Chapter Twenty-Six -- Windu

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"You are the Sith?" -- Mace Windu

In the first few moments of his clash with the massive warrior, Mace Windu had been stunned by the otherís strength. There was not a lot of room to manuever in the grand Council chamber, and Winduís blade was unsurpassed in the Jedi ranks, but the black warrior stayed close in, matching Windu blow for blow and pushing the Jedi Master back time and again.

Catching his breath, Windu opted to speak again, if he could gain some insight into that black visage, perhaps he could find a way to overcome it.

"You have been trained by Jedi," he started, indicating the otherís classical swordsmanship.

The black helmet inclined foward slightly. "By many, but none could ever match the power I have learned since I took their leave."

Winduís eyes narrowed as their blades clashed again, seeking again to hold his strength against the taller beingís sheer might.

"You are the Sith?"

"I am a Sith."

The difference in terminology took Windu a bit my surprise, and again the dark warrior attempted to push him down through sheer force, but Mace spun off and moved cautiously away behind Oppo Rancissí old council chair. "You are the apprentice to Lord Tyrannus? Surely you must know your Master has fallen."

"You are mistaken, Master Windu. My Master lives strong in the dark side of the Force. He is your Master as well, and the Master of every being in this galaxy."

The talk sounded like fanaticsm, a well-documented trait of the ancient Sith followers. Windu was eager to keep the other talking, if not to understand his identiy, then at least to give Obi-Wan time to arrive. Together, he felt, they could disable or disarm the giant, and perhaps get real answers to the mysteries of the Sith that had plagued them since the Battle of Naboo.

"You seem to know me, who are you?"

"I am Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith. I am your executioner."

It was the second time that Vader had mentioned that and this time Windu felt an icy chill in his veins. This warrior had been sent here to murder him. He realized he was in for the fight of his life.

The Sith Lord dove in again, and Windu parried. He could feel the hatred rolling off the other toward him, and there was tinge of familiarity about him. While not the master historian that Yaddle had been, Windu felt he knew enough about the order to have accounted for all of those who had left it, and none of the souls he had known who had departed the Jedi way seemed representative here.

A thought flashed through his mind. Could this be Tyrannus in front of him? Wearing some sort of odd armor that enhanced his strength? The tone of voice did not seem familiar, but perhaps so wounded in his battle with Yoda that the former Count needed some odd life support to sustain himself. If Tyrannus had survived, it likely meant Yoda had not, which saddened Windu considerably as he and the Sith circled.

He shook that thought from his mind however, as an old Sith text came to mind. The Sith were fantatical about their renaming, and it would have been unheard of for one to take two different names. The name Tyrannus had fit Dooku too perfectly, although it was with cruel irony among Jedi that Dooku had selected it to symbolize the end of tyranny, when in fact he had become the tyrant himself.

The one that stalked him now, Vader, this was definitely not Count Dooku in some guise. The name itself lent to images of a warrior and a hunter, and the now-quiet monster seemed very much the predator as Windu worked his way back across the chamber.

A stray memory came to mind then, of events just after the Battle of Naboo twelve years ago. In attempting to ascertain the origin of the Sith who had slain Qui-Gon Jinn, Windu had left his private comlink transmission codes with Nubian Governor Sio Bibble should the Naboo investiagtors find any more evidence while they rebuilt their city. By the time they had arrived back to Coruscant three days later, he found a recording from Bibble waiting. It contained images and video of security cameras in the Theed Power Generator that had captured three differently-angled recordings of most of the duel between Jinn, Obi-Wan and the Sith Lord.

Windu had decided never to make Obi-Wan or his new Padawan Anakin Skywalker aware of the tapeís existence, as it contained a disturbingly clear image of Jinnís murder, but he and Plo Koon had studied the recording for several days, trying to find some clue of the Sithís origin, motives or missions.

Koon had been especially fascinated with the Sith Lordís fighting style, almost obsessed with it. His ardor for the unabated attacks had disturbed Windu a bit, after all, this was the being who had murdered Qui-Gon Jinn, a valued friend to all on the Council. For Windu, the recording gave more insight into young Obi-Wan, who matched the Sith throughout their brief one-one-duel before making a tragic error in forgetting that the Sithís powers were not just limited to his lightsaber.

In the end, the Sith had made the same mistake about Obi-Wan, thinking the Padawanís concentration too scattered to summon it to him while hanging precariously inside the melting pit. It had been a mistake that cost the Sith his life.

The two Masters had kept the recording exclusive to the Council, and had eventually determined the Sith to be a Zabrak, from the same planet as Master Eeth Koth, but no warrior of such repute was known to any of the governments on Kothís homeworld, and the Council had effectively reached a dead end.

But what originally conjured up the memory was Koon, Windu and Koth watching the animalistic hatred in the Sithís attack and speculating on what name he had taken for himself. Rage, Fury, there had been other suggestions, but no answers. They were perhaps the most powerful beings in all the universe, and the simple question of a name confounded them.

Tyrannus had gathered power around him and nearly succeeded in fracturing the Republic. What would Vaderís mission be if Windu did not stop him?

The Sith Lord lunged at him again, and Windu caught the blow, parrying and attempting an overhead swipe that the crimson lightsaber was waiting for when it got there.

As he worked deeper and deeper into his vast wealth of dueling strategies, Windu became more concerned and more sure that he knew this being. The Sith stayed a step ahead of him, as if he had absorbed Winduís fighting skills and studied them for years.

Manuevers and calculated risks that would have at the very least disarmed lesser opponents fell short of even moving the Sith out of position. Windu began to realize the Sith had not even attacked him in at least 10 minutes, simply defending himself while the Jedi Master launched various points of his repertoire in an attempt to find an opening or a weakness in the Sithís defense.

The Sith was far bigger than Windu, and thus far their fight had been at close quarters. The Jedi Master, despite advancing age, tried a new gambit, a ploy he and young Anakin Skywalker had worked on after the latterís encounter with Tyrannus on Genosis during the inital battle of the Clone Wars.

Windu and Skywalker had kept their strategy secretive from other Jedi until they could perfect it, not wanting to draw critiscm from the other Masters for straying from the specific orders of combat.

Bending into more of a crouch than before, Windu released one hand from the saber, giving himself far more acrobatic ability and opening up his striking range against the Sith.

He cartwheeled his body to the Sithís left, and swung on an upward arc, the Sith actually stumbled at this, seeming not comfortable in his own size for a second as he parried it.

Windu backflipped away from the return blow, then spun back at the Sith, still gripping his blade one-handed, forcing the other to watch his every move as he twirled it almost casually to one side, then plunged it straight forward, where the Sith had to lock his wrists to keep the blade from reaching his black armor.

The insight behind the strategy that he and Skywalker had worked on was that the motion kept the opponent off balance, and the savage and usually spontaneous attacks broke up concentration, limiting the opponentís ability to use the Force to otherwise influence the fight.

Vader was definitely taken aback by Winduís transformation into a more freewheeling fighter. The Jedi Master had a reputation as one of the most lethal single combat beings in the galaxy, but other than the battles on Genosis and a few other trouble spots in the last three years, that reputation was largely based on adventures he had had twenty or more years ago.

Now he was taxing his reserves with this fight, especially in light of his recent strategy change. Still the urge to push on and defeat Vader spurred him into another round of gymnastics and lunges, pushing the dark warrior back across the chamber as sparks flew from the clash of red and violet.

He came out of a roundoff forward flip to find Vader had backed off several feet. Confused by his retreat, Windu started forward when he was blasted in the back by a large object and knocked to his knees.

He rolled over to see Yaddleís Council chair, dust flung asunder as it dropped loudly next to his body. He realized his strategy had not had the effect he assumed, Vader had not only anticipated his gymnastic move, but had used the Force to time the chairís arriavl with Winduís own.

The Sith Lord had not made the slighest motion to suggest he was calling the Force to his aid. Most Jedi learned to command it through their bodies to do their will, it was a fundamental way to feel the energy surge through oneís self. To be able to make no motion whatsoever, yet time something as precise as the hurling of an object to match a beingís movement, that took a Masterís command.

He had not time for further ruminations however, as another chair, this one the former reclining place of Oppo Ranciss came straight at him from Vaderís left. Windu ducked under it, but had to whirl to meet Vaderís advance with the crimson saber. The dark lord had not gone on the offensive in some time, but now he waded into Windu at close quarters.

Windu was forced to abandon his one-handed grip to defend against Vaderís onslaught. The Sith drove him across the room now, pushing Windu back with long, two-handed strokes that threatened to rip his head from his shoulders should he not counter each one.

Another chair, his own, ironically, slid behind him and Windu stumbled over it, tumbling backwards. He rolled swiftly to his left, out of the range of Vaderís downward thrust that seared a hole into the pristine floor of the chamber.

Up on his feet again, Windu ducked one swing, and parried a second. He back-flipped away from Vader, hoping to widen thier gap and initiate a new strategy. He never made it however, at the top of his back flip, two more of the heavy chairs smashed him from either side, dropping him in a dazed heap, his lightsaber clattering away on the floor, as Vader moved forward to tower over him.

The crimson blade came down again, and Widnu called his own sword ot him, igniting it with the touch of a button to block Vaderís death strike.

Again, the Sith Lord had anticipated his every manuever. Vaderís blade arced into the handle of Winduís sword, sending blue-white sparks into the air and causing Windu to call out in pain as one of his fingers was cloven clean off, and two more badly burned. His lighstaberís blade wavered as the delicate internal mechanisms were mangled by Vaderís blade, then extinguished all together, leaving Windu weaponless at Vaderís mercy.