"Desperation fuels lots of things," he snorted. "Like you sleeping with a Gammorean pole dancer. That's desperation right there, on the Gammorean's part."
When he first met Selene he still had hope. Her blonde hair was long, stringy, unkempt. They were roughly the same age. Well, maybe she was a little older, she certainly was taller. Bigger.
He'd said, "What do you want?" but like some romanticized backwater simpleton, he had really hoped she'd tell him her name, say she didn't know where her parents were either, that she was scared too.
He grinned and she had grinned back. Then she shoved him to the ground and took his ration cube.
But that was just life in the ref camp. Good days, it fracking sucked.
The next day, he had fought back. Her jaw fell open after he cuffed her in the face. Victory, however, lasted for only the amount of time it took for her knee to make contact with his groin. It didn't stop after he fell to the ground. She kicked him in the ribs a lot. He lost count after four. The ration cube was, once again, taken. She could kick really hard.
But the third day had been better. She came around again, but before there was even a meter distance, she sat down. With a shrug she began to unwrap her ration cube and eat, until a larger boy walked over and took it from her.
Things fell into place after that.
"I honestly didn't think you'd be the last one standing, Algwinn." Dustil extinguished his lightsaber.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Algwinn said. He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. "Shaardan?"
"Gone or dead." Not that it mattered much. For all the pomp and banthashit that Mekel could produce, when it really came down to what mattered he was little more than a human shield.
"Lashowe?" Algwinn swallowed and stared ahead. His expression was blank, but it was too easy to taste the anxiety and desperation on him.
It made Dustil smirk. "Dead."
"Really?" The way Algwinn's voice curled up at the end of the word had Dustil wondering how the other man had even gotten a Sith medallion, much less lasted more than a day inside the academy.
"Really," Dustil replied.
"Well, shit." Algwinn fingered the lightsaber hilt at his belt lightly. "We should probably go."
Dustil turned and began to walk down the deserted corridor. "Yeah."
Three paces in, a severed arm, bloodied corpse, no lightsaber cauterization, some blaster scoring on the walls. That Jedi bint had the audacity to say a Republic soldier and an overgrown Mandalorian were slaves. Dustil snorted. At least the Twi'lek girl had looked the part up until he mentioned he'd feel more inclined to listen to her if she showed more cleavage. She could kick really hard, too.
But it pissed him off that the sparkling light side out the ass Jedi dame thought that Lashowe looked better in three neat pieces. Not that Dustil wouldn't have killed Lashowe himself, given time, but it could still piss him off.
"She was cute," Algwinn said as he caught up to Dustil. "Lashowe, I mean. Actually, I was thinking of taking her out. Well, if she hadn't-"
Dustil laughed. "I think her legs are still floating around somewhere, but I'm pretty sure that Masona took off with her head."
"Man, that's just..." Algwinn shook his head.
"Forget it," Dustil snapped. Someone had scrawled badly conjugated ancient Sith across the wall in blood. Something about the end being fracking nigh. At least, Dustil thought they meant nigh, maybe the end was just really fracking neigh. "That new fallen Jedi recruit did you a favor by offing Lash. You should thank her."
"I'll keep that in mind," Algwinn muttered. "Not that I think I'll be seeing her again anytime soon. What's your problem, anyway?"
"What? You mean besides the academy being turned into a war zone?" There was an exit by the cafeteria, but the cafeteria was too open for comfort. Dustil patted down his pockets. Two medpacs, four protein bars and twenty-five credits. "Maybe I wasn't held enough as a child."
It was a good thing that Lashowe was dead. It didn't matter that Dustil wasn't the one that killed her. At least, that's what he kept telling himself. He let the words roll around in his skull.
Algwinn was starting to relax. Dustil bit down an obscenity and gripped the hilt of his lightsaber. He'd let Algwinn bore the hell out of him with all the flippant boy talk he could dream of if they managed to get out of the academy alive. Of course, then he might have to laugh at him, explain why Lashowe wasn't exactly the ideal girl that you'd take home to mother if mother didn't get blown up when the Sith armada bombarded your home planet.
"I think I get why you like Selene so much," Lashowe had said. The holocron passed between her hands almost carelessly. "She's got your mother's nose, those beady little eyes... This is a holocron of your mother, isn't it?"
"Give it back." He'd snatched for the holocron and Lashowe effortlessly evaded him.
She'd laughed. "You know, I'm blonde too. Just like Selene. Just like your mom. You like that, right? I'm better looking than your mother."
"Cut the shit, Lashowe." He'd finally managed to wrench the holocron from her hands. "I didn't take you for the jealous type."
"Oh, please." Lashowe rolled her eyes as she lounged back onto his bed. "Tell me your girlfriend's more attractive than me. You can't do it, can you?"
"Selene'll be back in a couple hours." Dustil had leaned in close enough to watch Lashowe's amused expression. "But even if she wasn't, I don't phoq whores. Sorry."
Lashowe's amusement had only grown. "You're adorable when you get all clichÃ© like that. You won't be phoqing much of anything soon, mama's boy." She patted his cheek. "I need to go talk to Master Uthar. Collect on some prestige I'm owed."
It was definitely a good thing that Lashowe was dead.
Cafeteria it was. The tables were bare of life; someone's half-eaten lunch was abandoned. Bantha loaf, Dustil couldn't blame them. Algwinn lumbered ahead, the kid was pretty big, maybe his size had kept him from being the obvious target he deserved to be.
"I think someone's hiding up there," Algwinn said. He brought his weapon to his hand. "Who's there?"
"Easy, it's just me." Masona stood up from where he was crouched behind a table. "You're still standing, Algwinn?"
"Not trying to interrupt or anything," Dustil said. "But let's save the talk for after we get out of the academy alive, okay?"
"I heard someone killed the containment field that held all those Mandalorians." Masona chuckled. "I haven't decided what's worse, a pissed off Mandalorian or a starving Mandalorian."
"Starving." Dustil slipped a hand into his pocket. Two medpacs, four protein bars. Twenty-five credits. "Mandies are pissed off no matter what. Starving only makes them more pissed off."
"Yeah, but they'd be weaker if they hadn't eaten," Masona replied.
"I don't know." Algwinn shrugged. "Desperation can fuel rage."
"Desperation fuels lots of things," Masona snorted. "Like you sleeping with a Gammorean pole dancer. That's desperation right there, on the Gammorean's part."
"Do you really have Lashowe's head?" Algwinn asked.
"Shut up, Algwinn," Dustil hissed.
"No." Masona grimaced. "All I said was that somebody should put her head on Shaardan's bed to see how he'd react and now I'm some head-toting sicko. What do I look like to you?"
"Shaardan's dead," Algwinn said.
"I know that now." Masona glared. "Do either of you have plans for what happens after we get out of here?"
Algwinn shook his head.
"I want to head back to Telos if I can," Dustil said. "I told somebody I'd meet them there." Just what he'd do the next time he would see his father face-to-face was the question. Maybe he'd actually try, become the golden son that made all parents moist, maybe he'd save himself the trouble and kill his father, he wasn't certain. But a promise was a promise and Dustil had said he'd meet up with him again.
"A shuttle ride out of this craphole is fifty creds," Masona said. "I've got sixty."
"Twenty-five." Dustil dug a hand into his pocket.
Algwinn thumbed his lightsaber to life and bisected Masona with a quick swing. "We've got enough for two shuttle passes, now."
Dustil jumped back. "What the frack was that, Algwinn?"
"What?" Algwinn bent over and began to rifle through Masona's pockets. "Did you want to be stuck washing dishes at some cantina until we earned enough money to get out of here?"
"No!" Dustil brought a hand up to his head. Masona's eyes were still open. "But you didn't have to, I mean, what the frack?"
Algwinn shrugged. "I just thought you'd be cool with it. Sorry." He pulled out a credstick from the left half of Masona's corpse. "Hey, this is more than sixty credits. Liar. Now we'll have enough for two shuttle passes and a couple meals. We'll probably have to order water, though."
Dustil kneaded his temple. "Let's just go, alright?"
"Yeah, sure." Algwinn stood up. "You said Telos, right? I've never been there before. This will be kind of fun, just the two of us."
"Yeah." Dustil started to walk towards the exit. "Real fun." Maybe Telos' atmosphere was still toxic. Corrosive. He hadn't thought to ask.
"Hey." Algwinn put his hand on Dustil's shoulder. "You okay, man?"
Dustil's shoulders tensed up. "I'm fine. But that was just sort of low. Even for being all evil and dark side and shit. What were you thinking?"
"Evil?" Algwinn frowned. "I don't think I'm evil. You just do what you've got to. Things fall into place after that."
Fall into place. Like a well aimed kick to the ribs.
"Right." Dustil tried to smile.
He had told himself it was justice when he and Selene went after the larger boy. That making his nose bleed and kicking him in the side until all the boy could do was shudder and cry incoherently was just what he deserved. It didn't matter that he'd stopped resisting them after the seventh day it happened. Just handed the ration cube over to Dustil, then he and Selene would beat him. The ritual provided a constant, a comfort. To the point that it was almost a shame when the boy up and died one night.
Dustil looked at Algwinn. The other man looked slow, stupid. But Algwinn was still breathing where other more intelligent looking students were in pieces on the academy floor. It couldn't be too hard to lose him, kill him, before they reached Telos. Dustil swallowed hard. "We have a shuttle to catch."