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The Dark Side
Face-to-face with her old friend Zekk again, Jaina could find
no words. Her breath refused to move in and out. It seemed to have
frozen in her lungs like a chunk of winter. Her heart raced, and
her palms grew steady.
Zekk didn't move.
Luke came forward to stand beside Jaina. On her other side, still
partially supported by her, Lowie voiced a soft growl. And behind
her, Lowie voiced a soft growl. And behind her, Jaina suddenly felt
the presence of all the remaining Jedi trainees - people who had
never met Zekk before today when he had led the attack against the
Jedi academy. They saw him only as an enemy, without a glimmer of
his being anything else.
Her eyes still fixed on Zekk's mud-covered face, Jaina said, "This
is up to me, Uncle Luke. I need to handle this alone."
Luke hesitated for a moment. Jaina knew that her request was difficult
for him. His voice held an undercurrent of warning when he spoke.
"This isn't a broken machine that you can tinker with and fix."
"I know," she said softly. "I'm not sure he'll listen to me, but
I know he won't listen to anyone else."
"I remember thinking the same thing," Luke said, "when I set out
to turn Darth Vader back to the light side. It's a dangerous thing
to attempt…and success is so rare." He sighed, thinking of Brakiss.
Jaina tore her eyes away from Zekk and turned to look at her uncle.
"Please let me try," she said. Luke studied her for a long moment
and then nodded.
Jaina focused her full attention on Zekk now, shutting out all
other distractions as Luke took Lowie away across the courtyard.
She drew strength from the Force, but was at a loss as to what to
say to the young man.
Where did one start when talking to a Dark Jedi?
Zekk, she reminded herself. This was her friend. She took a step
toward him and raised her voice, though only enough so he could
hear. "The fighting's over now, Zekk. We just need to get inside
to tend our wounded."
Zekk shuddered from an inner chill. He backed up a step and spread
his arms across the temple entrance. "No. There'll be a lot more
injuries if you don't stop where you are."
Jaina balked at the threat. She would need to try a different
Zekk's eyes darted from side to side, as if he were assessing
the strength of the Jedi trainees, with their various wounds, wondering
how many he could kill before they took him down.
"Let me be your friend again, Zekk," Jaina said. "I miss being
your friend." He flinched as if he had been struck. "Let go of the
dark side and come back to the light. Remember the fun we always
had together, you and Jacen and I? Remember the time you salvaged
that old slicer module and we tapped into the computers at the holographic
Zekk nodded warily.
"We reprogrammed all of the animals to sing Corellian tavern songs,"
she went on. A wistful smile tugged at the corner of her mouth at
"We got caught," Zekk pointed out quietly. "And the zoo restored
the original programming."
"Yes, but so many returning tourists requested it that a few months
later the zoo added our singing animals as a separate exhibit."
Jaina thought she saw some flicker of acknowledgement in his emerald
eyes, but they became hard as chips of green marble.
"We're not those children anymore, Jaina," he said. "We can't
go back to the way it was before. You don't understand that, do
you?" His gaze darted around the courtyard and he rubbed one hand
across his forehead and eyes, smearing the mud there.
Jaina said, "All right, I don't understand. Explain it
Zekk took a deep breath and began to pace in front of the dark
doorway, like some wild creature trapped in an invisible cage. "There's
no place where I belong anymore, Jaina. The Shadow Academy became
my home. It's gone now - completely destroyed. Where can I go? The
dark side is a part of me."
"No, Zekk," Jaina said. "You can give it up. Come back to the
Zekk laughed, a sound filled with anger and a touch of madness.
He clawed at his cheek with one hand and held out his fingers so
that she could see the mud there. A wound on his cheek seeped blood,
but he seemed not to notice. "The dark side isn't like this mud,"
he said. "You can't just wear it for a while and then scrape it
away - wash it off like some child who has finished playing in the
Zekk wiped his hand on his tattered cape. "I'm a different person
now than the uneducated street kid you knew on Coruscant. I don't
belong there anymore. Where could I belong? I've been trained
as a Dark Jedi." His expression turned bleak. "And now my teacher
is dead, too. He taught me and believed in me, gave me skills and
"Peckhum always believed in you, too," Jaina said in a gentle
Zekk put a muddy hand to his matted hair, and a wild look came
over him. "But he's dead, too - he must be. I saw the Lightning
Rod go down."
Jaina felt as if she had been rammed in the stomach by a mad herdbeast.
The Lightning Rod had crashed? The Jacen could be badly injured.
"I failed my teacher, Brakiss, and he's dead," Zekk said. He gestured
as he spoke. "I led the Shadow Academy into battle, and all of my
comrades were killed or captured. And if Peckhum's dead, then that's
my fault too." Zekk's eyes looked glassy and feverish; his breathing
was fast and shallow.
Jaina set her jaw in stubborn determination. "Well, Zekk, I don't
want to see any more people die because of you. Just let me into
the temple so we can take care of our wounded."
Zekk stopped pacing and whirled to look at her. "No! Stay back."
Jaina took a step forward. "Zekk, there's nothing left to fight
about. What can you possibly hope to gain?"
Zekk shook his head. "You never did listen to my advice. You always
thought you knew better." Despite his obvious agitation, Zekk's
movements were eerily smooth as he drew his lightsaber from his
belt and ignited the glowing red blade with a snap-hiss.
Then, in a move so instinctive that a moment later she couldn't
even remember it, Jaina found her own lightsaber in her hand, its
electric-violet beam humming and pulsating.
A feral grin spread across Zekk's face, almost as if he was glad
that it had come to this.
"You see, Jaina," he said, taking a step toward her and twitching
his energy blade from side to side, "once you let it in, the dark
side is like a disease for which there's no cure." He lunged toward
her, and their two blades met in a sizzling struggle of red against
violet. "And the only way to remove the disease" - he lunged again
and again and Jaina parried - "is to" - thrust - "cut" -
thrust - "it" - thrust - "out!"
Jaina spun away and kept a wary eye on Zekk while she circled,
waiting for his next move. Out of the corner of her eye she could
see Luke watching the battle with calm acceptance.
At that moment Jaina realized that she had been trying to force
Zekk to turn to the light side. She had been trying to fix him.
But she couldn't. It had to be his choice. She drew a deep
breath, letting the Force flow through her, and backed away from
"I won't fight you anymore, Zekk," she said, switching off her
lightsaber and tossing it to the ground. "There's still good in
you, but you'll have to decide which direction you want to go -
starting now. It's your choice, so make the right one for you."
Surprise and anger and confusion chased each other across Zekk's
face. "How do you know I won't kill you?"
From the corner of her eye, Jaina saw Lowie step forward as if
to protect her, but Luke put a restraining hand on the Wookiee's
Jaina shrugged. "I don't know that. But I won't fight you.
Make your choice." Jaina pushed back her straight brown hair and
looked directly into Zekk's eyes with calm assurance - not assurance
that he wouldn't harm her, but assurance that she had done the right
"Well, what are you waiting for?" she whispered.
With slow deliberation, Zekk raised his glowing red lightsaber
over Jaina's head. (191-8)
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