serve a cause,’ said Vax, ‘and sometimes, we have other choices available to us and fail to find a compromise.’
            Talyc shook his head. ‘I need to get out of here.’
            He began for the door. Vax took his hand, pulling. Talyc turned and pushed Vax to the wall, pinning his arms in a Mandalorian lock so he could not move, could not defend himself or attack him. Talyc stared at Vax’s shocked face and whispered menacingly.
            ‘Fane loves me; you have no right bringing him into this. You know nothing of him or the Jedi Order. He’s not like you, he won’t do what you did.’ Talyc clenched his teeth. ‘You left me. He won’t.’
            ‘I loved you,’ said Vax. ‘I still do. Are you certain your anger isn’t caused by any remaining emotions towards me?’
            Talyc backed away, letting go of Vax. He realised he had been triggered. He looked down.
            ‘You hurt me so much, Vax, that now, I have this fear that never goes away, this fear that the man I love will leave me when he’s had enough of me.’
            ‘I didn’t have enough of you.’ Vax swallowed. ‘I left because I was afraid. I had strict orders and I wanted you to come with me, but I knew you would not leave the Mandalorians for the Empire. I did not know how to tell you who I truly was, that I was a Cypher Agent. So I fled. And it hurt me because all I wanted was for you to accept who I was and to come with me, all I wanted was to be with you, but instead, I chose the Empire.’
            Talyc sat down on the lounge and clasped his hands together. ‘Every day I fear that if death doesn’t take him first, that the Jedi Order will ask more of Fane than he gives them currently, and that he will choose his Jedi duties over our love.’
            ‘He has already spent many years by your side,’ said Vax, ‘he is already a better man than I was. If he has truly chosen you, then he has done what I could not. I failed you, and that hurt lingers and harms you now when I am trying to help you, a hurt that is tainting what you have with a man you clearly love more than you loved me.’
            Talyc snickered angrily. ‘Don’t twist this. Yes, what I have with Fane, I’ve never had with anyone else, but it doesn’t mean that what you and I shared is forgotten. What we had was special. You were my first, and I might have stayed with you as long as I possibly could. Had you just been honest with me, I would have accepted you for who you are.’ Talyc shook his head. ‘That doesn’t change how I feel today.’ Vax sat down next to him. Talyc looked at him. ‘It’s not because I never loved you. What I felt for you was more than almost anything else I’ve felt.’
            ‘But you’ve found a true and pure love that can never be tainted,’ said Vax.
            ‘Well, never tainted isn’t quite accurate,’ admitted Talyc. ‘Relsor did a lot to try to keep us apart in order to try to kill Fane or to get at Shadie.’
            ‘He has never left or abandoned you?’ said Vax. Talyc shook his head. ‘Then he is indeed a better man than me.’
            ‘He’s never abandoned me.’ Talyc smiled. ‘And he keeps saving my life.’
            Vax cleared his throat. ‘Well, just know that he’s not the only one who has your back and who’s willing to risk things to save your life. I may not have been willing to risk much when I had the chance to be for you then what he is for you now, but I’m willing to do what I must to help you now, for old times’ sake.’
            Talyc studied Vax; he looked sad. ‘If that shield had not functioned, you’d have died trying to save me?’ Vax nodded. ‘Thank you.’
            ‘I’m sorry about Ziost,’ said Vax. ‘And I’m sorry…about everything.’
            Talyc nodded. He held out his hand and Vax took it. He squeezed gently. They sat silent for a moment longer.
            ‘I’m sorry too,’ Talyc said at last. ‘I think the greatest fear I have is that Fane leaves me not by choice, not because of the Jedi Order, but because of his destiny.’
            ‘I can’t imagine what fears he might be having about that,’ said Vax. He put his other hand over Talyc’s in a friendly gesture. Then pulled away and pointed a thumb towards the door. ‘I’m starving. Let’s go eat. I promise I’ll answer any question you have, provided it doesn’t involve me breaking protocol or divulging Imperial Intelligence secrets.’
            Talyc chuckled. ‘All right. But it doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you yet. We still have a lot to discuss and unfinished business we need to sort out before we can move forward as allies.’
            ‘I understand.’ Vax stood. ‘With any luck, we can move forward not just as allies but as friends.’

“The Future of the Force” is written by Celinka Serre (2022).

Disclaimer: The Characters in this Fan-Fiction are new and have original names. The story is an original written work. The story is derivative and consistent of Fan-Fiction since it borrows the franchise world of Star Wars. Certain jargon and places, or concepts mentioned, along with the SW Old Republic universe belong to Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney. No characters or story lines from the films are used. No story lines or characters from the games or books are used. A handful of characters from the games may be referenced, but are not the main focus in this fanfic story.  This fan-fiction story falls under Fair Use.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

You might also enjoy other SWTOR fanficsDragon Age Fan-Fiction short stories,  Mass Effect Fan-Fiction, or Stardust Destinies the High Fantasy Fiction series.

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