Jedi Destiny I: Hate of the Jedi

Chapter 17


Several hours later, Master Okras was alone. After seeing the blatant invasion upon her privacy from the detention block, she had rushed to her quarters, just in time to beat the search team to her lightsaber, and disposed of them quickly and … less than quietly. The senseless death still weighed on her mind.

She left the bodies in her quarters, knowing that without the Force to use on anyone she might encounter, she couldn’t carry them to the nearest waste disposal chute. But she knew she was already busted.

After dispatching the search team, she’d pried the helmets from each of the stormtroopers to determine if any of them had sent any warnings. One of them had, which meant that more security teams would be heading to her quarters right away to apprehend her.

So she retreated to one of the observation lounges in the upper dome of the station and waited for them. She knew that it wouldn’t be long before the security hub in the core of the upper dome discovered by holocam where she was, and dispatched forces to apprehend her there.

She had her lightsaber with her now, hanging from a clip on her belt loosely. She was still dressed in her Imperial officer greys, minus the cap—in her natural shape, so the uniform hung a little loosely from her—staring out through the massive transparisteel bubble into space at the orbiting Star Destroyer.

There was no way that she would get aboard that ship now. She knew that Brakiss would have affected a lockdown the second his troopers reported that they were under attack from a Jedi. Her own escape plan, had she been able to implement it, had been to shuttle over to the Destroyer, find out if there was a scheduled shuttle going out, and board it under another assumed form and identity—all impossible now.

The doors hissed open behind her in the middle of her musings and when they closed again, she noted that only a few seconds had passed—certainly not enough time for a squad of troopers sent to apprehend her. She turned around to face her adversary.

Only two people had arrived to confront her, something she might have seen coming if not for Brakiss’s Force-lockdown of the station. She hadactually been expecting a squad of stormtroopers, and was mildly surprised, but not disappointed to find that had not happened. A part of her was surprised that Brakiss would care so much about the loss of life when the alternative, delaying her attempts to escape, was of more importance.

Maybe there was hope for him yet.

But if things went sour, Brakiss would be just as vulnerable as she, due to the lack of Force connections they could make. They were both, however, still adept at the use of lightsabers without the aid of the Force, enough to counter the inability to touch the Force.

Of the two men facing Kylia Okras now, one of them was the station’s ranking military officer, Owan Desal, born on Fondor and formerly a Captain in the first Empire’s fifth fleet. He was in his late sixties with white hair spread thin over a balding scalp. A small scar ran under his left eye and across his nose; an affectation that could have otherwise been prevented via the use of bacta healing. His chin and cheeks bore the tell-tale prickles of regrowing facial hair, and his moustache, as white as the hair on his head, had been trimmed to a small stub under his nose.

He was dressed formerly in the gleaming white uniform of a Grand Admiral with his rank insignia and commendations securely fastened to the left side of his breast. The shoulder pads and braided aiguillettes were gold and elaborate, and the belt was as black as the gloves on his hands, with a silver buckle fastening it. Desal’s arms were crossed over his chest and the look he shot Okras was that of deadly, disgusted hatred.

The man beside him was quite different. He wore a dark tunic, coloured deepest purple, with a flowing, black cape clipped to the shoulders of his tunic with silver clips. His hands were clasped behind his back. The skin was stretched thin over his high cheekbones, and his nose had been broken in a couple of places. His grey-stained dark hair was perfectly in place; his eyes matching the smile upon his lips that gave away his amusement, which she could not actually sense. But she still could not quite accept the horrible burn scars along one side of his face, and the healed gash that went down to his chest from his jaw.

“Jedi Master Kylia Okras,” Brakiss started, taking a step sideways away from the Grand Admiral beside him, who continued to glare menacingly at her.

Kylia said nothing.

“I suspected that there had to have been a spy on board. There was no other way that the Republic could have learned of the station’s presence near M’haeli otherwise? So once I’d determined that there was a spy on board, it became a matter of … weeding you out.”

“Brakiss,” Kylia said with a nod. The man frowned momentarily, but it was only for an instant before the smile returned to his lips.

“Would you like me to take the trash out, My Lord?” Desal asked.

“Now, now, Admiral,” Brakiss chided, “you are speaking of a Jedi Master, servant of the Republic. Your distaste for non-humans can be put on hold for the moment. Courtesy, Admiral, always courtesy.”

Desal’s eyes narrowed further, shooting daggers at her. He was none too pleased at having been rebuked in such a fashion, but was too afraid of Brakiss to challenge him. He huffed and took a step back, looking from Kylia to Brakiss and then back again.

“So when I got an alert from the security hub that the troopers I had specifically assigned to weeding out the identity of our spy had reported that they were under attack from a Jedi, I knew that I was right,” Brakiss continued, speaking to her again. “And quite interesting still that at that same time, the lieutenant that was supposed to be on duty in the detention block had gone missing as well.

“Naturally, it was far too coincidental for me, and so I set out in search of said officer. I find myself genuinely surprised now to find that the officer did not in fact exist, and was merely a fantasy concocted by New Republic Intelligence to sneak a Jedi into this facility.”

Kylia said nothing, but continued to look her foe in the eye defiantly; snubbing the dangerous looks she was getting from the Grand Admiral.

The more Brakiss spoke, the less he acted. She could, perhaps, catch him off guard and disarm him before he could do much about it. Without the aid of the Force, he would have to be expecting an attack at every second to be ready for her. She didn’t dismiss that he might actually be expecting an attack at all times.

“It’s quite impressive that you were able to conceal your identity from me for this long,” Brakiss continued, rocking back onto his heals. “Very impressive indeed. Somehow, you managed to keep all of your skinshifting off the holocams, which means that you’ve been here long enough to have mapped out every single one of them and determine their exact blind spots. And here I was thinking that Skywalker was completely incompetent as a teacher.”

Despite the control she had over her emotions, had always had since before ever training to be a Jedi, Kylia reacted at those words, drawing her lightsaber and activating the cyan-white hued plasma blade in a split second and holding the tip inches from Brakiss’s throat. He smiled back at her, otherwise motionless.

Admiral Desal, mere feet away, took a couple of steps back, his eyes wide with surprise and fear.

Had he been fool enough to assume that she would accept this confrontation unarmed?

“You missed,” Brakiss said softly.

“If I’d been aiming to kill, I assure you I wouldn’t have,” she said stiffly.

He inclined his head to the side slightly. “Desal; get back to the command deck. I will deal with the Jedi. I want all ships in the sector to be on high alert. And I want all of them searched for infiltrators. Allow me my suspicious mind.” The last was directed to her.

“I thought you said you had personally ensured that all outgoing signals were blocked?” Desal challenged.

“That’s not to say that she didn’t send one out before she was discovered, you idiot. Never underestimate your enemy. Now go. I will deal with her. Or do I have to make my meaning plain?”

Desal nodded and, with another hateful glare at Kylia, turned sharply on his heel and left the observation deck. The doors snapped shut behind him, leaving Kylia alone on the deck with Brakiss.

He sidestepped again, and then again, staring into her eyes. Kylia ensured that her lightsaber’s tip remained the same distance from his throat with every movement.

“Now, where was I? …” Brakiss mumbled to himself.

His hand became a blur and a red-white blade of plasma swatted her lightsaber aside. She spun on the spot and turned to face him, holding her lightsaber’s hilt backhand, the blade parallel to her outstretched arm.

“Why?” she asked him simply.

“That one word covers so many topics for discussion, Kylia. Why don’t you narrow it down a little bit for me, hmm?”

“We both trained under Master Skywalker,” she reminded him. “I remember you back in those days. You were such a promising student with so much potential. You were better than the rest of us, though you were so reserved about it. Obviously, Master Skywalker saw something in you that could be saved. Why are you doing this to him?”

“You hold your precious Skywalker in such high regard, Kylia!” Brakiss spat. “Has it ever occurred to you that he could be wrong? Has it ever occurred to any of you feeble-minded, self-righteous Jedi brats?”

“How is a respect for life wrong?”

“Respect for life?” Brakiss retorted, his voice pitching higher with disbelief. “Respect for life? You need to wake up and see the man for what he truly is.”

“The last of the Old Order, is what he is,” Kylia pointed out.

“The Old Order—emphasis on ‘old’. Did any of you stop to think that maybe there was a reason it was wiped out by the Emperor?”

“It was wiped out because the agents of the dark side are always after total power and control.” She backed away a step, twirling her lightsaber around her fingers and returning it back to the backhand. “There was nothing righteous or noble about what Palpatine did. The Jedi were obstacles to his thirst for more power, so he painted them as traitors and let the Republic tear itself apart hunting them down!”

Brakiss shook his head in a way that displayed that he was sure that Kylie had missed some vital point. “You don’t understand history, do you? The galaxy needs control. It craves it, screams out for it, desires it. Time and time again, we’ve seen a galaxy thrown into chaos because democracy cannot run it smoothly. Too many voices crying out and pulling in too many directions at once invites chaos. Without the control that Palpatine sought to bring to it, we all descend into an endless cycle of anarchy, war. How many wars were fought in the name of peace in the Old Republic, and compare that to how many wars were fought during Palpatine’s dictatorship.”

“You’re right,” Okras admitted. “But that’s what makes democracy work. There needs to be at least a little room to disagree, or we all end up as nothing more than mindless, uninspired robots. Life would become meaningless.”

She paused, and frowned. “I don’t understand one thing, though. How could you be a Sith? Oh don’t even try to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I know. But there have been no Sith in the galaxy since Palpatine, and I doubt that just claiming the title for yourself would have made you worthy.”

“You understand so little. If you think I am resilient, then you underestimate the Order of the Sith. They will never truly be extinct,” Brakiss said with a smile. “I was forced to make the most personal, most horrific, most unthinkable sacrifice ever to be made by one who would become Sith.”

“And what was that?”

“Life itself,” Brakiss said. He was standing still now, out of reach of Kylia’s lightsaber with the tip of his own an inch from the deck beneath their feet. “My own life, as a matter of fact.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t! You’re too narrow-minded!” Brakiss said gleefully, twirling on the spot almost gracefully, as if in celebration of some hidden feat. That in itself was entirely unlike the Brakiss she had known.

“You see, I did actually die that day I fought your precious Skywalker on Tatooine. He made sure of that. He could see that there was no other way to defeat me, and that I would rather have my flesh peeled from me by a sandstorm before submitting and allowing the likes of him to redeem me. So he threw me into the belly of that same beast the Hutts often favoured. And there it was that I saw no more. There it was that my life came to an end.”

“A Sarlacc!” Kylia gasped, half in disbelief, and half in shock of what she had heard. Surely, he was lying. Luke Skywalker would never willingly cause someone to endure so much pain, so much suffering.

“It wasn’t the monster itself that killed me,” Brakiss went on, oblivious to Kylia’s silent dilemma. “See that’s the beauty of its digestive system. The Sarlacc consumes its prey slowly, alive and whole. Well mostly alive and whole.”

“Then what was it that killed you?”

“The shock,” Brakiss admitted. “That one moment in my life when all the hatred and all of the anger disappeared and I looked up at Skywalker’s face, knowing that I had so gravely misjudged him. I couldn’t believe he’d actually done that to me. But he had.

“Finally, after so many years of searching for my redemption, he inevitably gave up. He did what his father would have done from the first—albeit more dramatically. It was that shock, combined with the shock my body underwent when the digestion began, that killed me. My heart, my mind; my entire body just ceased to function.

“I don’t know how long I was in there. Enough to come away from it with this”—he gently stroked the burn scars along his face with his only gloved hand—“and a new outlook on the nature of the Force and the Jedi that think they know it all. It was my faith, my devotion to the true nature of the Force that brought me back to life. You see me as I am, fully resurrected with all the glory of the Sith. And with that sacrifice, I was deemed worthy to be the Dark Lord of the Sith, with no one to challenge me and a single mission in mind.”

“But I still cannot believe that you could go so far,” Kylia pleaded. “The last time I saw you, the last any of ussaw you, you had such a burning hatred for yourself and what you had allowed others to turn you into. Even serving the Emperor’s clone, you did so only to further your own goals, not out of any loyalty to him. How could you say that all of that was a lie? Brakiss—”

“I do not go by that name anymore!” Brakiss hissed dangerously at her. “You will address me through my proper title, only.”

“I’m sorry, but to me you will always be Brakiss,” Okras said.

“Then before you die, you will realise that I am not that man anymore!” And he lunged.

Kylia brought her arm up, bringing her lightsaber with it into the path of Brakiss’s weapon. The two clashed, sparking wildly. She shoved him off and slashed a figure-eight in front of her with her own weapon, forcing him to back off a couple of steps.

He did; dodging the first two strikes and swinging his lightsaber into the path of the rest, trying to shove her back away from him.

Their duel had just begun, and he was already losing ground to her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before he performed a reversal and put her at the disadvantage, but for now she had to try to keep him from doing that.

As she backed him closer to the wall, Kylia deliberately left him an opening, hoping that he would attempt to exploit it to get inside her defence. He tried, predictably, and she slashed straight down at his blade, driving the tip of it into the deck where it sizzled and melted the steel. Then she spun on her left foot, kicking out with her right. She felt her boot connect with something hard, and heard the rush of air leaving Brakiss’s lungs in a soft “oof.”

When she completed the spin and faced him again, Brakiss had pushed himself up from the floor and was charging her. She dodged right and slashed at his legs as he flew by.

As if anticipating it, Brakiss’s legs coiled and then sprang, launching him over the blade. He landed flat on his feet again after a flip and kept running as if he hadn’t left the deck at all.

Kylia gave chase without delay, dashing after him with her lightsaber in hand and her arms pumping. Brakiss glanced over his shoulder at her and smiled. She frowned back and swung uselessly at his legs, slowing down only slightly in the attempt.

He hadn’t needed to jump it that time. He was already out of reach.

As they neared the wall, she realised that she didn’t need the Force to see the plan he had in mind and her defences went up at once.

She skidded to a halt as Brakiss planted his left foot on the wall-floor brace and ran a couple of steps up it before coiling and springing again over her head in a tight somersault.

He landed behind her, and her lightsaber sprang up behind her to defend from the otherwise fatal blow. She turned, pushing against his weapon to shove it out of the way to give her room. She wouldn’t be able to use the same trick to be able to get away from the wall. It was possible that Brakiss would not see it coming, but it was infinitely more likely that she would end up a limbless torso awaiting the finishing blow.

Besides, she knew she didn’t have enough of a run-up, and she couldn’t use the Force to stick herself to the wall.

She switched her grip to the forehand and jabbed forward with her blade, pulling back quickly as Brakiss slashed down at it and then jabbing again at a higher point. He swung his blade back upwards, batting hers away.

She saw a small opening and shoved again, her foot catching him squarely in the chest and pushing him away. He fell to the floor, gasping for air, but was quick to get what he needed before batting away her follow-up attacks.

“You’re slipping, Kylia,” Brakiss snarled, glaring at her as he pushed himself to his feet. “Already you have had ample opportunities to kill me, and you have chosen not to. Has old age made you feeble?”

Kylia did not reply, for she knew that Brakiss was only baiting her. She brought her lightsaber up in a defensive backhand and took the briefest second to look around. She had plenty of room to move now—at least for the time being.

“Perhaps I choose not to be the instrument of a friend’s demise,” she responded as her adversary took a step back and raised his lightsaber high above his head, ready to strike.

“Ky, we have not been friends in many, many years,” Brakiss said curtly. He swung down, the red-white of plasma blurring in the air towards her, and she swung upwards to meet him. Lightsabers clashed, sparked, sizzled in the cool air of the deck.

And then Kylia felt Brakiss’s foot hook around her ankle and tug towards him. She fell to the deck hard, and rolled sideways just in time to avoid the downwards stabbing motion Brakiss had followed up with.

Again, his lightsaber plunged down into the deck and melted steel. He hissed angrily at her and tugged it free, twirling it around his fingers as she rolled onto her feet into a crouching defensive posture.

She looked up into her adversary’s eyes as he approached her and dived left. Intent on finishing her, he slashed down at where she had been, hoping to catch her before she was entirely away. He missed, but she felt the heat of his weapon as it came within inches of her leg, burning the material of the uniform and bringing up angry welts on her skin.

She hit the deck again in a ball and rolled away, coming to her feet and turning around to face him.

Brakiss advanced on her quickly, swinging his blade from left to right, and she countered it, switching quickly into a defensive frame of thought and altering her grip to a Soresu forehand.

Brakiss swung again and again, and Kylia blocked each blow, shoving him away each time.

Kylia was frantic as she assessed her available options. She had started out gaining an advantage over the Sith, but now neither of them had the advantage they each wanted and needed to survive. She knew that she would have to get one soon, or Zak Arranda and Jaina Solo’s chances of getting away from this place alive and in one piece were slim. She had promised Jaina.

But she couldn’t help that sliver of fear that crept into her mind when she looked at Brakiss each time they traded blows. He was a lot more powerful than she had anticipated, and she didn’t know if she could beat him. She knew that she could, at least, hold him off. Perhaps she could even catch him off guard a little, but she wasn’t entirely certain how long she could do that for.

And then, Brakiss opened another weakness for her to exploit, and exploit she did.

Concentrating hard on her left leg, Kylia swung her lightsaber at Brakiss’s left side, allowing it to cut half an inch into his leg, cauterising the flesh as it went. Brakiss howled at her.

She pulled it away quickly and kicked out at his head. But by now, her left leg had transformed into the heavily muscled and hairy leg of a Wookiee—ripping through the pant leg of the uniform. When it impacted, it hit hard, and Brakiss toppled backwards and slid across the deck away from her, clutching at his leg.

Smiling to herself for the ingenuity, Kylia plunged her lightsaber to the hilt into the deck at her feet, and then pulled it sideways in a large arc while concentrating again on transforming her leg.

She kept her eyes on Brakiss for as long as she could, only looking away for a brief second as she turned to continue the cut.

When she was done and her leg was back to normal, she deactivated her lightsaber and stood up straight. She looked over at Brakiss as he struggled back to his feet as fast as he could, then held her hand up and saluted him—a mocking gesture—before she jumped on the spot and the section of the deck she was standing on fell away from the rest, taking her with it.

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