Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

Chapter 21

The Justice Crusader, Master Raskta's ship, was easily the fastest vessel Johun had ever been on. A small, personal attack cruiser, she required a crew of four. Fortunately for Johun, there were four others with him on board, all of them clothed in the simple brown robes that marked them as members of the Jedi Order.

Master Raskta Lsu, an Echani, sat at the controls of her ship. She had the alabaster skin, pure white hair, and silver eyes common to all her species. She was almost as tall as Johun, with the muscles and physique one would expect in a species that valued physical combat as the highest form of art and personal expression. Named in honor of the legendary Echani warrior Raskta Fenni, acclaimed by many to be the greatest duelist of her time, Master Raskta had spent her life honing her martial skills so that she could one day equal, and even surpass, her namesake.

She had achieved the rare and prestigious rank of Jedi Weapons Master. Eschewing all other fields of study and forsaking the development of her other Force talents to focus exclusively on the lightsaber and combat, she had transformed herself into a living weapon.

Now tasked with training apprentices in the forms of lightsaber combat, Raskta had been part of the campaign on Ruusan. Wielding a blue-bladed lightsaber in each hand, and shunning any form of armor, she was a terrifying figure to behold on the battlefield. Johun vividly remembered her carving great swaths of destruction through the heart of the enemy ranks, leaving a litter of bodies in her wake. It was said that, by the end of the war, as many Sith Lords had fallen under her twin blades as had been killed by the thought bomb.

In the gunner's chair across from the pilot was Sarro Xaj, the human male who had served as Raskta's Padawan on Ruusan. A year older than Johun, Sarro had olive-brown skin and a single topknot of black hair. He was also the largest human Johun had ever encountered. Over two meters tall and 150 kilos of raw muscle, he could easily be mistaken for a hairless Wookiee rather than a man. Yet despite his mass, he was still quick enough to snatch a zess-fly out of the air. Elevated to the rank of Jedi Knight seven years before, Sarro had chosen to follow in his Master's path, focusing on mastering a massive double-bladed lightsaber measuring almost three meters in length. Johun imagined there were few beings in the galaxy who could stand up under the ferocious assault of his weapon's blue blades.

Handling the navigation in the back of the vessel was Master Worror, an Ithorian. His long, flat neck curved forward and up to a head shaped like the letter T, with his large, bulbous eyes on either end of the cross stroke. This odd appearance had led to his species being commonly called hammerheads by the ignorant and insensitive.

Master Worror's surname could only be pronounced by beings possessing the two mouths and four throats unique to Ithorian anatomy. Johun had heard tales of Ithorian Jedi channeling the Force to transform their multiple voices into a devastating sonic weapon.

Master Worror, however, was a healer by training, and his power lay in that direction.

He had been one of General Hoth's advisers on Ruusan, and a key to victory in many battles, even though he didn't even carry a light-saber. The Ithorian's role was not to engage the enemy but rather to provide support through both his healing abilities and the rare art of battle meditation. Although his talent was not strong enough to single-handedly alter the outcome of a large-scale conflict, in close quarters Worror could draw upon the Force to give strength to the bodies, minds, and spirits of those around him, enhancing the skills and abilities of his allies.

Located beside the navigator in the rear of the vessel, the fourth member of the crew, Master Farfalla, provided support for the pilot, gunner, and navigator. He called up astronav charts, engine readings, weapons status, scanner reports, and anything else the others needed to do their jobs.

Johun was seated up front in the cockpit with Raskta and Sarro, occupying the passenger's chair behind the pilot. Until they reached Tython, his only job was to stay out of everyone else's way.

Using the long-abandoned hyperspace route indicated on the datacard they'd discovered in the Archives, the Justice Crusader had penetrated the Deep Core. Master Raskta had expressed her concern at the start of the voyage: According to current records the hyperspace lanes they were traversing had been known to momentarily collapse without warning. A ship traveling anywhere along the hyperspace corridor during the nanosecond before it reformed would be lost forever. Combined with the other dangers of the Deep Core-including wandering black holes that would rip a vessel apart, even in hyperspace-the instability of the route had led to it falling into disuse and finally being forgotten for well over a thousand years.

Worror had calculated the risk of a hyperspace collapse during their journey at just over 2 percent-more than high enough to make Johun breathe a sigh of relief when they emerged unscathed a few thousand kilometers away from their destination.

"Weapons primed and ready," Sarro's voice told everyone over the intercom. "Any friends we have to worry about?"

"Nothing in orbit," Farfalla reported. "Looks like we're clean."

"I'm taking us in," Raskta told them. "See if you can find anything."

"Picking up an ion trail," Farfalla said as they neared the planet's atmosphere. "Looks like we're right behind them."

"Locking on to the ion trail... locked on." Even over the crackle of an intercom, Worror's deep voice resonated through the ship.

"Engaging autopilot" Raskta said. "Let's see where this takes us. Sarro, keep your trigger finger ready."

The autopilot dropped them down into Tython's atmosphere, and for several seconds the only thing Johun could see through the cockpit viewport was a wall of gray cloud. When they broke free their destination was immediately obvious.

"I think I know where we're headed," Sarro mumbled.

Below them was a flat, empty field virtually devoid of life. A dark fortress was visible on the horizon, the only significant structure in sight.

"Picking up two small vessels on the ground" Farfalla told them as they drew nearer. "Nobody outside, though."

They were close enough now that Johun could make out two melted towers rising up on either side of the stronghold's front face.

"Reading life-forms inside the building," Farfalla noted. "Looks like... three."

"Only three?" Sarro mumbled, sounding disappointed. "This might be too easy."

"Don't count on that," Farfalla warned him as Raskta brought the Justice Crusader in for a landing.

* * *

Zannah was trying to concentrate, gathering her mental energies for the coming battle. She was distracted, however, by her Master's own preparations.

Darth Bane was prowling back and forth like an angry rancor, his lightsaber already drawn. She could feel the dark side building inside him, fueled by his rage-his never-ending hatred of the Jedi; his resentment toward Darovit for exposing them; his anger at her for leading the Jedi here to Tython. At any moment she expected to see the bloodlust of the orbalisks unleashed, but Bane kept his fury in check, saving it for the coming battle.

Her Master had led them back inside the stronghold to a large, open room with an exit at either end. A single door would have been easier to defend, but he was wary of getting trapped. If the Jedi cornered them, they would settle in for a long siege and wait for reinforcements to arrive. As the last two surviving Sith, Zannah and her Master did not have the same luxury, so it was important that they keep alternate escape routes open.

The room was empty, completely devoid of any furniture. Based on that fact and its great size-forty meters by thirty-she guessed it had been built as some kind of practice arena or training center. In addition to the exits on either end, there was a small door on one of the side walls that led to a tiny, dead-end room. It had probably served at one time as a storage closet for weapons, targets, and other implements used in drills or training.

At Bane's instruction, she'd stashed the datacard from the Archives inside the closet, and her Master had done the same with Belia Darzu's Holocron. At her suggestion, Darovit was hiding in there, too. He was unarmed, and he would be of no help to either side.

"Don't come out until the fighting's done" she'd warned him, drawing a sour, disapproving look from her Master. "He'll only get in the way" she'd explained as Darovit had closed himself in.

Now there was nothing to do but wait for the enemy to arrive. Fortunately-or unfortunately-they didn't have to wait long.

The doors on either end of the room burst open simultaneously, the Jedi splitting their numbers in two to better coordinate the attack. The first group-a female Echani wielding a blue lightsaber in each hand and a Jedi Master in garish clothes with a golden blade- charged straight for Bane. The other two-a lean, quick-looking Jedi armed with a green lightsaber and a gigantic mountain of a man spinning a massive blue, double-bladed weapon-came at her.

Zannah ignited her own double-bladed lightsaber and threw up a twirling wall of defense, though her weapon looked puny and insignificant set against the blue monster brandished by the larger of her two opponents. Before they could engage her, she backpedaled toward one of the corners, stopping several meters from the intersection of the two walls. This allowed her to protect her flanks, but still left enough space for her to duck, dodge, and evade the weapons of her enemies.

From the corner of her eye she saw Bane take a completely different approach. Protected by his orbalisk armor, he charged forward to meet the two Jedi Masters confronting him head-on.

And then her enemies fell on her. It took only seconds for her to realize that the bigger man was by far the more dangerous opponent. In the time it took for the smaller man to strike at her twice with his green blade, she had batted aside half a dozen attacks from the other. There was a marked difference in the style and effectiveness of their blows, as well. The skills of the Jedi with the green lightsaber were raw and basic. When he struck, it was with either strength or speed, but not both at the same time. His blade came in either high or low, but never altered its plane during the attack. In contrast, the big man attacked her from creative and unexpected angles, the massive blue blades changing course midthrust. Each offensive was a model of lethal efficiency-quick and powerful strikes and counterstrikes that kept an opponent guessing.

Yet as long as Zannah kept her blade spinning to hold its momentum, she was able to ward off both their attacks easily using whirling parries, in large part because the Jedi with the green lightsaber was inadvertently working at cross purposes to his partner. He was attempting to alternate his forays with those of the bigger man, expecting they would take turns pressing forward, then withdrawing, always keeping Zannah on defense. But the incredible reach of the bigger man's weapon made it difficult for him to unleash a sustained volley without fear of injuring or even killing his companion when the other man moved in to join the fray. As a result, the bigger man constantly had to step back, pull up, or lay off his attacks. He was forced into an awkward rhythm of advance and retreat, his timing and strategy dictated as much by his ally as by his opponent.

Zannah noted all this from behind the impassable wall of her spinning twin blades, content to play a completely passive role in the encounter. Were it not for the big man's brilliance, she would have quickly switched to an aggressive sequence and easily dispatched the smaller man. But were it not for the smaller man's mediocrity, her defensive talents would have been pushed to the very limits by her more skilled opponent. The arrangement suited Zannah just fine, allowing her to play them off against each other. She didn't need to kill them; she only needed to hold them at bay until Bane, protected by the invulnerable orbalisk shells, killed his two opponents and came to her aid.

She waited until it was time for the smaller man to attack again, then gauged his painfully predictable incoming stroke. Knowing exactly where it would end by watching where it began, she was able to momentarily divert her attention from the combat to see how her Master was doing.

To her surprise, both of Bane's opponents were still standing; proof they were exceptionally skilled combatants. She also noticed that a fifth Jedi had entered the room: an Ithorian who stood apart from the battle, his eyes closed as if he was meditating. And then she turned her focus back to her own melee, just in time to avoid certain death.

The glance in her Master's direction had lasted only a fraction of a second, but in the brief interval of her distraction the larger man had sprung forward, jabbing the tip of one of his blades toward her eye like a spear. Zannah snapped her head to the side at the last possible instant, hearing the hiss as the blade sheared off a lock of her hair. The sudden movement threw off her timing and balance, and as her spinning lightsaber slapped away the blow she had earlier anticipated from the smaller man's green blade, it lost its centripetal momentum and faltered.

In the split second it took to roll her wrists and start the intricate, whirling patterns of her blades again, she was vulnerable. The big man sliced high at her head, forcing her to duck, then chopped in low at her feet on the backstroke, causing her to jump before she could properly set herself. She avoided the swipe, but landed clumsily on her feet. Another blow rained down on her. With her body out of position, she was forced to block its path rather than deflect it to the side. The power of the impact sent her reeling, and she fell to the floor.

The man with the green lightsaber saved her. He leapt in to finish her off, blocking his companion from doing the same. Against his pedestrian assault she was able to regain her feet and slide into the sequence of moves that were the foundation of her virtually impenetrable style.

There was a brief instant when she saw an opening-but rather than choose to kill the man with the green lightsaber she let him live, knowing he was a greater hindrance to his allies than he was to her.

From across the room one of the other Jedi called out, "Johun! Sarro! We need reinforcements!"

"Go," the big man shouted. "I can handle this one."

And suddenly the man with the green lightsaber was gone.

The olive-skinned giant reared up to his full height; Zannah realized he was even taller and more heavily muscled than Bane. The air sizzled as his long lightsaber carved an elaborate flourish around his body, then another above his head. He smiled down at her knowingly.

Then he leapt forward and the real battle began.

* * *

It had been many years since Farfalla had fought while empowered by Worror's battle meditation. He had forgotten how much quicker and stronger the Ithorian's amazing talent made him feel. The Force flowed through him with greater power, filling him with its might. Yet even with their enhanced abilities, he wondered if they would survive the coming battle.

As they burst into the room a man who could only have been Darth Bane charged recklessly toward them. In any other instance the move would have spelled a quick end to the encounter, as Raskta raced ahead of Farfalla to carve the Sith to pieces.

Raska's blue blades flickered too quickly for the eye to see, neutralizing her enemy's initial, wild attack then landing half a dozen lethal blows to his chest and abdomen. But instead of toppling, the big man kept coming, never even breaking stride. He would have plowed straight into Raskta, trampling her under his heavy boots, had she not cartwheeled to the side at the last possible instant.

Bane never stopped, his momentum carrying him straight toward Farfalla. The Jedi Master had a moment to register the strange armor coat of hard, shiny shells he wore beneath his clothes. Then he, too, leapt to the side to avoid being crushed, surviving only because his reflexes were heightened by Worror's power.

Raskta was already back on her feet and flying through the air toward him. Bane spun and threw a wave of invisible dark side power at her. A Weapons Master was not skilled at defending against enemy Force attacks. The impact of the wave would have plastered her against the wall and crushed her had Farfalla not thrown up a shield to protect the Echani. Even so her muscular body was plucked from the air and hurtled backward, though she twisted and turned so she landed on her feet.

Farfalla saw the Sith Lord turn toward him, sensing the intervention that had saved Raskta's life. Bane unleashed a barrage of Sith lightning, gathering and releasing his power at the speed of thought. The Jedi threw up a Force barrier to shield himself, but the electricity tore right through it and arced toward him. Then suddenly Raskta was there to save his life, repaying a debt that was only a few seconds old as she threw herself in front of him. Fueled by Worror's battle meditation, she switched styles seamlessly, and her arms and blades became a blur as they carved figure eights in the air to catch and absorb the bolts of dark side energy.

Their enemy fell upon them again, following up the lightning with pure aggression. Raskta rushed ahead of Farfalla to meet this second charge. She crouched low, viciously slashing at his thighs and calves, attempting to leave their opponent crawling legless on the floor. Her blades carved through his boots and sliced wide gashes in his pants, only to reveal more of the chitinous shells.

Bane brought his lightsaber down at the Echani, who crossed her blades into an X, attempting to block and trap her opponent's weapon at the point of intersection. But the Sith's move was only a feint meant to distract her, and at the last instant he pulled his weapon back and swung an elbow around to catch her in the ribs. The contact lifted her off her feet and sent her sprawling. Then he was past her, and bearing down on Farfalla.

The Jedi Master dropped into an elegant defensive stance to meet the charge.

"The handle!" Raskta gasped as she scrambled to her feet.

The warning caused Farfalla to notice the hook-handled light-saber of his enemy, and the unusual grip it required. This would alter the nature of his attacks, causing them to come in from odd and unfamiliar angles. In the regimented and hyperprecise world of Jedi-Sith lightsaber duels, it transformed his style into something unique and unexpected.

Valenthyne recognized, processed, and reacted to this information in a fraction of a second, allowing him to adjust his own weapon's course just enough to block a strike that otherwise would have slipped along the edge of his blade and taken his arm off at the elbow. Even so, the strength behind the attack tore Farfalla's golden blade from his grip, sending his lightsaber skittering across the floor. Unarmed and helpless before his enemy, he was saved by Raskta.

Knowing that her lightsabers couldn't penetrate Bane's armor, she slid in from behind and scissor-kicked his legs out from under him. He toppled over backward, turning his fall into a roll that ended with him back on his feet. However, the distraction allowed Farfalla to look over and reach out with the Force, calling his weapon back into his hand.

He spun back to the fight to see that the Echani Weapons Master had taken the offensive, sending quick flicks of her blue blades toward Bane's unprotected face-the only spot on his body seemingly not covered by the impenetrable shells. Remarkably, Bane was giving ground.

"Stay back!" she shouted at Farfalla. "You'll just get in the way."

Farfalla did as he was told, gathering the energies of the light side to throw up another protective Force barrier should Bane try to unleash his dark side powers against the Echani.

She seemed to be everywhere at once-in front of Bane, beside him, behind him, circling low, leaping to come in high, deflecting his blade with one of her own then stabbing three quick times in succession at his eyes. The big man's head ducked and bobbed, twisting and turning to avoid her blows as he tried to mount a counteroffensive.

Raskta's mastery of her blades was unparalleled, but even with her talents augmented by Worror's battle meditation she wasn't able to land a telling blow on such a small target through Bane's defenses. Still, the ferocity of her new strategy had turned the momentum in her favor ... or so Farfalla thought.

Bane continued his retreat, circling away from Raskta's blades, then suddenly turned and ran straight toward the unarmed Ithorian standing just inside the door of the room.

Battle meditation required Master Worror's complete focus; there was no chance for him to mount any type of defense. If Bane cut him down, the others would lose the only advantage that gave them any chance of surviving the encounter.

Farfalla released the power he'd been gathering in a single concentrated burst. Bane was suddenly encased in a shimmering stasis field of light-side energy, freezing him where he stood. But his command of the dark side was too powerful for it to hold him for more than a split second. The shimmering field exploded into fragments as the Dark Lord broke free, though the momentary delay had allowed the Echani to place herself between the Ithorian and the Sith.

Raskta's blades hummed and sang as she engaged him again, determined to keep him from reaching Master Worror at all costs.

He's too strong, Farfalla realized, even as he ran to help her. Both physically and in the power of the dark side. It's like trying to fight a force of nature.

"Johun! Sarro! We need reinforcements!"

* * *

Johun turned his head at the sound of Farfalla's voice.

"Go," Sarro shouted at him. "I can handle this one."

The young Jedi looked over to the far side of the room and instantly recognized what was happening. Master Worror was in danger; he had to be protected or his battle meditation-and any hope of victory-would be lost.

He leapt across the room, using the Force to propel him through the air so that he landed only a few meters from where Raskta was dueling Darth Bane, desperately trying to drive him back and away from where Master Worror stood but a meter or two behind her. He hesitated before attacking, noticing that the Sith Lord's skin was covered with a strange, crustaceous growth.

"Go for the face!" Farfalla shouted, arriving on the scene and throwing himself into the battle as Johun did the same.

Together the three of them held the Sith Lord at bay: Farfalla on the left flank, Johun on the right, and Raskta in the center. Between blocks and parries they cut and stabbed at his face, their combined efforts finally forcing their enemy into a defensive stance.

The young Jedi marveled at the speed and savagery of Raskta's blades. And while Johun's own clumsy efforts had actually seemed to impede Sarro when they fought side by side, Raskta appeared to thrive off his presence. When he went high, she went low. If he came from the left, she came from the right. It was partly a function of her choice of weapon: individually each of her lightsabers was more precise and accurate than Sarro's giant double blades. But it was more than that. Her reactions were so fast, her combat instincts so pure, that she was able to sense and anticipate what he was going to do even as it happened, then use his attacks to her own advantage.

On her opposite side Farfalla struck with clean, elegant blows, his form perfect as he harried Bane's right flank. Yet though they were able to hold their ground, they couldn't drive him back or defeat him.

They were at an impasse, none of their attacks able to connect with the one vulnerable part of Bane's anatomy. Then Johun caught a glimpse of white flesh peeking out from the seam between the Sith's armored gloves and the strange shells on his forearm. The gap was narrow, but it was large enough for a well-aimed blade to penetrate.

He slashed at his new target. Amplified by Worror's power, the Force flowed through him and guided his blade home. The contact wasn't perfect; his lightsaber glanced off the edge of the armored shells so that he only made shallow contact with the skin beneath. Instead of severing the hand, he merely sliced deep enough to sever nerves and tendons.

Bane bellowed in rage as his weapon slipped from his grasp, the wound leaving his fingers limp and powerless. But before Johun or any of the others had a chance to finish off their unarmed opponent, they were blown backward by an explosion of dark side energy, their enemy's power fueled by the sharp, sudden pain of his wound.

Lying on the ground ten meters away, Johun watched in helpless horror as the Dark Lord's lightsaber leapt from the floor and flew back into his hand. Amazingly, his fingers wrapped themselves around the hilt and reignited the crimson blade, his injuries somehow healing almost instantly.

There was no longer anyone standing between Bane and the Itho-rian; like Johun, Farfalla and Raskta had both been thrown clear. The Sith Lord raised his blade to end Worror's life, and Johun thrust out with the Force.

He knew he wasn't strong enough to penetrate Bane's defenses, but the big man wasn't his target. Instead, the powerful push struck Worror, throwing him into the corner as the lightsaber strike that would have cut him in two swished harmlessly through the air.

Johun felt his strength and energy plummet, A wave of exhaustion and fatigue overwhelmed him, the beneficial effects of the battle meditation vanishing as Worror's concentration was broken. But the Jedi Master was still alive, and Farfalla and Raskta were back on their feet. If they could hold Bane off for just a few seconds, the Ithorian could resume his meditations and restore their advantage.

* * *

Zannah slid to the side, her spinning weapon redirecting the blade of her enemy away from her throat and harmlessly up over her shoulder. Its twin came in quickly from the other side at her hip, and she threw herself into a back handspring to avoid it, landing nimbly on her feet. Grimly, she realized that she'd never understood the true meaning of the term martial arts until now.

The warrior assailing her had elevated the act of combat to its purest and highest form. He moved with the fluid grace of a dancer, his monstrous blade singing the deadly song of battle. He executed his moves with a perfect elegance born of obsession. Zannah knew it left him vulnerable to other forms of attack, but he pressed her so relentlessly that she never had a chance to effectively gather her power.

Had the Jedi enjoyed the same advantages Bane's orbalisk armor provided, their encounter would have ended long ago. Bane could shrug off otherwise lethal blows, forgoing all sense of personal safety in a reckless assault of pure offense to overwhelm her defenses. In contrast, the man before her, massive though he was, would still die if her blades caught him. He had to guard against her counterattacks, his style less aggressive so he didn't leave himself vulnerable. Even though his technique was more refined than her Master's, she'd been able to withstand his assault... so far.

He came at her again, his blade changing directions so quickly in midstroke that it seemed to bend and curve. Zannah repelled the assault with a furious defensive flurry, breathing hard. Her style was meant to prolong combat, exhausting her opponents as they tried to penetrate her defenses. But each time she clashed with the olive-skinned giant, she was the one forced to expend desperate, frantic energy. Slowly, he was wearing her down.

It was more than just his talent and training. Zannah sensed some type of greater power at work: the Force flowed through him as if it was being channeled by another, giving even greater strength to her opponent.

Another exchange drove her backward; the man was cutting off the room, herding her tightly into the corner to limit her movement. He was taking away her agility, knowing she was no match for his strength. And there was nothing she could do about it. Taking another step back, she felt her heel butt up against the edge of the wall. There was nowhere left to go; the end was near.

On the far side of the room she heard Bane howl in rage, and she braced herself for a final stand she knew she couldn't survive. Her opponent spun the long double-bladed lightsaber around his own body, gathering momentum for his next attack. And then, suddenly, the power behind him-the Force being channeled through him by another-was gone. Zannah felt it disappear, snuffed out like a candle in a puff of wind.

The big man hesitated, casting a quick glance over toward the others to see what had happened. Seizing the opportunity, Zannah's fingers flickered in strange patterns as she unleashed her Sith sorcery at her foe.

His eyes went wide and he stumbled away from her, his lightsaber swinging wildly at the air around him as he was beset on all sides by imaginary demons. Flailing in half-mad terror at the invisible monsters, he ignored Zannah as she swooped in and ended his life with one long, diagonal stroke across his muscular chest.

As he fell to the ground, Zannah turned her attention to Bane on the far side of the room. He was single-handedly battling three Jedi, slowly pushing them back toward where the Ithorian lay crumpled in a corner.

Gathering the dark side around her, Zannah created a concealing cloak to mask her power as she had done at the Jedi Temple. While she did so, she saw the Ithorian slowly rise to his feet and close his eyes in concentration. She felt the surge of light-side energy rolling across the room, as did Bane's opponents. Suddenly invigorated, they backed her Master up against a wall, concentrating their attacks on his face and the joints of his wrist where the orbalisks had left tiny gaps in his armor.

Zannah rushed to her Master's aid, coming up silently behind the Jedi. Her presence hidden by her spell of concealment, they never sensed her coming. She struck the Echani down first, thrusting her blade forward so that it pierced the Jedi's back and ran her through. The Echani cried out and slumped forward, dropping at Zannah's feet. The men on either side half turned toward her, momentarily forgetting the opponent directly in front of them. Bane took the opportunity to slice off the weapon hand of the man with the green lightsaber. He screamed and dropped to his knees, clutching his cauterized stump. The image pulled Zannah's mind back to the cave on Ruusan where she had taken her cousin's hand.

With a shake of her head, she dispelled the memory. Her distraction had given the young Jedi a chance to roll clear of the battle. Zannah hesitated, uncertain whether to finish him off or help her Master against the man he was still battling. The question became moot a moment later when Bane swatted the Jedi's golden lightsaber aside with his orbalisk-encrusted left forearm, then removed his foe's head from his body with his lightsaber.

In the corner the Ithorian broke his meditative trance, sensing that his companions had fallen. But before he could act Bane leapt through the air and landed in front of him, slashing all four of his throats simultaneously. The Ithorian crumpled to the ground, and Bane turned to finish off the one-handed Jedi.

Zannah felt the gathering dark side power of her Master, but in the instant before he unleashed the storm of deadly purple lightning, the Ithorian reached up from the floor and clutched him by his ankle. A shimmering blue globe surrounded them both as the mortally wounded Jedi released his own power in his final, dying act.

Instead of arcing across the room to destroy the one-armed Jedi, the lightning that flew from Bane's fingers reflected off the inside of the shimmering blue globe encasing him. The bolts ricocheted around wildly inside the globe, creating a storm of energy so intense that Zannah had to shield her eyes and look away. She heard Bane's scream rising above the sharp crackle of electricity, and when she looked back she saw the globe vanish and her Master fall to the ground in a charred and smoking heap.

She started to run to him, then saw that the sole surviving Jedi was crawling toward where his lightsaber had fallen on the ground, determined to fight on despite the loss of his hand.

Her face frozen in a mask of rage and hatred, she stepped forward and spun her lightsaber above her head. He looked at her with pleading eyes, but her only response was to bring her blade crashing down, ending his life.