Jedi Destiny I: Hate of the Jedi

Chapter 22

DARTH PRAVUS’S QUARTERS; DUSK SPACE STATION

Darth Pravus was in his quarters halfway across galaxy, completely oblivious to the events unfolding in the Yavin system. He was alone in his personal suite in the station’s upper hemisphere and was preparing to meditate.

He hadn’t had a decent meditation cycle since Luke Skywalker’s failed attempt to rescue Zak Arranda and Jaina Solo five months earlier. When he had just begun to feel as though he could be guaranteed a successful and full meditation cycle, he had then been forced to deal with the Jedi spy, Kylia Okras. And then there was the continual, persistent defiance of Zak Arranda and the annoyingly optimistic personality of his girlfriend.

Jaina Solo. She hadn’t changed one bit in past years.

However, he felt that, somehow, tonight would be different. He felt that tonight, he would finally be able to meditate.

He was partly right, he soon found.

It took him less than five minutes to fall completely into the trance. He had intended for a quiet meditation, one full of feeling and revitalisation, but without imagery or sound. He wasn’t in the mood to put up with them, nor did he wish to waste precious time trying to discern their meanings; unlocking the secrets within their depths.

The Jedi Council’s attempt to subvert him—and he had to consider that the true mission was actually to have him assassinated—had failed, true. But the fact that a Jedi Master had been so close to his person and he had not sensed her was unnerving to say the least. Perhaps it was time he reconsidered reversing the current curtailing efforts he had in place; keep the cell and all other parts of the station accessible to the children dampened to the Force while allowing him the freedom he needed everywhere else to sense any impending danger. Yes. Perhaps it was time.

He felt he was losing his edge.

His private suite was one of the very few sections of the station that was not shielded from the Force by the Ysalamiri. He wanted to be able to meditate, and could not do so if he could not touch the Force.

Thinking on it briefly, he wondered why he even allowed the children to share a cell. Surely it would be much safer, much less of a risk to all concerned for them to have been separated the moment they had been brought on board. But he considered that there was much more between the two youngsters than either of them was willing to admit, and he revelled in the perverse pleasure of one day seeing the proof.

Besides, if they happened to pool their knowledge and resources into an escape plan, there wasn’t much they could do. Security teams patrolled most of the corridors between the detention block and the hangars. Without the Force, they would have to resort to orthodox methods to incapacitate those security teams. And even if they somehow stole weapons, Pravus had trained special squads to deal with Jedi.

He sensed through the Force the efforts the children expended at that same moment to meditate themselves. For Jaina Solo, it seemed simple. But Zak appeared to be experiencing images, visions of a sort. Curious, Pravus touched the young boy’s mind, and allowed himself to feel what the boy felt.

He was drawn into the vision fully, and he erected certain mental barriers to keep his presence a secret from the boy. Images flashed before his mind’s eye, as clear as if he was seeing them on a holoscreen, or as if they were playing out right before his real eyes.

He smiled as the images started to take shape. They were of a figure, clad entirely in black attire, standing on a sturdy durasteel surface. Piles of junk lay around him, here and there. There was steam billowing from vents, and the clanking of operating machinery. And that figure was not alone.

Another, with long hair and a feminine look about her stood opposite. She wielded a lightsaber, its blade glowing violet in the surrounding space. He could make no details of her face, but he could sense the fear, the determination oozing from her. And he was confident that he knew who she was. How could he not, with as much time as he had spent making strikes against Skywalker’s academy.

It had to be Mara Skywalker. There could be no doubt. And he could feel the fear coming from Zak when he saw the same imagery. That might have confirmed it for a lesser man, but Pravus was not a lesser man. He relied on his own instincts, his own memories and deductive skills to identify this person. And every instinct, every memory was telling him that this had to be the wife of the man who had tried to corrupt him.

Who was the other, then, he wondered. He watched as the two danced around each other, blades flashing. The man with the red lightsaber fought one handed, much like Pravus himself sometimes favoured when he was dealing with an opponent lesser than his own level of skill. Something was a little off with his movements, but Pravus could not quite put his finger on what.

Could he possibly be seeing a confrontation with Mara? The thought intrigued him somewhat, sent a thrill of anticipation down his spine. What better way to drive Skywalker into an ill-advised confrontation than by taking from him the woman he loved? Grief made people do stupid things, and even Jedi could make mistakes. Pravus was proof of that—Luke Skywalker’s attempts to indoctrinate him to the Jedi way had been a failure on his part, and the mistake had been thinking he could try.

The man in black thrust out with his hand gripping the lightsaber, and the woman was thrown through the air, slamming into a wall hard before slumping to the deck. But she was back on her feet in an instant, firing back with Force blows of her own that the man shrugged off with protective barriers. He’d been prepared. Pravus admired that.

He continued to watch the imagery play out before him, watching as Jedi and—possibly—dark Jedi thrust and slashed at each other, each trying to get in the decisive blow. It was an impressive fight, the swordplay was the best he had ever seen. On par with his own, he would have to say. But that might have been vanity.

He was almost convinced now, as he watched the two fight, that he was seeing his future, or at least a possible future in which he would destroy that which would draw out his greatest enemy. He needed closure from his past, and the best way to do that was to destroy Skywalker. And the best way to do that was to destroy his wife.

Amused, he surmised that perhaps putting Zak and Jaina together in captivity would inevitably result in their escaping. But it seemed that their escape would bring to him a quarry that would make the inconvenience worth it. He could always recapture the two of them after dealing with the Skywalkers. His skills far outweighed Jaina’s, and Zak’s infantile training would not lend her any advantage. In fact, he would hinder her, if anything.

It was an opportunity he couldn’t just ignore. Damn the consequences!

He shook himself free from the vision and stood in one smooth, fluid motion that was almost graceful, save for his still-aching leg. He smiled to himself and pressed the comm. attached to his collar.

“Admiral …” he started. “Have my ship made ready at once. It appears I’ll be taking a little trip.”

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