Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The ground shook beneath him, driving him to his knees. He stayed there on the cold solidity, panting … trying to gather the scattered pieces of his memory.
“Hey, you ‘aright?”
The younger boy was taller, bigger, but that was no surprise. Everyone was bigger than Revan D’valez.
“Space off, nerfherder.” Glowering from under dark, too-long hair that flopped over his eyes, Revan kept his recent saviour in his wary sight. He waited for the boy’s grin to disappear at the insult. But the smile only grew wider and he reached down with a huge paw.
“Aw, no reason to be that way. They was three against one. Ain’t no-one expected to stand up to that.”
Revan ignored the gesture and dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, smearing blood and dirt. Grimacing at a pain in his side where a boot had connected a few minutes earlier, he hauled himself to his feet. “What’s it to you, anyway? No-one asked you to get involved.”
Now the kid did look insulted. His face darkened to a mottled red, right up to his scalp that peeked through close-shorn, white-blonde stubble. “Well, I guess that’s true ‘nuff. But I ain’t never sat back and watched an unfair fight.”
“I almost had ‘em.”
As quick as that, the angry flush was gone and the bigger boy laughed and slapped Revan hard between the shoulders, nearly sending him staggering forward. “Hah! That’s right! Never admit defeat and keep the bastards guessing! You’re stronger than you look, kid.”
He stuck out his hand again. This time Revan gripped it, his dirty fingers almost lost in the boy’s huge grasp. “Don’t call me kid. I’m older than you. I’m Revan.”
“Thanks for your help, Alek. I’m going pay them back somehow. I’m going be a Jedi, y’know.”
“Yeah, sure you are, kid.”
Tuning out a dozen screams of pain from his own flesh, Revan clutched at the icy wall of the Star Forge and dragged himself to his feet. He did not glance down at the pale body, still so beautiful, that sprawled, cooling, before him. Strands of hair the colour of polished oak danced across the shuddering floor as the Republic’s attacks began anew.
“Oh, Force! Did you see the look on Vrook’s face? I …I thought his head was going to explode right there!” Alek doubled over with laughter, his broad shoulders shaking and his face red.
“I don’t know how you do it, Rev.” He wiped his eyes. “Honestly, Vrook makes me want to shake in my boots, but he never puts you off your game.”
The two young men lounged in the shade of the fountain, safe from the harsh glare of the Dantooine sun. Revan paid little attention to his friend’s mirth. He stared at the half-eaten bitterfruit in his hand, deep in thought. “I don’t know, Squint. It just doesn’t feel right to me.”
“Feel right? No kidding! I’m shocked they haven’t kicked you out yet.” Alek rolled onto his back and closed his eyes in the noon heat.
“Not that! Well, not entirely that.” Revan shook his dark head, grasping for an explanation. “All of this … tradition … this formality … it doesn’t feel right. What are they all so afraid of?”
“C’mon, Rev. Haven’t you been paying attention? They’re all terrified of the big, bad Dark Side.” Alek raised his hands above his prone face, twisted into mocking claws. “Booogabooogaboooga!”
Revan swatted the big man’s shoulder, but couldn’t repress a snort. He sobered quickly, though. “If you take everything they say as truth, there’s nothing to fear. Just don’t … feel … and – hey presto! – you’ll be fine.”
He leaned his head back against the fountain’s cool marble base. “But that doesn’t …”
“Yeah, I know, ‘feel right.’ You keep sayin’ that, but you forget you’re not supposed to be feelin’ at all.”
“It really is the best way, you know.”
Both padawans leaped up at the unexpected voice, high and cool, that pierced the dainty trickle of the fountain.
“To be a Jedi, you must resist all emotion, all passion. There is only peace.”
When they spied the girl, younger than both of them, the men rolled their eyes simultaneously. “Aw Hell, Master Shan. Could you bug someone else?”
“Don’t call me that, Padawan Alek. It’s disrespectful to those who have earned the title.”
Alek flopped back into the warm grass, but Revan leaned forward, scrutinizing the youngling. “You really think so, Bastila? You think a human being can lock away all feeling without putting himself and others at risk?”
“Of course!” Her grey eyes were wide with conviction.
“Can you do it, Bastila?”
“I … I think …”
“Can you lock away memories of your family? Can you forget about the people who loved you? Can you forget about the father who tucked you in at night?”
“That’s not …!”
“Can you forgive your mother, little Jedi? The one who sends you those packages that you never open?”
“How did you…?”
The girl was shaking now, her jaw pushed forward in a stubborn line.
“Can you forget that she sent you here? Away from the life you knew? That you’ll never see your dad again because of her?”
“Shut up!” Bastila’s hands were clenched at her side.
“Are you angry with me, Bastila? Do you want to hit me?”
Tears welling in her eyes, she turned and fled. Revan’s eyes never left her retreating figure. “You see, Squint? It’s too easy. How can we manage our emotions if we’re so damned afraid of them?”
“I dunno, Rev. It’s always worked for me. Just never let them know you’re afraid, right?”
Revan didn’t answer.
He shuffled down the narrow corridor, away from Bastila's blood, concentrating on keeping his balance as the world trembled around him. Four steps, five, he stopped to plunge a medkit needle deep in his thigh. Six steps, seven. How could the Star Forge be so huge? Nine? How many? How long could this one path be?
“C’mon, Squint! Keep moving! Move your feet, dammit!”
Alek’s body weighed Revan’s slight frame down like a dead speeder. His huge friend was barely conscious, leaning heavily on his commanding officer. The words that stumbled from his lips seemed to form on their own, in bloody bubbles of sound. “They sold us out, Rev. How could they do that? We were only tryin’ t’help them.”
Revan didn’t answer, unable to speak over the rage that burned through his skull. The plan had been simple. Land quietly. Take the underground network into the centre of the main complex. Plant enough explosives to level the entire Mandalorian base and get the hell out – with the help of the local resistance.
Except, when the two Jedi knights had reached the exit that led to freedom, it had been locked. Barred tight. A timid voice had whispered from the other side, “I’m sorry! They said they’d level the entire city if you weren’t caught. The whole city! I’m so afraid. I’m so sorry…”
Revan had broken bones in his hand as he pounded on that door. “You son of a bitch! You can’t just let them win like this! You have to be stronger! You have to fight!”
“I can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry.”
They’d fought their way through the first assault, and the second. Revan’s grasp of the Force had cut a swath of destruction through the Mandalorian ranks and Alek’s lightsabre hummed brightly beside him, shining through the inky night like a beacon of hope.
But the third wave, and the fourth, had dragged them down. A disruptor rifle caught Alek in the side, scorching through armour and flesh. Revan’s heart had stopped as his friend went down. The young Jedi lashed out with all the desperation and frustration in his body, unwilling to meet death on this dark planet. Panting in fear, he was shocked by the silence that followed, but he didn’t stop to question his luck. Hefting Alek’s arm over his shoulder, he staggered blindly into the dark.
“M’sorry, Rev. You should have left me there. You could make it out, if it was just you.”
“Shut the hell up, Squint.”
“Naw. S’true. Y’started out small, but you were always stronger. Once we found the Force, you were stronger…”
“I said shut up.”
Much later, and Revan had no real idea of how much time had passed, they heard that the Mandalorians had, in fact, razed the entire city to the ground when the Jedi had not fallen into their clutches. Watching Alek’s pale face on the cold medbay bed, Revan wasn’t the least bit disgusted at the tiny thrill of pleasure that gave him.
In the bleak light of the Star Forge, Malak looked much the same as he had the last time they had seen each other. Yet, taller somehow. Stronger somehow.
“There is more of yourself in you than I had expected.”
He winced at the metallic scrape of the Dark Lord’s voice.
“You are stronger than I thought possible, but I am stronger. As I have been since the day I betrayed you.”
At the first hiss of their clashing lightsabres, Revan knew Malak was right.
“What is it the soldiers are calling you now? Malak?” Darth Revan chuckled from behind his mask, but he knew his mouth didn’t curve into an accompanying smile. “It suits you better than ‘Squint’ ever did.”
“I’ve already had four men gutted for calling me that, Revan. Don’t force me to make it five.”
In a crimson flash, the Sith Lord’s blade sizzled through the air. His apprentice dropped to his knees, blue eyes wide with shock, hands clutching at his throat, at the gaping space where his jaw had been.
Almost casually, Revan strode across the room to face the man who had been the closest thing to a brother he’d ever known. Even on his knees, Alek could almost look him in the eye.
But he didn’t.
He cowered before the raw power and rage that dripped from his Dark Lord.
Revan’s gloved hand slid over the indigo tattoos that bisected his apprentice’s skull and forced his head backwards, his chin up. He wrapped his fingers around the base of Alek’s head in a hard caress and leaned forward, not once flinching from the torn flesh and melted bone.
“I am your Lord, Alek, because I am stronger than you. As it should be.”
The dry gurgle was more response than he had expected.
“As such, I hold the power to end your existence. You live and breathe only by my recognizance. Do you understand me?”
The broad head beneath his fingers nodded.
“I certainly hold the power to rename you. From this point on, you are Malak – Darth Malak, to be sure, but Malak just the same. Because I say it shall be so.”
Brushing his lips across the ruined face, Revan whispered into an undamaged ear. “Until you can best me, you must fear me.”
Revan was very afraid.
He staggered under the steady blows of sabre and Force power. It stung his skin, shattered his limbs. Though the command centre’s huge windows gave them both a clear view of the battle that raged around the Star Forge, Revan watched it in his mind’s eye, understanding that each feint and maneuver brought him closer to an ending.
He could, at best, delay. Hold off the inevitable long enough to make a difference. To make it all mean something.
“Run, kid. She’s sacrificing herself for you. Don’t make it an empty gesture.”
Erik D’valez – Not Revan. No. It wasn’t possible! – glared at the pilot. “We can’t leave her here! We can’t!”
But Carth’s hands were unforgiving on his arm, hauling the smaller man down the red-lit corridors. “She’s the only reason you’re still alive, kid. Move, or I will leave you here with a blaster burn on your forehead.”
He was numb as Carth pushed him toward the Hawk. Numb as he faced the rest of his crew, desperate to deny the truth. In the end, it was Mission’s youthful faith in him that blasted through the walls in his mind. With images of Taris burning flashing through his mind, he pushed past them all and sought refuge in the ship’s hold.
Later, he felt her pain. Felt her fall. And vowed to make it all worthwhile.
Malak’s eyes flickered yellow past his fading vision, the giant man’s hands an unbreakable vice on his throat. His feet dangled in the air as he hung helpless in the Sith Lord’s grasp. His lightsabre hilt rattled across the durasteel floor as the Star Forge collapsed around them.
Malak shook his head in a parody of mourning. “Would it be worth my while, I wonder, to break you? I think not, I fear.”
Revan stared hard, reaching for those memories of long ago that seemed so much more real than the dark hum of his own fall. There was so little left of Alek, of Sqint. His eyes. His mouth. All of it Revan’s fault. Revan’s doing.
“I’m so sorry, Alek. I was afraid.”
His enemy laughed heartily. “I wondered if you’d beg for your life in the end. I don’t mind saying I’m a bit disappointed that you would.”
“We forgot, Squint. I forgot. You always were stronger than me; I just kept pulling you back down.”
Malak flexed and shook Revan’s body like a dead fish. “Your submission now is worth less than nothing! You’re a failure! You have nothing left. No sabre. No power. Your weakness disgusts me.”
“That’s what we forgot, Alek.”
Malak barely had time to blink after recognizing the dull clunk of metal on metal before the tiny grenade released a mass of sticky blue gel, adhering Malak’s back to the Star Forge’s floors, melding the man and the machine in an amorphous glob. Revan used that heartbeat to kick his body backwards off Malak’s chest and roll to his knees.
It took Revan the space of a breath to retrieve his sabre and crawl to the big man’s side. “We forgot, Alek, that powerless doesn’t mean weakness.”
With a pair of serious grey eyes, swimming in his vision, in his memory, he opened his robe to display the dozen thermal detonators swinging against his ribcage. “We forgot that sometimes the bravest thing to do is just keep going, and I’m too afraid to be brave right now, Alek.”
Sitting beside his best friend, his only friend, Revan D’valez pulled the first pin.
"... I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room." - Ray Bradbury