He was alone for the first time in weeks.
Completely alone. No monitors, no audience.
Just him and an empty metal room in the heart of a starship under repair. Most of the crew had moved to the station, still celebrating their victory over an ambush by a much larger force. They were happy to be alive.
Darrus knew he should feel the same way. Against the odds, he had survived again. This was becoming a habit, a trend of defiance that was at once hopeful and depressing. His friends were all gone, his loved ones vanished in the fires of time. All he had left was her.
She was all he really had but she was enough. Without her, he would have no connection to this future world, this time of rebellion and tyranny he had awoken into. He was going through the motions now, fighting against this Scarlet Wake and whatever greater plot was at work here...
...but in the end, he was only doing for her. He was a spent hero. The universe had gotten its pound of flesh from him two decades ago. He was weary, in spirit if not in body, and if everything ended tomorrow, Darrus was not altogether certain he would care as long as he could disappear with Maya at his side.
Except for her, he felt dead inside. The glimmer of consciousness now living in his mind both helped and hurt. He did not feel quite so alone with the strange droid staring soul-space in his head but it also made him feel just a little more inhuman. Disconnected.
He needed to feel again. He had to find a way to reach the part of himself that was once alive. He owed it to Maya. She deserved more than what he was now. He was cold, getting colder by the day. He was withdrawing into himself. He could feel it. The droid could feel it. He was certain Maya felt it too. She was an empath; his emotional state was hardly capable of being kept a secret from her.
That was why he was here. Only one thing had ever really made Darrus feel like part of the universe instead of just an observer. Some felt the Force, their connection to all life, through careful meditation. Other felt it through study and contemplation.
And then there were Jedi like Darrus - people who only really felt the weight of their own lives when they were fighting to defend it.
He took a step forward, feeling the slide of memory cords as alien cloth constricted over his muscles. This bodysuit had been a gift from the Mandaloreans, a present from a grateful band of mercenaries charged with the guardianship of this outpost - one of the last remaining worlds of a true Mandal clan. Vor'agal'terest, they called it in their native tongue, a word that translated to "living spider steel".
Darrus could feel why. With every move, the braided cords of the bodysuit followed his actions by means of kinetic sensors mimicking him down to the smallest gesture. Repositioning itself through tiny adjustments of the links between each braid, the suit remained body-tight while providing complete unrestricted mobility.
Vor'agal'terest was a rare and precious commodity, a substance whose manufacturing secrets died with its last known makers a generation after the founder of this colony's clan. Few Mandaloreans even know of the substance as its use was reserved for warchiefs and champions. This particular suit had been owned by a bodyguard of the colony's founder - Mandalore Ordo. Getting used to the feel of it move around him would take some time, some practice, but the benefits of having an undermesh for his battle armor were more than enough to justify the effort.
Besides, it gave him an excuse to be here, walking through a battle dance from years long past. His body clad in the living steel, an opaque skin of braided hematite shadows, Darrus strode around the middle of the room in a ritual practice of stepping off the perimeter of his practice area.
That done, he lifted his weapons into a ready position. In his right hand, his songsteel katana hummed a tune of quiet readiness. On his left, Darrus wore a powered gauntlet, lines of silver light moving over its striking plates and down the curves of the retractable blades worked into the plates on its back. They were out now, out and thrumming with a dark vibration of their own.
And the dance began. The first few steps were simple, graceful strides intended only to close the distance between the center of the practice area and its circular border. With each step, there was a swift exchange of blows, two blurring sweeps of the sword in a X pattern followed by a quick left jab-and-slash.
It pained him to think about it but the latter move was a legacy of his lost friend Marr-ek. Once a trusted companion and bodyguard, Marr-ek had broken that friendship bond in a terrible, brutal fashion. Though Darrus had killed the man himself, there were still vestiges of the deep connection they had forged, combat training not the the least of them. As long as Darrus lived this violent life, Marr'ek's memory could never truth be forgotten.
At the edge of the circle, he spiraled and cross-cut in a parallel line at chest height, his sword moving past enough to leave only a black line and a lilting note of aggression in the air behind itself. His rush of motion was now around the circle, running swiftly, blade out at shoulder level, held across the body, pirouetting every third step into a whirlwind of symphonic steel, a storm of slashes, all the while never missing a step forward. To anyone watching, the motion was too fast to be believed, just a blur of graceful violence.
Returning to his starting point, Darrus kicked off with his legs in a half-crouch. The Force and his new suit both boosted the strength of his jump, sending him into a somersaulting arch back to the middle of the combat circle. Landing with another flurry of slashes and cuts, he rose back up into a defensive stance and slowly turned to face 'forward' again.
The center and the edges now defined by his movements, he was ready to truly begin. This dance was not the one taught by his mentor Windu, nor the katas of his teachers on Almas. This was a combat form all his own, created from lessons given by masters of the art and tempered in a hundred battles during the Clone Wars against foes of many kinds. This was a tempest of Force and skill...
This was Mael Vaakai - The Storm That Destroys.
And from a distant window high above the floor of the chamber, a woman watched the dance with tears of admiration and concern in her eyes. He was both beautiful and frightening to behold.
She wanted to go down to him, help him find himself, but it was obvious he needed this time alone. Maya sighed as she bore witness to his exhausting ordeal, desperately fighting the urge to be with him. He needed her but she could not help him... not by anything other than being there when he inevitably collapsed.
She would be. She would carry him to bed, nurse him back to health, and stand by silently while he did it again. And again. And again.
A thousand times if that was what it took. She had faith.
She had faith that someday there would be room in his dance for two...