Rax has had worse days. Not many. But a few. His eyes slide open, and the Zeltrons, humans, and twi'leks who had been keeping him company slide away into the shadows of dream. He's bloody. He's battered. But the huge man has a remarkable pain tolerance. As he explained to Hux earlier, he has faced horrors most only dream of. As his vision focuses, the dull ache of agony, his familiar friend, greets him. His muscles flex, and he pulls at the arm clamps testingly, but it's only a token effort to wake himself up.
Pain means nothing. Ekcha. Eckha. The Echani word taught to him on Takodana, beside the lake. Ekcha. Blade. The mind-clearing mantra.
Swinging his turbolaser gaze about, Rax's intimidation of the room is stopped short as he spots the kneeling figure, all in black, staring at him. "...You. I always knew it would be you." Closing his eyes, Rax shakes his head in the very small traverse of motion allowed him. "You are not the woman I was hoping to wake up to."
Opening his eyes again, Rax fixes his gaze down upon the man, utterly without fear. "...I always knew we would meet again. I'd hoped to have a lightsaber in my hand." He glances up at the ceiling, "But the Force is a cruel, fickle bitch, it seems." He shrugs, "Alas." His eyes lower to the black and chrome mask, blazing cerulean.
"A man once told me something," the modulated voice begins quietly, almost calmly. The seething rage he seemed to exude was currently missing. "Cross an unfamiliar river withour first discerning its depths and shallows, and you will drown in its currents without reaching your goal," the voice explains, "The Force is no different. You walk among the reeds, but you're no Jedi. So I wonder," Kylo leads, pausing a moment to tap the end of the saber taken from Rax, "Why are you here?"
"I am no Jedi... I will agree with you on that." His eyes narrow, in thought, "But neither are you..." He glances up and around at the room he is being held in, "Why am I here? ...Because I am terrible at leaving something well enough alone." He smirks down at the man, "I cannot live my life in the shadows, hiding, running from what the world may have to offer me. When your people came to Nar Shaddaa, treading boots upon my doorstep, shooting at people I know, I could not stand silent, and abide."
He flicks his eyes aside, with a brief attempt at nodding that way, "On Serenno, your use of the Force surprised me. On Tatooine, I still had no counter. And so I searched for something, anything, to teach me the ways of the Force." His eyes close, "But I found nothing." Waiting for a span of two heartbeats, his eyes snap open again, fiercely, "And so here we are, again. You wield the power of the cosmos... And I do not. You presumably have a new lightsaber... And mine may as well be across the Great Dune Sea." He glances at the black, gold, and chrome weapon, reforged.
"But the true answer to your question will always be the same, no matter how cold and aloof she may be. Why am I here? ...Because the Force wills it."
"Perhaps so, but, that doesn't answer my question. My men were accosted openly on a planet I was welcomed to with open arms. They were following a lead the Hutt Zira presented us on the whereabouts of my stolen affects, when they were prevented from carrying out their orders. On a planet where bloodshed is a currency, I wonder what drives intervention like this?" He muses a moment, until he rises to his feet. "I have not yet acquired everything I need to have rebuilt my lightsaber--I have been busy," he adds offhandedly.
The battered ex-pirate's eyes widen in wonder, his voice practically a whisper, "You haven't yet rebuilt it." But the look of hope only lasts a moment, replaced by a wry smile, "Yet you still wield the power to bend reality. To.../stop/..." he says the word uncertainly, still unnerved by the spectacle, "...plasma in the air. As though frozen in time." He smirks, nodding, "I will not lie, Kylo Ren: I had hoped you would be there. Why the others obstructed your chrome lioness, I do not know. I was merely there to even the score."
"There is no 'even'," Kylo says, stepping close to eye the man carefully. It was the first time he'd actually given thought to who or what he was. "Even is the dream of small men. I've seen the hypocritical chaos of 'balance' and fair," he argues. "The lamb see's only cruelty, not balance, and the lion creates honor in the chaos of death because he is stronger than the lion," Kylo says the words with an icy tone of eager gratitude. "If she's the lion, what does that make us?" The question is highlighted by the sudden snap hiss of Rax's lightsaber coming to life.
"It makes us gods." The words are cold as ice as he stares at the narrow black visor. His eyes are nearly the same blue as the humming blade. "Every thinking being has the potential to be as the giants of legend, to stride across the stars bringing law, chaos, justice, or cruelty to the galaxy as it sees fit." He smiles coldly, his gaze blazing, "The dragon consumes the womp rat, and the womp rat consmes the jawa. Yet the jawa could consume them both, and more...but doesn't. Fear holds it back, for the dragon is strong and mighty, and the womp rat swift and cunning." He shakes his head, eyes closed, "There is an evening of the scales. It is a brief, fleeting thing, but it is there. In a hundred billion transactions of fate, you could go your whole life without glimpsing it. ...Like a coin landing on its edge."
His eyes open, "You wield great powers, wizard. Power that cannot be denied. But do not deny the dragon its fangs. Not every conflict is so simple as the lion and the lamb."
"No, not Gods," Kylo says. Whatever their part to play in the grand scheme, he didn't expect Gods. "You're a man, in a cage. For the second time you've crossed me, and taken the lives of my men," he recites the accusation coldly, seemingly watching the well-formed blade move between them. "Your pride is your cage, but it doesn't have to be. Honor is defined by the strong. Are you ready to die proudly, caged?" Kylo asks, lifting the lightsaber blade to hover only inches from Rax's throat.
The man's cerulean eyes widen with an electric blaze as they mirror the lightsaber's light so closely, his grin is wide and fearless, "Are you?" Rax's hands clench tightly into fists and his brow furrows a bit even as he grins, trying to urge -something-, /anything/ to respond. If this is the end of the road, Rax will not go into it quietly! 'Damn you, Force,' he thinks, 'You WILL answer me this one time!'
His head tilting forward one strained inch, his eyes widen further as he attempts to push against the fabric of reality, blindly. That humming blade will be his end, otherwise. "Your people were cloth before the blade, your armies paper before the flame! Grr..." His body shakes a bit as he pours every ounce of his will into the effort before finally snapping, "DAMN YOU! Why won't you answer me?!" Breathing hard, Rax slowly lets the intensity drain away from his gaze. His eyes close. Ekcha. Blade. Ekcha. "...Fine."
Lifting his head upright with a serene--if annoyed--expression, Rax lets go of the anger, the hate. Even the pain inflicted by the chair that was driving him on. He thinks of the mummified face of the woman in the Jedi robes, reaching out lifelessly from within the trash heap. He thinks of the Jedi Enclave, the mummified Jedi that called him there. The shade that skirted his vision. He thinks of the lake of Takodana. He thinks of Selino Dooku, reaching out to him as her neck was snapped.
He is ready. His eyes open. Rax Vaelus stares across the inches that separate the two of them. "May the Force be with you. Well fought. I concede." Such has always been Rax's way. "There was a woman on Nar Shaddaa. Honor her. She brought me low. Not you."
"Good," Kylo says coldly, before the blade drops away from Rax to hang away from Kylo's form. "That's what we break, first," he says quickly. The hand not holding the lightsaber rises towards Rax and ... then comes the pain. It's small at first, as Kylo begins to seek information on what Rax truly knew and hoped for. "You'll never command the Force, but you could do so much more... why cling to weak ideas?" Kylo answers, as he digs in to Rax's mind.
Rax Vaelus just barks out a laugh, "Break?" He laughs some more, repeating, "Break?!" He grins, still laughing a bit, despite the gentle crescendo of pain, "You misunderstand, so very, very gravely..." Rax stares at the man, a slight narrowing at the edges of his eyes the only outward sign of the growing spike. "I thought you wanted to kill me. If you only wish to play games, wizard..." Rax inhales a slow breath, made uneven only by the blossoming volcano of pain that wishes to scream at his nerves. Rax cannot block it all out. Even his will is not that strong. But, he can... Ekcha. Ekcha. Ekcha.
The Echani trance is only beginning, not perfect or unassailable. Rax thinks first of Selino Dooku--could that truly be his foremost thought? That girl? As she reaches out, screaming without words, and dying? Then, the mummy, reaching out on Ord Mantell--almost an identical pose, from the shoulders, arm and hooded face visible in the trash. A young boy's arm reaches out for a moldy and mildewed lightsaber. There is a wall of crystal, and a black, ugly reflection of himself, shrouded in darkness. There is the shade on Dantooine. The other mummy in the charred room. The huge, mutated, malformed Kath Hound Alpha that gored him. These are the things Rax Vaelus cares about. And the saber, spinning in darkness.
"Is this fear, or bravado?" Kylo muses thoughtfully, before something shifts within Rax's mind. An image forms of a man, presumably, armored in war-scarred Imperial Royal guard armor, covered by a dark, tattered robe singed by the fire of battle. In his hands swings a large pike, pocked with wear along a jagged blade. The manifested image is fearless and cold, capable of shaping the galaxy. "You've chosen the wrong side," Kylo says, "But there are still things that could become of your choices. What could b3come of you," he adds.
In the mindscape, a new figure appears. Rax--as he sees himself. Garbed in ornate battle robes of white and cream, with silver trim. Sigils, vague and undefined, mark the sleeves, the tabard, the skirting down to the knees. Close-fitting robes bear an uncanny resemblance to Jedi regalia. And with a familiar snap-hiss, a blue lightsaber springs to life as Rax's otherself grins widely, mirroring the man's own expression in the real world. "You are on my ground now, wizard... And long have I sought the dark mirror you have presented." The words are spoken both by the mental figure, and by the man himself. Whispered in the background of his thoughts, unevenly, is 'Ekcha, Ekcha, Ekcha.' The Echani word for blade. Rax is still attempting to fortify himself with meditation.
"Your figure is a manifestation of dreams, nothing more. What you wish to become, and never will. Those doors are closed to you. But there are ways to become powerful without the Force. Your so-called friends aren't offering as much. Why fight the ones that would give you power and strength?" Kylo asks thoughtfully. "Why attack those that would give you what you want?"
"The Force will answer me, Wizard..." Rax's mind goes blank as he finally settles himself into a steady rhythm, moving into that blank, nonexistent state that is the purpose of the Echani Meditation Trance. "It has lead me this far. The Imperials failed to kill me when they sentenced me to death for piracy. Your First Order failed to kill me when it destroyed my ship. I did not die to starvation, nor to flame, nor to ice. The Kath Hounds sent by the Dark Side of the Force could not slay me. Your stormtrooper's blaster bolts did not kill me. And now you, when you could have easily taken my life, have instead elected to speak to me."
His eyes narrow, his thoughts empty. "I cannot feel the currents of the Force, Wizard. But I can see the way the wind is blowing. Our dance is not yet over, and I will yet cross sabers with you on the field of battle. I have faith."
"If the day comes we cross lightsabers, I fear it will be precisely as we are now. I would not be so eager to find that day," he says quietly. "The next time my men find you in their crosshairs, they will kill you. You have exhausted your usefulness to me," Kylo says quickly. As he turns away from Rax, he considers his thoughts a moment. "Enjoy your trip," he says, quietly.
"Trip?" Rax's hard expression twists into one of confusion as he watches the cloaked man leave. That was rather abrupt. Looking around the room in the awkward silence that follows, Rax slowly raises an eyebrow. When no response is forthcoming, he calls out, "Hey, what trip? What did you mean!" He struggles against the restraints, "You can't just leave on that note! What trip?!"
(Some time later...)
Oozlevort, the semi-famous Gand findsman, steps off a First Order transport shuttle dispatched to fetch him. The bounty hunter was summoned and found a way to the Finalizer; he does not appear to be armed, instead wearing a respirator and his robes and bandolier. "This Gand desires to speak with the deck officer," the short alien asks of a dismissive pair of pilots as they saunter past.
Rax Vaelus is strapped to the gurney, looking quite annoyed. "This is so unnecessary..." Struggling against the straps, Rax looks around with his brow furrowed, eyes furious. "So, what's it going to be? The Mines of Kessel? Ord Mantell again? Maybe the ass-end of the Unknown Regions? What's the--urrrgh!" Rax pulls against the straps with all of his might, the large human thrashing about. "--the /matter/ Kylo Ren?! Afraid to face me! Urrr!" Trying to sit up against the stomach strap, Rax's vision swims as he aggravates a mending wound from the Parmac's Spacedock battle, thunking back down against the floating bed. "Sithspawn! Cowards! Argh. Ow."
Within moments, Kylo emerges from the recently landed Courier 1. It was in need of an inspection before he sent the pair off in it. Kylo seemingly ignores the man as he walks down the ramp. The two Stormtroopers, however, are immediately told to prepare the prisoner for his journey. Then, it's off to spot the Gand. "That won't be neccessary. You're the Hunter for the job?" He asks, quietly, looking down towards the Gand. "Are you up to the task?" He adds, quickly.
Oozlevort watches the large human on the gurney being hovered into a shuttle. "How strange." The Gand turns his bulbous head and insect-like eyes toward Kylo Ren. "The Gand is up for your task. You desire the Gand to transport this human somewhere? Does he have... medical needs? He is seeming to be agitated yes."
Rax Vaelus growls, "This human has a medical need to not be tied down." Yanking on the wrist restraints again, Rax finally relents and lays mostly still, glaring up at the ceiling. "What's your game, Ren..." Rax mutters, mostly to himself since the Dark One walked off.
"He'll survive the trip," Kylo responds, brushing past the question of medical needs. He ... didn't care to have the man inspected by medical professionals. "The dropoff location is already programmed into the ship's computer. It'll be an adequate transport for the current cargo. I wouldn't talk to him, though," Kylo says quietly. Rax's words are heard, but they don't seem to interest the man terribly. "Meantime, I've got compensation being worked out in logistics. Once we fathom a plan for the item you requested, we'll send a regiment. For now, drop this one off somewhere with a very long walk back to civilization," Kylo demands.
Oozlevort turns to look at Rax as he raves, then back to Kylo Ren. "Yes yes. The Gand's vessel has important information in its computers. Will accept help to rescue the Gand's vessel." He raises a three-fingered hand and points. "Put this human in the cargo hold."
"What...?" Twisting his head as much as he can, he tries to peer back at the pair. "A long walk back to civilization...?" He seems completely dumbfounded. "You're letting me go?" He shakes his head very briefly, eyes closed, "Not that I'm going to argue but...why? What could you possibly hope to gain?" He doesn't sound as though he really expects an answer, but he asks regardless. Then he announces angrily, "I am -not- cargo!"
"Then we have an arrangement. Return to us once you've delivered the cargo to it's destination. Rendezvous with us over Corellia--Our next invasion will begin there," Kylo says quickly, before nodding, "And we'll have ample jobs to clean up unhelpful resistance." The man in black says the words coldly, before turning slightly to allow the Gand to pass them and approach the ship and it's cargo.
Oozlevort bows slightly to Kylo Ren and then goes to observe Rax as the troublesome human is loaded up the lambda shuttle's underside ramp. He accepts a pistol and a rifle from a nearby petty officer. "Greetings human. This Gand will transport you to a planet. Do not damage yourself by struggling."
Rax Vaelus stares up at the Gand, eyes slightly narrowed. "Greetings, this Gand. This human is plenty damaged already. Lets just get out of here. If this is an elaborate attempt to make my death look like an accident, I hope someone tells me who they're afraid of pissing off before I die. I didn't think I had any powerful friends."