Jedi Destiny I: Hate of the Jedi

Chapter 26

Jaina had a rough time of pulling the ship up. They had dropped out of … whatever subspace they had been travelling in—for there was no way it was normal hyperspace—far too close to Coruscant’s atmosphere and now found themselves hurtling through layer after layer of outbound traffic, dodging transports and shuttles as they flew towards the planet itself.

Zak was in the co-pilot’s spot, restarting the other systems and routing power back to them that they had routed to navigations for Jaina’s effort to stabilise their decent.

Now that the hard part was over, they took stock of their position. High above Galactic City, they could see the various space ports and landing decks around. In the distance, they could even see the massive mushroom structure of the Senate building and the eerie, sparkling green-gold pyramidal Jedi Temple.

But they could not land near either one, they had decided. They’d commandeered a ship of widely unknown design which was probably unregistered, and with the comm. system shorted by the rough atmospheric entry, they had no way of communicating who they were to the customs patrols, or the officials at any of the spaceports. It was likely they would be shot down by automatic defences as soon as they attempted to approach either main structure.

“How about down there?” Jaina suggested, pointing to a steep drop between a pair of high-rises.

Zak directed his gaze where she had pointed and saw that it dropped down pretty far. She smiled at the uneasiness she felt in him.

“It goes all the way down to the lower levels,” Jaina told him. “Not somewhere that any Republic security teams will be looking for us.”

“Uh … Jaina … isn’t the point that we want them to find us? I actually had intended to keep this ship once we were through all of this,” Zak sulked from behind her. “And now you’re planning to just leave it down there and let it get stripped down by all the unsavoury types?”

You wanted to keep the ship?” Jaina said, turning in the seat to look at him. He panicked and reached out with his feeble Force abilities to turn her chair back so that she was looking back out through the viewport. “Relax!” she commanded. She felt him relax, only slightly, and then slip into the seat beside her. “What do you mean you wanted to keep it? I found her.”

“We both did,” Zak corrected.

Jaina grimaced, he was right about that. “We’ll talk about it later,” she offered as a compromise. Zak nodded beside her and she began the ship’s downward descent into the lower levels. “The point to going to the under-levels is that we’re not going to be arrested on sight for being Imperial insurgents, or smugglers, or criminals, without identification to say otherwise.”

Zak patted the lightsaber hanging from his belt. “I think this is all the confirmation of our identity that they’d need,” he said.

“Jedi aren’t the only lot in the galaxy to carry those.”

After the ship had landed and the ramp had been lowered, Jaina and Zak left the ship and took the chance to breathe in some unfiltered, natural air.

Jaina couldn’t tell what it was like for Zak. From what she knew of him, he had spent a lot of his life on planets or moons, but that had been so long ago in his life. In recent years, he had spent more time on a space station—either GemDiver or Brakiss’s prison station—than he had on any planetary surface.

Perhaps he was more used to the recycled, sterilised air of stations and ships.

To Jaina, however, the putrid smell of the lower levels was home. Well not exactly home, in that she had been born in one of the more prestigious areas of the city, up in the higher levels, but it was the scent of her home world.

She ignored the scurrying in nearby shadows. Near-humans, mutants and criminal elements around them, she knew. But they would see the lightsaber on Zak’s belt and immediately, they would know that these two were not people to be messed with.

And then it all changed.

Somehow, the air around her became thick and cloying and cold. She couldn’t shake it, couldn’t shake the chills it sent almost continually up and down her spine. There was danger abounds, and it was not the danger posed by the common criminals or mutations of the lower levels. It was the danger of something even those things were afraid of.

She reached around and plucked Zak’s lightsaber from his belt, flicking one of its deadly blades to life and holding it up as something approached them from the shadows. She felt Zak reach out with the Force, and then felt his probing recoil in horror, in fear.

Jaina took a few steps backward, back toward the ship, as the shadows gave way. Zak followed suit.

Brakiss stepped out of the parting shadows, his disturbing yellow eyes flashing with anger and his black cloak billowing out behind him in the breeze from a vent under his feet.

Zak hissed behind her. “How did you get here so quickly?” he demanded.

“Do you honestly think that I would equip only one of my ships with the ’slip drive?” Brakiss chuckled. “I knew that you would both escape, and I knew that you would steal that particular ship. I’d left the station before you’d even left your cell. But why bother tampering with the hyperdrive to prevent your escape when I could simply follow you, knowing that you would lead me to her aunt?”

“Mara!” Jaina gasped. “Never!” She raised the red-white blade of Zak’s weapon higher in defence as the Sith took a step closer to them. “What reason would she have to come here?”

“I have seen it, dear Jaina.” Behind her, Zak flinched. She didn’t know why, and resolved to ask him about it later.

“My Darkest Knight might have been less than a match for you, Jaina Solo,” Brakiss said, indicating the weapon in her hands with the nod of his head. “But I assure you that should you bring that weapon against me, you will die.”

“All mouth and no credits,” Jaina snapped.

Brakiss snarled as he snapped his lightsaber from his belt and pressed down on the activation switch. A crimson blade hissed from the end of the weapon, pointed straight down at the ferrocrete at his feet.

Without warning, he lurched forward. The red-white of his blade crashed against the one in Jaina’s hands and there was a flash and sparks that forced Jaina to look away for an instant. She forced him back with a Force-shove and spun herself into a counter-attack—made awkward by the length of Zak’s lightsaber’s hilt.

“Zak! Get out of here!” she screamed over her shoulder before ducking under a beheading slice from Brakiss. She swept her leg out to kick his feet from under him and felt her strike connect with his ankles.

Brakiss fell backwards and arched his back, planting both fists against the ferrocrete and flipping back to his feet.

Jaina slashed out again with the lightsaber, cursing Zak’s decision to make such an ungainly handle, and then spun into another kick. Brakiss jumped back away from her, and then danced forward again, lightsaber blurring to her waist.

As Jaina blocked the strike and flicked it out of the way, she reached out behind her to see where Zak was.

He was nearby; too close nearby, actually. In fact, he hadn’t even moved since Brakiss had shown himself. He was being stupid, putting his life in danger like this.

Why hadn’t he listened to her and gotten back inside the ship? Didn’t he understand that the only reason she was fighting the Sith now was so that her friend would escape? Why wouldn’t he see that?

“Zak, NOW!” she screamed at him, turning to face him.

But it was a bad move for her.

She felt the heat of the lightsaber passing very close to her chest, heard it sizzle through her top and the pain of the heat bringing welts up on her skin. Then she felt the searing pain as the enemy’s lightsaber bounced off her leg.

She fell to her knees, holding the lightsaber up vainly to defend herself. Brakiss kicked out hard with his foot, and everything went dark.

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