In the Face of Death
Kan ran around the perimeter of the arena, trying to get away. He didn't dare to look back, but he knew that the Reek was close behind.
Droids and Geonosians alike scattered to make way for his approach, though they were not fleeing from him. It was the thing chasing him, the beast behind him that they feared.
A crimson-tinted mist clouded his vision, and he wondered dully whether it was tears stained with the red dust of the planet or his own blood. Or someone else's blood. He didn't really want to know. All he knew was that he must get away from the terror lurking behind his back, tracing the light path of his footprints in the dirt.
Was that his imagination?
"Kan! The Acklay is chasing me!"
The red fog cleared from his eyes. An execution cart was over-turned, and Jordin was in its shadow, crouching fearfully. Over her the Acklay stood, gloating over his prey, saliva dripping from its jaws onto a pincer that was opening and closing, as if already, it held her in its crushing grasp.
Kan saw all this in the flash of a moment, yet it was enough. It had seemed like years that he had just stood there, eyes transfixed on that one pincer, opening and closing. Open. Close. Open. Close.
Then Kan moved.
His mind seemed blank, but his heart, his body knew what he wanted to do. He felt himself pound down the last few meters to the savage predator. His lighsaber clattered out of his hand as he ran, but he felt no need for it. He had his hands and his feet and one hard head, and that enough would be sufficient to beat up this bully ––– yes, it was a bully! It picked on things that were small, and young, and defenseless. It could not fight a fully armed warrior. Or an enraged Kan.
He flailed out with his fists, striking as much of the Acklay as he could reach. He was so blinded by anger, that he cared not for what he hit. Sometimes he would aim a punch…only to strike vainly at the air. This only angered him even more, and he doubled the strength of his fists. He hated this creature ––– yes, he hated it! It was against the Jedi code to hate, but Kan didn't care. He wanted to feel the pleasure of killing the beast with his own bare hands. And wouldn't that be just a little bit impressive, to defeat this massive creature weaponless?
It lifted up on its hind legs to strike, but suddenly seemed to change its mind. Perhaps it needed to think it all through before trying to pick a fight with this strange, small, yet terrifying two-legged being that stood defiantly in its way. Maybe it thought that the whole effort of fighting a battle wasn't worth two tiny mouthfuls.
The Acklay crawled off to find easier prey.
The black hatred of the Acklay vanished from Kan, as suddenly as the beast had beat its hasty but nonetheless dignified retreat. Now he stared guiltily at his surroundings, realizing what he had done. The Acklay had been attacking Jordin, yes, so it had been necessary to defend her. But he shouldn't have let his emotions enter the conflict. He had allowed hatred to fuel his attacks. Only the Sith relied on their passions for their strength.
Black holes and quasars, Kan thought, I am acting like a villain!
But by acting like the enemy, had he become the enemy? He was still fighting for the Jedi, and hadn't he defeated the Acklay by using anger? He didn't automatically become a Sith by using hatred as an energy, did he?
You might start by using it for good, but it can twist your actions so that eventually you will betray those that you love and think that you did right in doing so.
He sighed. What had happened to him? This was not the Kan that he knew. He had always been the calm, passive Apprentice. He had been an average student. He hadn't questioned the rules of the Jedi. But now…
By disobeying one command, his life and personality had changed for ––– good or evil?
The tide of the battle seemed to be turning the advantage of the Separatists. The Jedi had had the element of surprise, but it was not enough to hold sway over the endless ranks of droids for long. Already, the Jedi were beginning to lose ground. If the droids could herd them all into a tightly clustered group in the center of the arena, which they certainly were capable of, and surround them, which was inevitable, it would be an ultimate massacre of Jedi.
He caught a glimpse of the bounty hunter he had seen on the pavilion with Dooku; he was among the hordes of Separatists, yet fighting alone, using his jet pack to blast him to different skirmishes spread throughout the arena. His Westar 34 blasters reflected the cruel blood-red rays of the Geonosian sun as he hefted his weapons, took careful aim, and fired a barrage of deadly blasts toward the cornered Jedi. He did it with such such cold precision and indifference to the lives he was taking that it made Kan lower his lightsaber and come to a standstill, his eyes seeing nothing but the silver and blue Mandalorian warrior–––jumping here, firing his Westars, flicking the switch on his jetpack, brushing so close to Kan that he could have reached out and cut the hunter down with a single flick of the wrist. But he was so caught up with watching the bounty hunter that he missed his chance.
The killer ducked as a Jedi came up behind him and swung his lightsaber in a deadly arc toward the bounty hunter's neck. He dropped to the ground and rolled to face his attacker. He fired. The Jedi screamed and fell, blood pouring from his throat. The hunter stepped over the body and fired at another Jedi. Kan's blood ran cold as he heard the impact of the blasts as they ripped through the Jedi's body. The Jedi let out a wordless cry as he, too, slumped to the bloodied ground in defeat.
Kan closed his eyes. These were people that he knew, that he had seen, bustling past him in the Temple halls, some greeting him, some nodding their heads in recognition, even some embracing him after returning from a long trip to some distant corner of the galaxy. Jedi Masters that had talked to him, trained him, helped him through his difficulties. Some that had reprimanded him. Forgiven him for interrupting their meditations or for leaving his muddy boots in the middle of the hall. They had each their own personality, their own facial expression, their own special style of fighting, their own special greeting. Their own smile. Their own laugh…
And now they were being destroyed. As each blast hit its target, one more Jedi, one more ally, one more person was blotted out form the face of the galaxy forever, never to return, never to brighten the galaxy with their smiles again.
Kan sighed and opened his eyes, retreating from the thoughts that crouched in the darkest recesses of his mind, always there but yet always lurking somewhere in the shadows of his other thoughts. He rarely ventured into that part of his mind ––– he did not like to. He preferred to think of brighter things, of the present moment, of what could be seen, of what lay beyond the horizon. All the bad thoughts he placed in the back, behind the others, so that he would not have to see them. So that he would not have to admit to himself that deep down in his heart, cowardice and terror lurked.
Suddenly a super battle droid fired a volley at him with its wrist rockets. Kan's attention came back to the present moment as his lifted his emerald-green blade and deflected the fire back, his arms nearly shattering from the impact as his lightsaber contacted with the blasts. The fire bounced from his blade with a sharp ping and blasted into his attacker and two other droids close by, reducing them to scrap metal. Kan grinned through his dirt-streaked face as he turned and sent three more crashing into the wall with the aid of the Force.
A pretty young woman in a white jumpsuit took careful aim with a droid blaster and fired, sending a droid flying into another as she hit her target. Kan watched, impressed. He recognized her for one of the prisoners sentenced to execution. Beside her, a tall, broad-shouldered youth with a handsome face hovered, his green lightsaber held at a defensive angle, as if protecting the woman. His blonde Padawan braid went flying as he double-flipped and decapitated several Geonosians. Without pausing for breath, he rolled to the side and cut down the legs of a battle droid. Using the momentum to leap forward, he slid on his back and quickly deactivated the shields of a droideka, dispatching it easily a few seconds later with a slow, almost casual swing of his lightsaber. Suddenly he rolled to his knees and threw his weapon at a group of droids beginning to surround him. The lightsaber twirled through the air, slicing through their control panels with stunning accuracy. The Apprentice leaped to his feet and held out a hand, and the weapon returned, only to whirl in a backward sweep to take down two more.
Kan's mouth hung agape. Now he knew who the boy was. The only Apprentice who could fight like that was Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One, Apprentice of the great Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. And the girl he was protecting–––could that be the brilliant senator of Naboo, the leader in the antiwar faction? She was being hunted down. What had Ruru said her name was? Padmé Amidala. Anakin must have been the Jedi assigned to the task of protecting her. What were they doing here?
He had no time to wonder, for suddenly a Geonosian flew over his head and fired at him. Kan turned and gently batted the fire back. The creature shrieked and crumpled to the ground.
Kan felt his chest swell with pride. Why shouldn't he feel pride? He had a right to be proud. He had proven himself worthy of the task the Council had thought too trying for him. Zett would be impressed. Jordin would be impressed. The whole Temple would be impressed. That's Kan Enik, he could hear them whisper, Apprentice of Ruru Xelan. He fought in the battle of Geonosis. He is a war hero, an Apprentice worthy of respect.
Worthy of respect. He deserved respect. He had always been the one with the least amount of talent, the least promise, the one who studied hard yet still barely passed the tests. He had had friends, but no admirers. No one who wanted to be like him. No one who wanted to be in his place.
Suddenly he felt a puff of hot air on his neck. Another Geo, he thought. He turned around slowly, confident of who would be the victor.
His heart froze. Less than two meters away stood the bounty hunter in Mandalorian suit. The T-shaped eye slits on the silver mask stared coldly at him. Feet shod in fire-resistant boots stood far apart to give him balance. His Westar blasters were raised, one in each gloved hand.
And the barrels were aiming straight for Kan's heart.