There was another one.
Vader had sensed him ever since they had dropped out of hyperspace in the Sacor system. The disturbance in the Force was small, but it was enough for him to sense the Jedi. Driven towards the disturbance, Vader ordered his shuttle to land on the fourth planet from the yellow star.
There, on the barren rock world of Kraten, he would find the Jedi.
The shuttle landed and Vader stalked down the ramp. He looked around, seeing nothing but barren wastes, rocky formations, and something that resembled a system of caves, which had been carved into the rock by the wind over the millennia. A strong wind blew across the plain, catching his cape, causing it to flap with every gust.
Vader reached out with the Force, and sensed the Jedi's presence in one of the caves, a few hundred meters away. He started towards it. For a second he thought about shielding himself from the Jedi to make his attack a surprise. Quickly, he rejected the idea. The Jedi had surely heard the shuttle landing; and besides, he must have already known that sooner or later he would die. They would all die some day. Running and hiding was pointless, and they knew it. Yet, they scattered around the Galaxy in a delusional hope for escape and survival.
Vader snorted. Fools. They hoped to hide from the Empire. They hoped to escape their doom. Yet they knew that such hopes were useless. Their pointless hopes were their weakness, and that had often proved to serve Vader well while hunting them down.
As it would serve him this time.
Vader reached the cave where the Jedi was hiding. He could sense a hint of fear in the other's presence, yet the Jedi walked out of his shelter.
Perhaps he is ready to die.
Vader studied the Jedi's face. He was a young man in his twenties; barely a Knight, as Vader surmised from the man's youth and missing Padawan braid. The Jedi squinted his blue eyes against the wind that blew dust in the air and ruffled his dark hair.
"Vader," he gritted out. Vader could sense the young man struggling against his fear, trying to find calmness and control. "I know you have come to kill me. Just like you have murdered hundreds of others from the Order."
A mirthless chuckle escaped from Vader's mouth. "Perhaps you're not as foolish as I thought," he mused.
"I'm not foolish enough to think that you'll spare me," the Jedi countered, his face grim.
"Of course not. Yet you deluded yourself thinking that you could escape the Empire by hiding on this desolate planet."
The young Jedi took a shaky breath, as though trying to think of an answer to that statement. His jaw tightened as he exhaled, and his eyes glanced around.
But that momentary distraction was enough for Vader. In a flash, the red blade of his lightsaber came to life, and he lunged at the Jedi. Caught off guard, the other barely managed to ignite his own saber in time to block the attack.
"Young fool," Vader sneered. "You could have had a quick death."
"You're not getting me without a fight," the Jedi breathed, determination clear in his eyes, as he pushed back his fears.
"I almost pity you, then."
With those words Vader attacked, striking at his opponent with powerful, effective blows. The Jedi defended himself well, and even attempted for a counterattack several times, but he was no match for Vader. He was young and inexperienced, and that made him reckless. His anger, no matter how much he tried to control it, drove him forward.
Much like myself many years ago.
"Your thoughts betray you, Vader," the Jedi said, and the Dark Lord sensed the young man's feeble attempt to probe his mind. "Your past is haunting you. You cannot escape it."
Vader swung his saber at the Jedi's head, causing his opponent to retreat back and into the cave. "The past is gone," he snarled, "and is never coming back."
The other snorted. "Don't try to fool yourself, Vader. You remember very well who you were before. The Skywalker in you is not dead, and never will be. You can't run from yourself forever."
Enraged, Vader attacked with fury. Until then, he had fought almost casually, effortlessly blocking his opponent's strikes, trying to weary him. After the Jedi's bold remark, Vader released his full anger and attacked with all his might, forcing the young man further and further into the cave. Completely exhausted, the young Jedi lost his grip on his lightsaber, and gave a choked cry as the handle flew out of his hand.
Before he could retrieve it, Vader seized him by his throat and shoved him up. As the Jedi gasped for breath, Vader switched off his lightsaber and leaned close to the young man's face.
"Skywalker is dead," he rumbled, "as all Jedi will be, at the end."
The young Jedi struggled to speak against Vader's iron grip on his throat. "One day you'll pay for all you did," he rasped, his hands uselessly clutching Vader's gloved one.
"I have killed many Jedi," Vader continued, ignoring the other's words. "And I will continue killing them until none remain."
Horror flashed behind the Jedi's eyes, and Vader could sense his fear escalating, no matter how hard he tried to control it. Vader brushed his mind against the Jedi's, enforcing the feeling of terror that crept behind the Jedi's shields. Perhaps the young man was for the first time so close to death. How useless that pathetic Jedi Code was now - 'There is no death, there is the Force.' They forced that rubbish into their minds, taught them to be brave, not to fear death. Yet this one was now completely in his control, thoroughly terrified by the death that was inevitable.
Vader loosened his grip on the Jedi's throat a bit, allowing him to suck in one last breath.
"Then Anakin Skywalker is truly dead..." the young man choked out, his voice barely a whisper.
Vader pressed the emitter end of his lightsaber under the Jedi's chin. "And so are you," he said, and pressed the ignition switch.
The red blade shot out of the hilt, and through the Jedi's head. Vader knew that death came instantly. He pulled out his blade and dropped the dead man, leaving him lying on the ground.
He stared for a brief moment at the body crumpled at his feet. Then, deactivating his lightsaber, he turned around on his heel and walked away.
Another Jedi dead.
And more would follow.
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