I blinked once, twice, but the image before me would not fade.
The skies of Telos IV were raining fire. From the surface, it looked as though the clouds themselves had blazed up like paper. The system's horizon was orange and yellow, dancing violently with flame and repeatedly, spasmodically flashing with the constant blasterfire from the cannons of the Leviathan. The plasma bolts that struck buildings flared up in huge starbursts of synthetic blood-shine that sent jagged pieces of metal and iron and durasteel blasting apart in all directions, as if the skyscrapers themselves were massive grenades, scattering rubble and shrapnel. Then the fire would dull, solidifying, coming to a point. The energy dust would fade into the atmosphere. And there would be individual, distinct fires everywhere in the vicinity of the preceding explosion, swallowing what little was left of the home or store or hotel that had just been destroyed.
The flaming sky soon darkened to a smoky black. Even the sun was invisible, eclipsed by the power of the Sith fleet.
Windows crashed in with piercing cracks, sending fragments of transparisteel tumbling down to the ground below. In the wake of the destruction, everyone was running. There were so many species – Aqualish, Gamorrean, Human, Ithorian, Rodian, Sullustan, Twi'lek, Quarren, Zeltron – all running for their lives. There were families, too. Men. Women. Children. Everyone was tripping over each other, fighting their way through the throng and the rubble and the fires. It was like the spirits of the Underworld. Lost, confused, and desperately trying to just get out of this hell.
One little girl stumbled over a chunk of one of the ruined buildings. She screamed. A little boy, probably her brother from the look of him, stopped dead in his tracks. He wheeled around, moving like lightning, and in seconds he was beside her, panting. He grabbed her by the hand. "Run! Now!"
There was a horrible, ear-splitting, all-consuming bang from above them, followed by a grating screech. A huge column of light and heat blocked out the world as the skyscraper above exploded. There was too much smoke – the two siblings were gone from view. But it seemed impossible that they could have survived.
The smoke turned more intense. I struggled to see something, anything, through the haze so thick, it looked as though death itself had settled over the universe.
Then the smoke cleared, but I was somewhere else: the bridge of the Leviathan.
The transparisteel viewport cut the glare of the bombardment enough to see through the constant blasterfire from the ship's cannons. From here, the planet was one huge firework, sending quick showers of sparks up from the surface.
Standing with arms crossed and fists clenched on the tip of the Leviathan's bridge, a soldier named Saul Karath stared out the viewport with eyes that burned at the planet below. He could have been made of stone, if not for the fury in his eyes. His face looked as if it were chiseled from granite, his mouth carved into a tight, wordless line; his stance was solid, even commanding, but scraped clean of emotion.
The ideal Sith – purified of his inner flames, and using them to burn others instead.
Saul's bonesfelt heavy, as though they had doubled in weight since the attack on Telos IV had first begun. He watched in silence while the planet beneath became a junk pile of bodies that would never move again, homes that would never be rebuilt, blood that flowed like water. He unlocked the chains around his heart and let the raw heat run through his veins, up through his chest, into his lungs, and then up into his eyes.
They blazed like twin torches.
I felt a savage need for retribution within me, a driving desire to kill him before he allowed one more second of this. And help those people down there, those poor, terrified people, those innocent families, dying...
I fought to control my emotions. I tried to avert my eyes – but found them locked immovably upon Saul.
Was I going insane, or was he getting nearer? Was I – walking towards him? I couldn't feel my limbs. Moving on phantom legs – legs not my own – I approached Saul with brisk, sharp strides.
"Greetings, Lord Revan," Saul said with a start, and saluted me.
Revan? My heart stopped, so fast, just like that. I wanted to turn and search for the Sith, but I was still immobile.
"Your apprentice – Lord Malak's orders have been followed to the letter," Saul said. "The planet –" He clenched his teeth together until his jaw locked, obviously causing him pain. "The system is a wasteland," he said quickly. "Any survivors will be unarmed, likely wounded, and easily subdued. The majority is dead. The planet is ours. A great victory for your empire, my Lord."
I wanted to scream until my lungs could no longer bear it, but another voice spoke for me. It was... colder. Fierce as a wild nexu, determined as a stubborn bantha, but as wild and untamable and unreadable as the Force itself.
Revan spoke, her tone almost, but not quite kind: "I did not order an attack on Telos, Karath."
Saul swallowed. "I was merely obeying orders, my Lord."
"The order to attack did not come from me," Revan growled.
"I was only obeying orders," Saul said, and his eyes burned hotter. "I have proved my worth to you. I gave you the Republic departure codes. I have razed this world, and I am sure you are aware; Carth's family is down there."
"Onasi? The decorated war hero?"
"Yes." Saul stared out the viewport. "I was something of a mentor to him."
There was a brief silence. I fought to find my voice. It still wouldn't come. If I could feel my heart, I was sure it would be hammering like a machine.
Where is Revan?
Her voice went on, "Do not resist your anger, Commander Karath. It is a weapon. My apprentice is no fool. He was wise to send you here. Your rage... it is powerful. You have proven today that you are prepared to use it, even at great personal cost. You have risen. Such is the calling of the Sith."
At that, Saul's expression reorganized into the empty mask. "Thank you, my Lord. I am proud to serve your Empire."
"As you should be," Revan replied, her tone a shade darker than before, her voice harder. "Do not squander this opportunity, and you may rise to accomplish greater things than the Republic has ever dreamed of."
The eyes I was seeing through – eyes that were not my eyes – drifted to look out the window at the smoking shell that used to be Telos.
"Carry on, Karath," Revan said dismissively. "Don't disappoint me."
Saul answered, "Yes, my Lord."
I wanted to run Revan through with my lightsaber. But my eyes still wouldn't look away from the viewport. Suddenly, I noticed an image in the transparisteel. No, a reflection. My reflection?
But it was –
It was –
I saw a dark cloak, elegant and expensive. But it was the robe of a warrior, complete with a ribbed chest plate, and small touches of crimson for effect. Wearing the cloak, the figure in the reflection – it was a stoic legendary figure, tall and proud. Visionary.
A hand not my own – but why did it look like mine? – reached up to trace the smooth lines of a mask. No, not simply a mask: it was Revan's signature Mandalorian helmet. The hand not my own began to tremble like that of a frightened child. Its twin reached up to remove Revan's mask.
My eyes were still gazing fixedly, distantly on my reflection as the helmet slid off, exposing the face inside.
It was the face of a courageous crusader, facing down unbeatable odds without fear. It was the face of a woman with her destiny laid out before her like an inscrutably detailed tapestry, fashioned by the Fates themselves, glittering in all its dark, golden elegance. It was the face of a rebellious warrior with an uncanny talent for making others see things her way – and with the unrivaled power to put an end to those who disagreed.
It was the face of Darth Revan, the Dark Lord of the Sith.
It was also my face.
"My Lord?" called Saul Karath, from somewhere far away. "Is something wrong? Are you alright?"
I finally opened my mouth and screamed.