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Chapter 33: Creatures In Masks

In which Lisaris decides to be a sadist towards Ben.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Notes: There's one line in Lisaris' duel with Ben (his response to Ben calling him "sick") that was kind of inspired by Saw. (Jigsaw's "Yes, I'm sick, officer" speech. Which is an amazing scene) Also, "Tyers" is a nod to one of the Legends writers; I admit I got stumped for names.

The fog of unconsciousness cleared away, and Ben knew where he was. Or at least, he had a good idea of where he was. He knew that he was strapped to a chair, and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t reach the Force.


“You can try and escape,” said Lisaris’ voice, “But you’ll hardly succeed. Those are Force-suppressing cuffs. They are fundamentally unnecessary, but the guards insisted on them.”


Ben turned to look at the gold mask that seemed to be looming down at him, looking over him. His arm still throbbed from the lightsaber wound that he’d taken to it.


“Where are the others?” he said. “What have you done to them?”


“They’re secured,” said Lisaris. “For their safety.”


But Ben could already hear the screams. The screams, the mutters of the other prisoners, begging for some sort of leniency, for mercy, that they weren’t yet to get. Annie’s voice. “Please, don’t hurt them, they didn’t do anything to you.” Thomas’ mutterings. “There is no death, there is the Force...”


Murmurs that seemed to come together in a whole mess, a whole cluster.


“What are you doing to them, you utter bastard?”


Lisaris seemed thoughtful. “I just have to wonder, what would you do in order to keep your friends safe? How far would you go? You’ve killed before, after all, just to keep a stranger safe. How far would you go now?”


Ben swallowed. It seemed like Haranka, Lisaris seemed to know him better than he knew himself. “I regret killing.”


“Do you now? Fascinating. The Jedi who regrets.” Lisaris’ eyes focused on him in a way that could only be described as pure cold, almost detachment, as if he found the whole thing fascinating. As fascinating as a scientific experiment perhaps, Ben thought. “You have so much hate and anger and fear in that body. But you repress it. You are afraid that you’ll never be strong enough.”


“That’s none of your business.”


“The way it screams out of you in the Force, it’s very much my business.”


Ben looked up at Lisaris and, already, he felt a chill go down his spine.


Down the hall, he heard Poe scream -- a sort of scream that he didn’t think could possibly come out of Poe, but it did. And his chest clenched. He wished there was some way to comfort Poe, to tell him it would all be all right, all of it, even though there was no chance of it being all right. His hands twisted and clenched in his lap and he knew that getting hurt yourself was one thing. It was others getting hurt that had a special sort of pain involved.


He didn’t think Poe was capable of making those screams.


“Poe.” Ben’s voice was soft in dismay. Just the amount of pain that Poe was in, the screams coming out of him...how he wished he could break free of the restraints on him and run to Poe, and yet even straining through the Force --


He couldn’t feel it. It was almost as if it were completely blocked off from him.


“You can hear him suffering, can’t you?” Lisaris said. “It would be so easy, wouldn’t it, if you just gave in.”


A wave of his hand, and the cuffs snapped open. Ben rubbed at his wrists, dazed suddenly at what Lisaris was trying to do.


“Go ahead, Jedi. Consider it a gift. Strike me down with all you have and you can have everything you ever wanted.”


Poe’s screams continued to echo down the hall. Ben turned to look towards Lisaris, hating himself for not acting -- hating himself for suddenly, at the crucial moment, feeling old voices start to come back. Jimmy Nichos. Master Naris. His mother’s fear.


what if he becomes like his grandfather what if what if that presence in his room what if what if what if what if


Ben reached out in the Force and summoned his lightsaber to him. And Lisaris looked at him.


“What are you waiting for, Jedi? Do it.”


Ben ran.


He practically flew down the hallway, towards Poe, fighting off every guard in his way, feeling his franticness wash over him.


By the Force, I won’t let them hurt you.


By the Force...


Lisaris was on his tail. Even as Ben ran towards the chamber where Poe was, he knew that Lisaris was just behind. The guard who had beaten Poe earlier


Ben knew; the guard’s fists had blood on them


stood in alarm even as Ben entered, raising his blaster and shooting, but Ben batted away the bolts. The guard drew his vibroblade and succeeded at slashing Ben down the arm before Ben raised his lightsaber and slashed off his hand.


The guard looked up at him, wide eyed, before grabbing his vibroblade with the other hand. Vibroblade and lightsaber clashed in a shower of sparks, and finally, Ben slashed him diagonally down the chest.


The guard fell to the ground. Breathing heavily, Ben ran towards Poe, waved his hand and the cuffs came off easily. Poe rubbed his wrists, clearly dazed, and grinned up at Ben, and Ben’s heart broke just seeing his bruised face and split lip. They’d beaten Poe, they’d hurt him, and Ben hadn’t been there to help him, to save him.


“Ben...” Poe’s voice came out in a rasp. “Hey.”


“Hey.”


He placed his hands on Poe’s upper arms, and already, he was gentle with the shorter man, drawing him in closer but not outright crushing him.


“They hurt you.”


“I got banged up, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Don’t worry, Ben.”


Ben raised his hand, and he was aware of how near it was to Poe’s face, how it seemed to be akin to a caress against it.


Poe seemed to sense it too, because his breath hitched. Ben looked at him. “It’s just going to be to heal your wounds,” he said. “What those monsters did to you.”


“Right.”


Ben poured his Force energy, poured the Light, into Poe and let his wounds stitch up, let the bruises and the split lip heal up. Poe winced, but in time, his lip had healed up, as had the bruises on his face. There was a broken rib as well, but just as he was about to heal that


though it seemed so intimate, though it seemed so close


Lisaris spoke.


“So you would kill for him, would you?”


Ben slung an arm protectively around Poe’s shoulder, Poe’s arm around his shoulder, even as they faced Lisaris.


“I chose a good subject,” said Lisaris. “You were too willing to kill for him, weren’t you? All these miles, just to find him. You would have done just about anything.”


“So that’s why?” Ben said. “You wanted to test me?”


“How far would you go in order to embrace the part of you the Jedi forced you to deny? That your own mother forced you to deny?”


“How do you know all this?”


“I know much about you,” said Lisaris. “I can sense it.” He paused in front of Ben. “You would kill so freely for him, wouldn't you? So willingly. With the range of your emotions, you would lay waste to us so easily.”


Ben could sense something else even as he spoke. A boy, skinny, shivering, hiding in alleyways from strange shadows that Ben couldn’t make out but looked very much like people. And he knew that it was Lisaris.


“You didn’t start out as a monster, did you?” he said. “You became one.”


“One being’s monster is another’s survivor, Jedi. If not for the Supreme Leader, I would not have survived. He is truly remarkable, the Supreme Leader.” Lisaris sounded admiring even as he spoke. “A marvel, in fact. What Jedi would call a monster we call a leader and a teacher.”


“Do I get to meet him?”


“In his own good time.”


Thomas’ scream echoed down the hall, and Ben turned towards Lisaris. “Let him go,” he said.


“Would you kill me in order to save him?”


“If I have to,” Ben said.


“You are no Jedi. You pretend to be, yet you’re consumed by anger and hate. Among us, you would never have to worry about such things any longer. Join us, Ben.”


“Go rot in the Corellian hells.”


Ben drew his lightsaber just then and Poe drew his blaster. Ben’s blade clashed against Lisaris’, Lisaris’ blade seeming to give way too easily under his now. Anger did that. Lisaris fought, fending off every blow --


-- only for Ben’s lightsaber to go through his hand.


As Lisaris’ lightsaber rolled away, Lisaris looked up at him. It was hard to read the look behind that mask, but just from the voice, it was clear that Lisaris was taunting him. “Kill me. You’re no better than the rest of us, Jedi. Kill me.”


Ben’s lightsaber shook in his hand, and he wanted to, it was already so tempting --


-- but he deactivated his lightsaber, offered a hand towards Lisaris. “On your feet,” he said.


Lisaris stood, only for his lightsaber to fly into his other hand as he lunged at Ben. Their lightsabers clashed, and they sizzled against the other, the other intent in pushing the other back.


It took whatever Ben could to stand his ground.


Lightsabers continued to clash. It seemed that even with a hand missing, Lisaris was far from a slouch. “You have such power in you, Solo,” he said, “Such potential. And the Jedi squander it just with your very presence among them. You need a leader. A teacher. The Supreme Leader could be that teacher, if you let him.”


“I would never fall to the Dark Side.”


“Dark Side?” Lisaris laughed -- it sounded like crackling flames. Like static. “That’s what they call it, the Dark Side? It is freedom. Liberation. It is stability for the galaxy that it was long denied.”


“How?” Another clash. “How would it bring stability?”


“Aren’t you frustrated with the Republic and what it’s wrought? Aren’t you frustrated with what it’s done -- or rather, what it’s failed to do?”


Ben wouldn't deny that. Somehow, what Lisaris was saying was making too much sense. And the shivering boy he saw in Lisaris’ mind...


“You knew it full well, didn’t you?”


“Too well.” Lisaris sounded bitter now, weary. “It certainly wasn’t the Republic who saved me. The Supreme Leader did. He gave me a home.”


“He saved you?” What kind of being endorsed slavery one moment, saved a boy on the streets the next? What peculiar being --


“All of us. You can be saved by him too -- all you need to do is leave the Order.”


“I can’t join the Dark Side.”


“What happens if you do, beyond the horror stories the Jedi have told you? The Jedi, who have only known having three meals a day and having comfortable Temples to sleep in and views of Coruscant from their ivory towers. Beyond their lies?”


I fail.


More than that, I become a monster. A killer.


“I can’t kill innocents.”


“And you think that anyone that we’ve killed is innocent?”


Ben could only stare at him in astonishment. How could he think that, to name some, Narudar’s victims had deserved what they got? “What about what Narudar did?”


“I daresay he’s taking back the destiny the hut’uun traitor Satine Kryze stole from them. And good for him.”


“No one deserved what they got. No one. How sick do you have to be to -- ’’


“Well, Ben, what if I suggested one day you would see the truth of our ways? Perhaps now?”


Ben already felt acid start to climb his throat. “You’re sick,” he said. “In every conceivable way.”


“If you mean sick of the Republic, yes, Ben. Sick of its corruption, the way it scoffs at those deemed to be beneath it. If you mean that, then yes, Ben, I am sick. Is it any wonder?”


Footsteps. And Ben knew that Sarik and the others were here.


“Put your kriffing hands in the air.”


“If I may say so,” Lisaris said, “The Solo Jedi cut off one of mine. I don’t think your request in this situation is particularly possible.”


Sarik sighed, and Ben could feel his exasperation. Great, came the thought. First a psychopath and now a future prisoner who thinks he’s a comedian. I miss the first days of my job sometimes. “Fine,” he said. “Put your hand in the air, you sonuvaSith.”


Lisaris did so. The handcuff they attached to him seemed so small, so pathetic, in comparison.


Sarik turned to one of his female officers. “Tyers,” he said, “Get him to the shuttle. You five, accompany Tyers. The rest of you, come with me.”


Tyers’ group went to the shuttle, all the while, Ben thought, all but radiating the fact that they’d rather be anywhere but transporting Lisaris.


Sarik turned to Ben. “Dameron, Solo,” he said, “You boys all right?”


“Never better,” Poe said wryly, then winced. Ben put an arm around him, trying to steady him.


It was down the hall that Ben felt Thomas’ presence waver, and start to tremble. He turned to look at Sarik. “Thomas,” he said. “We’ve got to get him. Quickly.”


Rescuing Annie was easy, snapping open the cuffs and embracing her quickly. She looked over at Ben. “We’ve got to help him,” she said, “Thomas. He’s dying.”


“I know.”


They headed into the next room, and Ben’s heart sank looking over at Thomas’ body. Someone had hurt him, bloodied him so badly that it would be a miracle that he didn’t look worse. Ben didn’t walk but ran to him, collapsing by his side, fumbling frantically through his supplies, throwing out sabaac cards that Dad had given him at fourteen to teach him how to play the game, all sorts of old supplies before finally getting to the life support packs, but even those packs wouldn’t be enough to cover the bleeding.


Thomas smiled blearily up at him. “Hey, Ben.”


“Thomas, don’t talk. You’re losing a lot of blood.”


“The others...got to get the others...trapped here...”


“Help’s on the way, kid.” Sarik’s voice. “We’re arresting the bastards. Just stay still.”


“There is no death...there is the Force...”


Thomas’ eyes went wide and glassy, staring off into space, into a netherworld of the Force that no one else could see.

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