Well, here we go again.
This is the sequel to Afterimages. It will contain spoilers for the SI and IA storylines, with possibly the occasional SW spoiler here and there.
Now that that's settled...welcome back! Please fasten your seatbelts and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. And now, off we go!
Kaas City, Dromund Kaas
Vorin Janeth smashed the fallen cyborg’s head with his electrostaff, sending sparks flying from the crushed electronics. He bashed it again just to make certain it was dead—Jadus’ minions were frustratingly hard to kill—then turned to look for his next opponent.
He saw Darth Jadus near the center of the room. None of the Guardsmen seemed to be able to hold their own against him, and he was steadily making his way towards the Emperor. He was sorely tempted to charge the Sith Lord himself, do his part to delay him. That was all they could hope to do.
Suddenly, a small red figure appeared in the entrance to the chamber. The Wrath surveyed the scene for a moment, then leaped through the room to land directly in front of Jadus, drawing her lightsabers.
Janeth started towards them, feeling a faint wisp of hope.
“Wrath,” Jadus said. “You should not stand in my way.”
“You should not challenge our master,” the Wrath snapped. She leveled her lightsabers at him. “The punishment for treason is death.”
Jadus shook his head. “Continue to follow the Emperor, and it is you who will die.”
To Janeth’s surprise and confusion, the Wrath smiled grimly. “You think I don’t know?”
“Then you are as blinded as the rest,” Jadus responded coldly.
“Not blinded. Simply past caring.”
“Then why do you fight?”
The Wrath regarded him with an expression of grim determination. “Because it’s my duty.”
The two Sith began to fight. Janeth hesitated, then decided that intervening at that point would do more harm than good.
Movement flickered in his peripheral vision, and he dodged out of the way as a cyborg’s vibrosword sliced through the space where he had been standing. Janeth’s eyes widened as he got a good look at it. This one was already injured, the cybernetics on its face dented and smoking.
He’d seen that blow dealt. This one had killed Arden.
Janeth clenched his jaw, rage surging through him, and attacked. The cyborg met every one of his blows squarely, but he pressed forward. The Imperial Guard taught that vengeance was the province of the Sith, but to hell with that. This…thing…had killed his partner, his friend. It would pay.
“You are strong,” Jadus said to the Wrath as Janeth exchanged blows with the cyborg. “You could have been a formidable ally. But your insistence on defending this self-destructive regime has made you a liability.”
“Was Nox a liability too?” the Wrath demanded. “Is that why she disappeared?”
“She was too dangerous to be permitted to live.”
Janeth caught the cyborg’s vibrosword on his electrostaff, hooking the weapon out of the creature’s hand. It flew across the room and landed close to where Jadus and the Wrath were circling each other.
“When I kill you,” the Wrath hissed, “it will be for her.”
Janeth smashed the cyborg on the head. It stumbled, then tried to flee. He started to pursue, then stopped short as it staggered close to the battle between the two Sith, then collapsed as its cybernetics shorted out. The Wrath tried to maneuver to use the obstruction to her benefit, but Jadus simply stepped over the corpse, unruffled.
“You do not mask your feelings well, Wrath,” he said as he continued to attack. “You feed upon your own pain. It strengthens you, for the moment.”
“That’s time enough to end you,” the Wrath retorted, slashing viciously towards him.
Janeth took a quick look around. His fellow Guardsmen were holding their own. He returned his attention to Jadus and the Wrath and waited for an opening.
Jadus deflected the Wrath’s attack with apparent ease. “In time, the power will move full circle, and expend itself upon its source. Like a serpent devouring its own tail, you will destroy yourself.”
She dodged his riposte. “Do I look like I give a damn?”
“No,” he said coldly. “And that is why you will fall.”
He disengaged his lightsaber from hers, leaping away from her, and lifted his free hand to throw lightning in her direction. She caught it on the cross of her blades and started walking towards him.
Janeth frowned worriedly. The Wrath was strong, but so was Jadus. He could only hope that with the Emperor’s favor, she would prevail.
Jadus dropped his lightsaber, bringing both hands up to increase the intensity of the lightning. Even at his distance, the energies set Janeth’s teeth on edge. He wasn’t Force-sensitive, but on some level he could feel the icy darkness emanating outward from the battle between the two Sith.
The Wrath pushed forward, one step at a time, but Jadus remained steadfast. Then the lightning suddenly faded away.
The hell is he doing?
The Wrath dove forward. Jadus dodged her first lightsaber, then ducked inside her guard to grab her by the throat. She stabbed at him as he lifted her off the ground. The first blade went through his shoulder, and the second left a red-hot scorch mark across his mask, but failed to penetrate the metal.
Janeth cursed under his breath and tightened his grip on his electrostaff, trying vainly to spot an opening. He couldn’t just stand there—
Jadus threw the Wrath to the ground with a blast of lightning, then reached towards the corpse of the cyborg that had fallen near them and summoned the creature’s vibrosword to his hand with the Force.
Why not his lightsaber?
a small, detached part of Janeth’s mind wondered. He started to run forward.
The Wrath twisted partway to her feet, too slow. Jadus whirled around and drove the vibrosword through her body and into the stone beneath, impaling her neatly against the floor.
“No,” Janeth whispered. “Stars, no
Jadus nodded towards the stricken Wrath in a seemingly respectful gesture, then walked towards the center of the room. The darkness reached out with smoke-like tendrils and tried to devour him, but to no avail. Violet light lashed out and strangled the tendrils, burning through the shadows with a deeper, colder darkness of its own. Lightning made tracks of blinding white through the stygian clouds that boiled around the tall, implacable figure.
Janeth tore his eyes away from the Force battle and ran to the Wrath’s side. She had removed the vibrosword from her body and lay still upon the floor, blood running freely from her wound. Her eyes were closed, and her face had settled into an expression that could have almost been a smile.
“My lord,” Janeth whispered. He laid a hand on the side of her neck and realized that she could no longer hear him. Damn it. Damn it all.
Suddenly, the whole room shook, and cracks spidered outward across the floor from the center of the chamber. The darkness started to retreat into itself, forming a compact cloud that completely obscured the Emperor’s dais. Lightning flickered dimly on the inside of the cloud.
A shiver ran down Janeth’s spine as he watched. He could feel tension building in the air, like a string stretched tighter and tighter until it seemed inevitable that it would snap.
A few moments later, it did.
The wave of energy that blasted outwards from the center of the chamber knocked everyone in the room to the floor. Even Janeth, already on his knees, was sent sprawling. He narrowly managed to avoid falling on top of the Wrath’s body.
When the energy receded, the room became utterly silent.
Slowly, he raised his head, trying to push back sudden feelings of trepidation.
Darth Jadus stood in the center of the room. No shadows, no lights, no visible signs of power surrounded him. But as Janeth looked at him, he felt suddenly, inexplicably cold.
With the cold came pure fear.
The mask turned towards the nearest Guardsmen. Gloved hands lifted, and lightning tore through the air and into red-armored bodies.
Vorin Janeth was not a coward, but he knew when a situation was hopeless. Dying at Jadus’ hands would be a waste. Someone had to escape, to bear the news to those who stood a better chance of destroying this usurper.
He was close to the exit. Jadus’ attention was diverted. Instinct prompted him to pick up the Wrath’s lightsabers before springing to his feet. Glancing behind him one last time, he clutched the lightsabers tightly and ran for his life.