Jedi Destiny I: Hate of the Jedi

Chapter 27

Zak felt useless as he watched Pravus’s—he couldn’t remember the moment he had stopped thinking of him as merely Brakiss—boot connected hard with Jaina’s face. His lightsaber rolled out of her hand; the glowing red plasma blade sucked back into nothingness. He looked back at the Sith just as he was about to slash down with his lightsaber to finish the unconscious Jaina off …

But was stopped!

A green-white blade had hissed to life inches from Jaina’s immobile form, blocking the Sith’s strike and shoving it away.

Luke Skywalker stood there, beside his niece, his lightsaber in hand and pointed down to the ground at his side. He was in dark slacks and a white button top, and to Zak it looked as though he fought not to scowl at the Sith that had almost killed his niece.

Zak didn’t hesitate. Quicker than a manka cat’s pounce, he raced over to Jaina and dropped to his knees beside her. Carefully, he pulled her limp form into his lap, preparing to lift her entirely and take her back to the ship.

“Brakiss,” Luke started, his tone calm, despite what he had just interrupted. “I do believe you are supposed to be dead.”

“You know, everyone seems to be saying that,” Pravus hissed dangerously, twirling his lightsaber around his fingers in an impressive display.

He screeched, enraged, and lunged forward, swinging wildly with his lightsaber in a vain attempt to land a hit. Calmly, Luke deflected each blow with a single-handed grip on his weapon, throwing the Sith off balance with each strike battered away from him.

Luke turned to look at Zak, who refused to take his hateful glare off Pravus. “Take Jaina back to the ship,” he said.

Zak looped his right arm behind Jaina’s knees, the other under her shoulders, and lifted her. He stood in the same movement, and then forced himself not to look back as he darted back up the ramp of the ship they had commandeered.

He knew that Luke expected him to leave, expected him to fly Jaina to the Jedi Temple to safety and forget about him, expected him to have faith in the older Jedi’s ability to hold off the aggressor.

But Luke didn’t know Zak as well as he once had. Those months in captivity had fostered a ferocious beast of rage and hatred in Zak. Though he had been able to contain those feelings most of the time, and blanket them with the feeling of comradeship Jaina’s presence had brought about, that anger was now starting to surface. And, frankly, he wasn’t in the mood to bother stamping it down.

Zak was determined to get revenge on the Sith for all that he had put them both through. Though he knew that revenge was not the way of the Jedi, he found himself not caring. Damned be the Jedi, if they would deny him his thirst for vengeance, for justice.

And before he knew it in time to stop himself, he had lain Jaina on a bunk in the rear cabin inside the ship and ran top speed back down the ramp and thrown himself atop Pravus.

He threw his entire weight against the Sith hard, knocking him off his feet and sending him sprawling to the ferrocrete some several meters away.

The Sith’s lightsaber came inches from spearing him in the chest, and he clubbed at Pravus’s wrist with both hands. The lightsaber flew from his grasp and clattered to the ferrocrete far from them, shutting down the instant it left its master’s hand.

“Zak! No!” Luke shouted from behind him, sounding horrified.

Zak ignored the warning and thrust his closed hand with terrible force into the Sith’s gut, winding him. Pravus’s eyes widened in shock as he gasped for air beneath him, and Zak planted his knees on the ground on either side, winding his arm back for another strike.

He slammed his fist hard into the side of Pravus’s head, slamming his face into the ground.

A hand clasped down on his shoulder and pulled him away, forceful enough to take him off of his prey, but gentle enough to indicate the lack of threat it posed.

Zak didn’t care. Whoever it was, they were trying to stop him from exacting justice.

He reached out to his right and a second later, the cool metal of his own lightsaber slapped into his hand. He twirled the device once around his fingers, and then snapped both blades to life, whirling on the spot to face the person that had tried to stop him.

On instinct, he swung at Luke Skywalker, watching as the red-white of his weapon clashed and sparked against the green-white of the older Jedi’s.

He snarled and spun, swinging backwards with the second blade and feeling the recoil as it impacted against Luke’s blade again. He kicked out behind him, felt his foot connect, and looked over his shoulder just enough to confirm that the Jedi had been temporarily taken care of.

Then he charged forward at Pravus.

The Sith was back on his feet again now, and having seen Zak’s weapon spring to life had drawn his own from the darkened street back to his hand and activated it.

Zak swung left and right at him, high and low, battering against a simple defence that, in his state, he could not think clearly enough to strategize against.

He struck out again, forcing Pravus to back away, giving him ground.

Another presence shone behind him in the Force—Luke Skywalker again, coming back at him to pry him away again. Just as he turned to fend him off, the Jedi jumped high over his head, high over Pravus as well, and landed on the other side of them both.

Luke swung out with his weapon, sweeping towards Pravus’s legs. Pravus’s lightsaber sprung forth to defend the attack, just as Zak swung high from his other side. The Sith ducked under the second strike, rolled to the side to get out from the disadvantageous position between them.

Zak shoved towards Pravus with his lightsaber hand, and a wave of the Force slammed into him and sent him flying.

With him out of the way, Zak had clear access to Skywalker again, and he charged forward. Luke’s eyes widened in shock; obviously unable to comprehend why Zak was attacking them both.

Zak swung out, in a series of violently rapid moves that almost connected with the Jedi. But Luke expertly deflected each and every blow with close-quartered parries that left little or no room for error. Both of his hands now gripped his weapon as Zak’s strikes soon proved more powerful than Pravus’s.

When their lightsabers locked together, he pushed out with the Force, shoving Zak far from him. He hit the ferrocrete and tumbled end over end towards the ship.

Slamming hard into the starboard landing strut, he opened his eyes to see starbursts flashing before him. He closed his eyes tight and tried to push the pain to the back of his mind as he got back to his feet.

Zak stood up quickly. Some distance away, he saw the glowing green and red blades of Luke Skywalker and Darth Pravus slashing through the air at each other, clashing and sparking over and over.

He noticed that Pravus was making less and less errors in his attacks, and if he kept that up, it wouldn’t be long before he overpowered the Jedi Master. It was something that he could not allow; not out of any concern for Luke, but because he wanted to kill Pravus in an even fight, not when he was worn out and distracted. How better to prove that a Jedi trainee was stronger than a Sith Lord?

He also didn’t want to think of the random chance that Luke would find a way through Pravus’s defence and cut him down. He most definitely could not allow that to happen—no one else, save perhaps Jaina, had the right to kill the Sith, had the right to enact justice for everything they had been put through. Aside from himself, only Jaina, would he allow to execute him.

He charged forward again, leaping in between the pair and aiming a fresh kick at Pravus’s chest. The Sith flew through the air away from the two Jedi, and Zak took that moment to turn back to Luke and take care of him.

He swung high at the elder Jedi with both blades of his lightsaber, and then jumped and spun before landing solidly behind Luke. Then he thrust forward with his empty hand, calling upon the power of the Force.

Luke toppled forwards, cushioning the blow with his own power, and tumbled into a collection of metal waste bins on the side of the street.

Zak nodded to himself—sure that Luke would, for now, pose no problem—and then turned slightly to his left to meet the oncoming charge of Darth Pravus, who had recovered.

He positioned his blade carefully, drawing on the defensive movements Jaina had drilled into him, and not a single swipe of the Sith’s lightsaber penetrated his blades. When Pravus slashed high at his neck, Zak slapped the blade aside absently, then spun the handle of his own weapon around his fingers, batting away a follow-through swipe before counterattacking and closing the distance between them.

“You will pay for what you have done!” he spat.

“We’ll see, impudent whelp,” Pravus replied, batting away Zak’s lightsaber and kicking out at his knees. “I don’t care what the schutta wants—you’re dead!”

The blow connected and Zak stumbled backwards while regaining his balance. But Pravus was upon him again, swinging the deadly weapon in his hands at Zak’s neck.

Zak ducked under it, batted up blindly to send it out of the danger zone, then stood up again and spun. Mid-spin, he slashed his lightsaber in a downward arc, attempting to cleave the Sith in half. The manoeuvre failed its intended purpose, but did succeed in pushing Pravus back a couple of steps to avoid the blow, giving Zak more room to manoeuvre.

Zak darted to the left quickly, and he sensed Pravus’s second of confusion before he followed him more than a dozen strides behind.

He switched his lightsaber off and leapt over a large crevice in the ferrocrete, landing hard on the flats of his feet on the other side and continuing to run.

Using the Force to guild his course, he glanced over his shoulder just as the Sith made the jump himself. He directed his gaze ahead of him again and ducked left and then right around the wreckage of a pair of speeders. Then he continued onwards towards the ruins of a burnt out building in the distance.

“COWARD!” Pravus screamed behind him, and he heard the sound of a lightsaber being reignited.

An added burst of speed was all Zak needed to reach the building. He smashed through the crookedly hung wooden doors, ignoring the pain of splintered wood piercing his arms and torso and legs, and continuing onwards toward the staircase to the left.

He raced up the stairs, skipping over the ones he sensed were broken or weakened by whatever calamity had taken the building. Only when he reached the eleventh floor, he stopped and hid behind a large round container against the wall behind the bank of turbolifts.

Minutes later, Zak heard footsteps resounding off the walls in the darkness, alerting him to the approach of his adversary, and he forced himself to control the impulse to run at him with his weapon swinging wildly.

He fought the urge to run.

Both urges were strong, and fought within him for dominance over his will. But he wasn’t going to let either of them win.

He waited; the footsteps drew closer, and closer, until at last they reached the level he was on and stopped.

He heard an intake of breath.

“I know you’re here, Jedi,” Pravus sneered at the darkness. “I can smell your fear.”

hen know that it’s hatred, not fear, Zak thought aloud. He didn’t want to speak, lest he give his position away before he could see an advantage he could exploit.

A sudden movement, as if the Sith had spun suddenly on the spot to look at something. “Smells more like fear to me, boy,” he snarled. He took a couple of steps in whatever direction he was facing.

Zak knew he needed to hide more effectively. He focussed on himself inwardly, withdrawing his presence in the Force as far as he could.

“Why don’t you show yourself? Why do you hide like a common coward … like a Jedi?” Pravus whispered into the darkness.

Zak’s anger flared again and he almost lost control of keeping his presence minimised. He forced the anger down with reason. He was being goaded into revealing himself.

He peered around the container and saw the red glow of his enemy’s lightsaber barely lighting his features. Pravus was facing away from him, taking slow, careful steps towards a stack of crates he thought Zak was hiding behind.

Zak darted out from his actual hiding spot quietly and slipped in behind a large divider, catching his breath and waiting for a response from the Sith.

“Though I can’t imagine what kind of a Jedi would attack another Jedi,” Pravus said, attempting to goad him again. He grunted as he shifted a crate aside, then swore loudly when he found nothing. “How very much like him you are. Did you know that in the final battle with his father, he, too, hid himself to avoid the confrontation? Can you believe it? He actually hid?”

Zak bit down on his tongue to stop the acerbic remark that threatened to burst forth.

“So much for the bravery of the Jedi, if he was so unable to stand facing a Sith …” Pravus continued. “Even one as disgraced and useless as Vader was.”

Controlling his anger was becoming more and more difficult, and Zak found himself almost stepping out and engaging in battle again. He knew that was what Pravus wanted. He knew that he was pushing whatever buttons he could think of to get Zak to confront him in the open, where he believed he would win. But Zak was more cunning, and was intent on biding his time for just—

“Jaina, on the other hand … now there’s a fine specimen of courage. Obviously, cowardice doesn’t come from the blood of the Skywalker line, but in the upbringing. Though, where she obtained that courage is another question. Her father was always on the run, first from the Empire, and then from the Hutt. Her mother was raised on a world that abhorred violence and weapons.”

There was a pause, and Zak squeezed his eyes shut tight and clenched his teeth. The Sith had finally found the right thing to push him with. Controlling his building rage was becoming physically taxing. Already, he could feel the control he had on his presence minimising slipping, and he couldn’t stop it. Already, he knew he would be felt beyond the range of the divider behind which he hid.

“I’m going to enjoy squeezing the life from her when I’m through with you and Skywalker.”

And there it was. Zak lost his control as the anger surged anew. Before he could rein his anger in, it exploded into an invisible shockwave, launching the containers in front of him flying across the empty space and into walls, and crumbling the divider he was hiding behind into a dust cloud that scattered everywhere.

There was an exerted grunt behind him, and he whirled around and flicked his lightsaber back into his palm and snapped both blades to life, charging at the red glow that was the only sign of Pravus’s presence.

He slashed wildly with his weapon; left and right, high and low, fore- and backhand. Pravus, whose temper was under more control, simply swatted Zak’s strikes aside as though he were nothing more than an annoying pest. He pressed harder, batting over and over again to knock the lightsaber out of the Sith’s hands. It wasn’t lost on Zak, even in his current state, that their positions had been reversed.

Suddenly, Zak deactivated his lightsaber, and brought it swinging around wide until it crashed into the side of Pravus’s head. He followed through with a powerful uppercut to the older man’s jaw, empowering the strike with as much Force energy as he could muster on such short notice.

The blow connected, sending Pravus sprawling to the floor and his lightsaber rolling away from him, deactivated once more. Zak jumped at him, his knees slamming into the floor when the Sith rolled away to escape him.

Zak belted his lightsaber and went after him.

He felt Pravus’s fist connect with his gut and he stumbled backwards, winded, away from the danger. With no light now from either of their weapons, they were completely in the dark, relying entirely on the Force to guide their movements.

He backed up against a wall, gulped down a few deep breaths and then charged forward again to retaliate. He let fly with both fists, but hit only air as the other man dodged his blows.

He could feel the Force flowing through him strongly, and he allowed it to guide him without the need to think about his movements. He acted now purely through the will of the Force.

He kicked out, low and left, and felt it connect against the Sith’s leg that had been put out to block it. He kicked out again with the same foot, higher this time, and met the Sith’s forearm which blocked it. He punched, punched again, hitting air or blocked movements from his adversary. He wasn’t getting the ground he wanted.

He felt a fist slap against his jaw and his head recoiled with the impact. Again, he stumbled a few steps from his adversary to recover, and then fired himself into a counter-move.

He spun around to face Pravus again, planting one hand on the ground and pushing off with his feet. He felt his boots connect with flesh, and heard the pained “oof” from Pravus that signalled he was hit. Using his hand as a bracing point, he arced his body and legs higher, and then kicked again and again from the other side.

He felt the confirming thuds of impact, heard the surprised sounds of Pravus’s pain, and heard him hit the ferrocrete floor a few meters away before flinging himself into a cartwheel to get back onto his feet.

He rushed the Sith again, and the two of them engaged in another pointless melee, each trying to hit the other in a vulnerable spot, and each of them unable to do so.

And then Zak felt the danger—something flying through the air past his head.

On instinct, he reached out and grabbed at it. He felt his fingers wrap tightly around the cool hard metal and the unfamiliar contours of a lightsaber—Pravus’s lightsaber. It became clear to him that instant that the Sith was ready to end it. He had called his weapon to him to launch a surprise strike against Zak, possibly killing or grievously injuring him.

Well that just wouldn’t do.

Zak depressed the activation switch and the blade erupted from the rear end, extending straight back behind his hand, almost parallel to his extended arm. He allowed the forward momentum of the weapon’s flight to pull him into a spin, and lowered himself to a knee as he went.

There was only soft resistance as the lightsaber’s blade cleaved through solid matter. When Zak stopped, he was facing away from Pravus, staring into the dark.

A scream erupted from behind him, followed by the thudding of a pair of somethings dropping to the floor; one much heavier than the other.

Zak rose.

He turned to face Pravus, only to find him flat on his rear on the floor, clutching at the cauterised stump of his left leg. The remainder of the leg lay motionless less than a meter away from him, severed just above the knee with a diagonal swipe. He looked down at the lightsaber in his hand, still ignited, and hissed with disgust.

Switching it off, he threw it with as much force as he could at the wall far right of him, watched it hit and spark as a wire or circuit within the weapon was shorted.

He then clenched his hands into fists at his sides as he glared down at the man who had held him and Jaina hostage for months.

The hatred was back in full force now, and so was the rage; seeping into every fibre of Zak. He even found himself enjoying the bitter taste they brought, and the power they infused into his aching limbs.

Pravus looked back up at him, still clutching the stump, his eyes burning with the same hatred that looked down upon him. Except that the yellow had darkened to black; a disturbing sight that made Zak shudder when he realised how it looked as though the Sith’s eyes had been gouged from the sockets.

“I would kill you with my bare hands,” Zak snarled.

“But you’ll take me to your Jedi Council,” Pravus replied, breathing heavily through his nose. “It is—ugh—it is your duty as a Jedi to bring me before them to face the ‘crimes’ I have purportedly committed. Your order is weak. They will spend weeks, months, debating whether to execute or redeem me. And if they chose to attempt to redeem me … well, let them try!”

Zak shook his head, and took a step closer to the man. “Why should I hand over to them the right to punish you for what you have done to me?”

“And Jaina,” Pravus reminded him with a half-grimace, half-smile.

“And Jaina—especially Jaina!” Zak took another step forward and put his foot down on the stump of the Sith’s leg. The man hissed in pain, in discomfort, but did not take those black-hole eyes from Zak. “For what you did to her I should kill you slowly!”

Zak applied more pressure with his foot, and ignored the pained gasping of Darth Pravus beneath him. “But there is a limit to my patience!” he hissed.

You cannot kill me!” Pravus exclaimed in disbelief.

“Oh, believe me; thanks to you, I’m quite capable of it,” Zak said matter-of-factly. He took his foot off the Sith’s leg and placed it flat on the floor. “And I’m more than willing.”

“What of Jaina, then?” Pravus snarled. “You speak of your right to bring justice upon me for my crimes. What of my crimes on her? Does she not get the chance to avenge them? Do her parents not get the chance … or her brother? What about your sister?”

“YOU DO NOT SPEAK OF HER!” Zak stepped down on the stump again, heard and felt the cracking of bone beneath his foot, the tearing of muscle and sinew. “YOU DO NOT SPEAK OF ANY OF THEM! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!”

“You would deny them all the chance to kill me?”

“Yes,” Zak said with a nod, “I would.”

“Really? You would damn their rights to the fiery pits of Mustafar just so that you could kill me yourself—out of pure hatred and a desire for vengeance, no less?”

“Yes,” Zak said matter-of-factly, not even hesitating to think of the answer.

Despite his obvious discomfort, and his disadvantaged position, Pravus’s lips formed a large grin. “Then my mission is complete: Skywalker has lost you to the dark side.”

Without warning, both of his hands shot forward, and arcs of electricity leapt from his fingertips and slammed hard against Zak’s chest. He felt his feet lift up from the floor as he was thrown through the air away from the Sith and across the room.

His experience was quite different to that which Jaina had talked about during their captivity. He did not feel the burning pain she had described as the electric arcs snapped and crackled over his clothes and skin. In fact, he felt energized, recharged.

The exhaustion he had been feeling from the duel with both Skywalker and Pravus was gone, replaced instead by a new energy that kept him going, pushed him onward. It was as if any pain he should have been feeling was being numbed by the Force, and focussed into his every muscle and thought.

Then it stopped.

He scrambled to his feet to see the Sith scooting backwards on the floor toward the wall behind him. Zak guessed right away that he was going to use the wall as a brace to get himself back to his own feet, and he felt determination to stop that surge through him.

He darted forward, but covered only three quarters of the distance between them before he was struck again.

This time, however, he was prepared for it.

He braced his every muscle, his every nerve, and dug his heels in to the floor, rooting himself in place. Of course, he used the Force to keep him stationary as well, as the Sith assaulted him with his Force attacks.

Then he began to push forward. One slow, steady step at a time, he drew nearer and nearer his adversary. He could smell burning flesh, burning cloth, and looked down to see holes being burnt in his top and slacks, burn marks and angry welts appearing on his hands and forearms.

The attack stopped, and Zak dashed the remainder of the distance in an instant, wrapping his fingers around Pravus’s throat and watching the Sith’s eyes for any spark of fear. He began to squeeze with his hands, depriving Pravus of air. But the Sith, seeing this distraction, placed his hands flat against Zak’s chest and let loose with another surge of electrical current that knocked the wind clear out of his lungs and almost stopped his heart.

Zak flew through the air again, soaking the energies of the attack like a sponge absorbing water, and somersaulted involuntarily once before landing flat on his feet several meters away.

The assault stopped prematurely, and Zak knew it was because Pravus’s energy reserves were running low. He might have been using his pain to fuel his connection to the Force, but that pain was lessening, and therefore becoming a weaker fuel.

Zak took advantage of it and lanced out with his own; launching a thicker, stronger, brighter stream of current back at the Sith. Pravus howled in pain and Zak stopped, taking a few steps forward.

“That’s a neat little trick,” he said quietly. He let loose with another deadly stream of energy, holding it against the Sith for no more than a handful of seconds before he released it. “You don’t like it, do you?”

“No! No, no, no, no, please! Not again!” Pravus said weakly. Zak raised his hands again to continue the assault. “You can’t do this to me! You can’t! I will not die here at the hands of some would-be Jedi gone dark, let alone you! I have seen it! I will bring death to Skywalker’s wife, and then to Skywalker! WHO ARE YOU TO DENY ME MY DESTINY?”

Electricity danced forward again, snapping and popping as it arced back and forth from the Sith’s face to the tips of his fingers and the boot at the end of his only remaining leg, singeing and burning.

“I’ll tell you a little secret …” Zak started. “I know that you tapped into that vision. And I know you saw those two people fighting on board that ship. And while I don’t know who they are, I’m sure it isn’t you.”

“Don’t lie to me!” Pravus snarled.

“It couldn’t possibly be you,” Zak continued as if the Sith hadn’t said a word, “because you’re going to die right now.”

And then he ended it.

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