Rathok Nor shuddered as his mind once again became his own, and the haze of darkness vanished from his perceptions. It was as if he had been awakened from a long slumber… One filled with terrible visions (memories?) of horrific acts committed at the command of Master Joras C’aboth. He couldn’t spare the energy to grieve over those he had murdered for his master, or for the fate of his tortured soul, he had to act, to do something.
He looked down at the diminutive Rodian youngling, Kilum, the flickering light radiating from the youngster’s emerald lightsaber blending seamlessly with his green skin. He gave him a sad smile, his acceptance of his responsibility, and yes, his fate, written in the lines of his face.
He reached his hand out to Kilum, rasping “Give me my saber, brother!”
The young Jedi looked uncertain, but something in the older man’s eyes made his decision for him. He hesitantly tossed the ancient lightsaber to Rathok Nor, who caught it as if it were an automatic reflex and in one smooth motion activated it’s cobalt blade and raised it in salute to his younger counterpart. He then yelled “Run! I’ll buy you time to escape!” as he turned to run back down the corridor. Back to the madness of his Master, and back to once again do battle with the dark side.
The Rodian and his comrades raced in the opposite direction,presumably back to their ship. Rathok felt a twinge of envy as he watched them go. They were going back to their lives, back to the world. He was likely going to be dead in a few minutes, at the hands of a madman. He didn’t want to die! He wanted to live, to escape! Not to be. He thought. He steeled himself, took a deep breath and pressed the door panel controls, releasing the lockout and allowing the door to hiss open. He entered the reactor chamber and closed the door behind him and engaging its security lockout again.
As he turned to face the reactor core, he saw flickering visions of madness, a result of either the reality-warping gravity field generated by the micro-singularity which powered the ship’s hyperspace-fold engines or of the sheer power of his insane master. Or maybe it was some odd interaction between the two? Joras C’aboth had been one of the strongest of the Jedi Masters, one of the reasons why the Council had sent him. Rathok knew he was no match for his Master, one-on-one at least, and perhaps even less so with the power of the Dark Side enhancing his powers.
As he walked towards the core, his blue lightsaber blade cast an eerie glow in the wavering darkness, it’s hum seemed to change in pitch and there was an occasional crackle or snap as the energy of the blade interacted with whatever energies were now loose in the engine room. As he neared the spinning core, he heard a raspy, wheezing intake of breath and then a tortured cackling laughter erupted from the darkness. It startled Rathok, and he spun to face it, his blade raised to parry, but there was nothing there.
I would swear he was right behind me he though to himself, but he steeled his voice and called out “Master C’aboth! it’s time to stop now sir, we’ve gone too far and must atone for our actions!” Again, rasping laughter from behind him, but when he spun to look, there was, again, nothing there. Suddenly they appeared, seemingly from the center of the spinning core, ravaged and horribly burned and maimed they ran towards him, clawed hands reaching for him and their screams of agony and rage filled the air.
Sadly, Rathok went to work defending himself from these horrors who once had been his friends and shipmates. His blade spun and sliced and twirled in a bright blue lightshow of death. He severed appendages, even the heads of some, and as the final ghoul ran at him he cleanly bisected its entire torso and the thing slowly slid apart into two squirming pieces on the deck before finally falling still. Rathok gathered his wits, caught his breath and squinted to peer into the darkness. Once again, that nightmarish laughter behind him. This time he didn’t spin to confront it, he simply waited.
“Come out and face me Master, let’s talk about this. There has to be a way for you, a way back to the light!”
After a seemingly eternal pause, his master spoke. “There is no light. No darkness. There is only Power, my apprentice. And power comes at a cost, the greater the power, the more … significant … the sacrifice required. And sadly, you have demonstrated that you are not strong enough to wield that power.”
“No sir! It doesn’t have to be like this! You can come back! I know there is something of the good man who taught me for all these many years, the lessons you’ve given to me prove it! You warned me of the seductive power of the Dark Side, you were the one who showed me how to resist! How did it finally seduce you, Master? What did it finally take to pull you out of the light?”
Joras C’aboth didn’t waste any more words. Across from Rathok, a crimson lightsaber blade lit the darkness, and holding it, his face twisted in agony and rage (and maybe glee?!?), stood C’aboth. Rathok sighed a shuddering sigh. He’d failed, and now the universe would pay for his failure … if he couldn’t stop him.
Suddenly the soft, feminine voice of the Artificial Intelligence spoke over the ship’s intercom “Engine overload sequence aborted, power levels returning to normal, beginning hyperspace jump sequence in 10 seconds”
As the lights in the engine core returned to normal, Rathok was momentarily distracted, however it was an eternity for his former master, who closed the distance between them with a blindingly fast force jump, and sliced downward with deadly speed and accuracy. The angry red blade seemed to make contact, ever so briefly, with Rathok’s collarbone, and in an instant, he was gone. His robes and saber fluttered to the deck, his body, however, was gone. Vanished. C’aboth irritably kicked the robes and his apprentice’s lightsaber skittered across the deck. “No matter” he muttered angirly.
C’aboth raised his head slightly and spoke seemingly to no one “Can you track the freighter that escaped before we jumped?”
The AI responded in its smooth, emotionless, but definitively feminine voice “I was able to get a partial hyperspace vector before they exceeded the range of my sensors, Master C’aboth”
“Excellent. Can you use that vector to find a way back to normal space?”
“I should be able to calculate jump coordinates which will return the Shadow Hawk to normal space, however the precise point at which the ship will emerge is unknown. It could take considerable time to determine our exact position relative to the galactic core, much less to formulate an approach to a known habitable planet.”
“Surely, if those inferior organisms can find a way out, the most advanced computer in the universe can as well, yes?”
“I will begin calculations, Master C’aboth”
“See that you do, it is time that we returned and passed along the … enlightenment … that we have achieved out here in this accursed space. The Jedi must be eliminated, to make way for our new order, but we need information. We have been away for some time.”
The AI quietly responded “Perhaps I can provide assistance with that. I have detected a foreign presence in the network, a droid consciousness which did not originate on this ship. It may hold the information you seek.”
“YES! Pinpoint its location, I will retrieve it myself.”
“Understood. I have sent the location to your datapad.”
“Very well, continue the diagnostics on the cloak, I want it operational when we return to normal space.”
C’aboth stalked out of the engine room to begin his hunt. The droid was obviously well hidden, but it was only a matter of time before he found it, and with it, the knowledge he needed to find the intruders who had turned Rathok Nor against him, and forced him to destroy his former apprentice. He had briefly felt the presence of three of them, had been able to glimpse into their minds for the smallest of moments, but it had been enough.
He had felt them turn, ever so slightly. It would come.
Fortunately, with the discoveries he had made about the micro-singularity, time was something of which he had plenty to spare. He calmed himself and chuckled. “Oh yes, time enough for all things under the heavens. Including vengeance.”