D’Jrem led the group through the many twists and turns of the cavern. He had been tracking the route of the prospector for over an hour, and though their pace was fast, he was constantly wondering when they’d finally reach the end of their journey. That probe droid had to have alerted the Star Destroyer above to its destruction, and that meant that at any moment Imperial troops could arrive at the cavern to investigate. He pushed the bewildering prospect out of his as something he could really do nothing about anyways.
The group entered a large chamber, oddly shaped in the form of a bowled floor, descending into the center of the room and then ascending out towards the other end of the triangular space. Shaped like a womb, they had entered into the space from one of the top entrances, and, along a short wall to their left, another tunnel ran on into the darkness. That wasn’t the direction of the prospectors route, however, as it went further into the room, exiting at the tunnel the formed the ‘base’ of the womb on the far end from the two exits where they were.
D’Jrem was oddly nervous at having to cross the entire room, though he couldn’t pinpoint why. He searched in the dim lighting their glowrods provided for some evidence to support his apprehension, but could find none. Finally, with nothing to hold him back and everything to push him forward, he tentatively crept into the room. His first footfall found no trap awaiting him, and so he continued on, with each step easing a little. Soon, he found himself a third of the way into the room, and he motioned the others to follow.
As he crossed the halfway point, he was more than at ease, in fact, he found himself feeling almost, happy. In fact, were he forced to describe the emotion he was feeling, he would say he was giddy. Emotion, though, wasn’t quite the right word. He felt as though his giddiness and happiness were a sensation and not necessarily an emotion. He looked to the others, and realized with a start that they had caught up to him, and were themselves seemingly adrift. The wandered behind him as if in a daze, and as the edges of his sight began to fuzz, he looked around to realize with startling acuity that there was something wrong with the room. “Is anyone else feeling lightheaded?”
Lil nodded, “Yea, and it’s hard to breathe.”
It hit him like a shot. The bowled floor, the presence of rubat crystal, the lightheadedness – they were in a gas pocket! Rubat gas is a byproduct of the pressures needed to produce the crystal. It’s odorless, colorless, and heavier than air! The low point in the room must be collecting it, preventing it from reaching the other areas of the cave! He had no chance to notice it because until they had descended into it, the air was perfectly normal, floating on top of the gas. Now that they floor had lowered them below the threshold, they were in serious danger.
“Everyone,” he coughed, “don’t breathe in any more, and don’t take a deep breath!”
“What in the blazes are you talking about?” Valan’s confusion made his injuries even more nightmarish to D’Jrem, or maybe it was just the gas.
“It’s an invisible gas we’re in,” he explained, “it will slowly starve your cells for oxygen unless we get out of here. Stop breathing and run to higher ground!” He began moving as quickly as he could towards the tunnel exit, the ground rising below him. His legs felt like rubber as the gas began affecting his motor skills, but he kept moving, determined to continue on.
The others fell in behind, the realization of what they were feeling spurring a survival instinct that kept them pushing hard. He knew that most of them had been practicing bolstering their bodies with power of the Force, something he had begun to do himself out of instinct, and saw the same in the others eyes. He feared it wouldn’t be enough, but before the fear could overtake him he found himself at the tunnel. He hesitantly took a breath, and found it to be sweet and restorative. He began breathing easy and motioned to the others the all clear. A string of gasps followed, as each took a gulp of oxygen after their trial.
Smiling and nodding to the others, he went into the tunnel beyond. The tunnel seemed like the others, though it ran far straighter then the twisting labyrinth they had experienced before. It led straight to an antechamber of medium size, perfectly round and domed, as if it were some kind of audience chamber. A chill overtook him as he entered, as if the temperature dropped below freezing, though his breath was as invisible as ever. He chalked it up to an after-effect of the gas combined with a coincidental breeze and looked around.
Spreading out at even distances, were five exits of identical nature. He took a moment to pick up the prospector’s trail and saw it lead into the tunnel furthest to the left, so looking to the others behind him, he nodded and moved on. As he crept down the hallway, a glimmer of light appeared ahead, a faintly orange glow, one that ebbed and brightened as he walked.
He turned to the others to see if they saw the same, but found the hallway behind empty.
Confused, he looked ahead and found not a hallway, but a campfire! He stood looking out on a platform that overlooked a vast crater. The stone that made up the platform was a brown sandstone that was very different from the red stone that made up the tunnel. He looked around to see where the rock changed, but quickly realized he was no longer in a tunnel at all!
Valan followed D’Jrem through the second tunnel from the left out of the antechamber. His lungs were burning from hold his breath for so long, but D’Jrem seemed intent on pressing forward. It made a certain amount of sense to him; the Imperials surely knew about the probe droid, so time was an issue. He made sure that the others behind could match their pace, then pressed forward behind the Sakiyan. He noted the smooth movements of the Sakiyan, and wondered how he didn’t know about the treasure hunter. D’Jrem had always struck him as a meek and awkward one; his lisp making him almost comedic, but in the cave, searching for these crystals, the dark-skinned humanoid looked like a predator scouring his territory.
He threw a glance over his should to make sure the others weren’t falling behind, and was startled to find only a blank wall. Abandoning his crouch and standing straight, he looked at the cool gunmetal colored wall, rounded and stretching out to both sides of him. He spun on his heel, and found himself not in the tunnel where he was, but instead a turbolift. He exhaled, calmed his heightened nerves, and whispered aloud, “D’Jrem? Lil? Tomo?” A squelch before each statement surprised him, he hadn’t heard its type since he wore his old Shadow Trooper armor. The realization brought with the notice of a heads-up display (which they called a HUD in the Empire) which was overlaid on his vision.
He brought his hand up to his face to realize he wore a helmet. Looking down, he found himself in white and blue plastoid armor, not entirely unlike that of a Stormtrooper. A shoulder pauldron, black with blue accents, sat upon his left shoulder, and a kama like ones worn by ARC troopers back in the Clone Wars circled his waist. The Advanced Reconnaissance Clones had a unique DC-15c sidearm, too, which he found firmly in his hand where his Blastech DH-17 was moments ago. The soft bell of the turbolift let him know he arrived at whatever destination he was headed towards, and the doors opened a moment later.
Tomo slid along the wall of the tunnel. She didn’t like traps she could not fight her way free from, and that is all this accursed cave seemed to possess. Keeping her back to the wall, she was relieved the see D’Jrem and Valan take the passage furthest to the right, allowing her to keep her back to stone and face down any threats that may come. She continued to slide along the wall, throwing her gaze from the group, always keeping her eyes moving, to minimize any chance for ambush. It was during one of these swivels or her head that she was met with a most unwelcome surprise.
Turning back to keep her eyes on ahead, she instead found a broad plain in front of her and no sign of the others. She looked down on the plain from her vantage point on a high ledge, below her, at the base of the rock wall that formed the ledge, she could see a vast river of molten lava, and across the plain on the far side she could another, matching river of the red superheated stone, at the base of a matching ridgeline. To her left, boxing one end of the canyon below, stood an immense fortress, and before it and army of battle droids stood in companies. At their rear, standing before the gates of the fortress, sat a huge droid, a mix of tank and humanoid. From the waist down, giant treads held it aloft, attached to an armored chassis that sported cannons with barrels as large as Tomo herself. From the waist up, it was humanoid, with two powerful arms, one that ended in a battery of weapons ranging from rocket launchers to blaster cannons, and in the other it held an immense axe, whose blade was easily as long as Tomo was tall.
Across from the droids, engaging the front lines of the droid army, were hundreds of thousands of gleaming white Stormtroopers. At least, they looked like Stormtroopers to Tomo’s eyes. Strange ships flew above the battle towards the giant droid/tank in the back, and as Tomo watched, one of the craft was shot from the skies, crash landing amongst the droids near the rear lines. It was then she noticed hundreds of lightsabers, jutting from odd locations amongst the droids, some near more of the crashed ships, others having advanced towards the rear from other crash sites. Tomo jumped as her comlink came to life, and a confident, baritone voice spoke, “Tomo, bring your ARCs to the crash site, we’re assaulting the Command Droid from here.”
Lil watched as D’Jrem, Valan, and Tomo advanced in front of her through the middle tunnel in the antechamber. Lil looked around nervously, half expecting a Rubat Spinner to leap out from the shadows and devour her face. She felt exposed and alone, and only the warmth of the necklace Val Isa crafted so long ago seemed to provide and ease to nerves. It was then that Lil realized the root of the problem may lie not in her surroundings, but the Force. The cold around her suddenly had context, it had the same penetrating cold that the nexus on Spintir had. The facts started to fall into place, and Lil was only mildly surprised when she turned to face forward but found herself stepping instead into a long hallway of metal walls interlaced with stone, far below the surface of what she was sure was no longer Phemis.
“Great, another vision.” Lil was almost getting blasé towards the experience. She stepped forward, and turned the corner to see a row of prison cells. Orange fields of energy formed the 4th wall of the cell, barring the prisoners interred inside from escaping. A gunmetal grey combat droid stood guard in front of the cells, which looked to be holding dignitaries of some kind. They all wore fine clothing save one; who had the unmistakable gear of a freighter captain. The only thing missing from the spacedog was the normally ever-present blaster at his side, but that was understandable considering his position.
Lil crept along the corridor, looking to get some clue as to her current predicament, but the droid, probably on high alert, turned and stared at her. The shock of this surprise was total, as it was an HK unit! The droid flickered his photo-receptors and spoke, “Query; Master, what am I doing in this corridor?”
Lil felt her mouth gape open in surprise despite her best intentions, “HK?”
Bail followed in behind Lil through the second tunnel from the right out the antechamber. He tried not get too close to her, since she seemed more than willing to physically assault him, but still close enough that he wouldn’t get left behind in the dimly illuminated caves. He kept an eye out for any signs of those disgusting spiders from before, but thankfully he didn’t see any trace of them or their webs. His head still buzzed from the effects of the gas, and he was beginning to suspect it was going to have lingering effects, as for some peculiar reason, he was smelling Corsuca Ice Wine, taken from fruit grown in the polar water caps of Coruscant. It was a delectable brew, sweet, and potent. Why it should come to his nose now he only assumed was a byproduct of some damage that miserable gas had done to his brain.
He closed his eyes for a moment and reveled in its scent. He had only once been fortunate enough to have the wonderful concoction. He was attending a party on Imperial Center to celebrate the coronation of Grand Moff Tarkin, and the Emperor himself had gifted the celebration with some. Rumor stated it was a fondness of the Sovereign’s, something he had enjoyed ever since he first arrived on Coruscant. Bail often wondered what the young Sheev Palpatine might have been like, before the many years of ruling the Empire twisted his face with age and stress. He caught himself wondering if he was ever young at all, or if he had always been the robed visage he now was.
Catching himself as lingering too long in his whimsy, Bail quickly opened his eyes, hoping he hadn’t fallen too far behind Lil. He was met with an unexpected brilliance, as his eyes had become so accustomed to darkness that the lights of the room he found himself in temporarily blinded him. Blinking the light away, his eyes slowly adjusted to reveal he was standing on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, an older model, probably a Victory-class. He looked around to see the crew all oddly similar in height and build, in fact, the longer he looked the more it became apparent the entire ship was crewed by identical siblings. An inappropriate thought towards the stamina and virility of their mother crossed Bail’s mind, but was quickly trumped by the soft caress of finery he felt against his body. He had spent so long in the rough clothing of an adventurer that he had almost forgotten the feel of fine vicuna, a fabric so soft that as a boy he had believed it magical. He felt it now, and as he looked down, he saw he wore the purple and crimson robes he had once seen on the advisors to the Emperor himself!
“Ah, Minister Whill, excellent you arrived when you did, may I speak with you?” The voice was unmistakable, but the face that it issued from was not the one he expected. No rolls of flesh, weighed down by age and worry, sat on the eyebrows of this man. No wrinkles of over a century of life ebbed the vitality from his face. This was the voice of Palpatine, but the face of an elderly, though still vital Supreme Chancellor.
D’Jrem looked around at the platform he was standing and shook his head. It made no sense, but the vertigo from looking over the edge of the platform was quite real. He even felt the slight change in gravity that told him he was on a different planet. Looking down, he found himself in the Jedi armor he was wearing, but it was covered in an orange banding pattern that he wasn’t familiar with, and hadn’t had before. Moreover, he felt the strange weight of a lightsaber at his hip.
Shrugging, he walked forward to the camp fire he spotted before. The light carried him to small room off the main platform overlooking the crater. Inside, sat four humans, three men and a woman. Two of them wore the same kind of Jedi armor that he himself wore, the shorter of the two having the same orange banding that he had, while the taller of the two had blue striping on his. All three (counting himself) had the wings and saber symbol of the Galactic Republic on their shoulder pauldron. The woman wore a white jumpsuit with a tan half cloak draped about her shoulders, and carried a sleek silver blaster pistol in a holster on her hip. The final man wore the telltale gear of a freighter captain, a combination of civilian clothing and flightsuit, with a heavy blaster pistol slung low in gunslinger’s holster at this side. Aviator goggles sat ready on top of his mop of sandy blond hair, and an ever-present beard shadow covered his cheeks and chin. They all sat laughing and talking, and D’Jrem felt strange intruding on what appeared to be a close knit group.
“I can’t believe it’s almost over. Utapau was critical to the Separatists front. With it gone, Mustafar is their final holdout,” the woman said, smiling and taking a sip of caff.
The freighter captain chuckled, “We have them on the run, alright. I can almost smell the Coruscanti bisque now!”
The others laughed, and the blue jedi, a human youth with sandy blond hair who looked barely old enough to legally purchase rotgut, spoke up, “Owen, what in the twin suns are you talking about?”
The freighter captain, Owen, smiled, “Well, after the war I plan on opening a restaurant on Coruscant! A nice little diner – I love to fly, but I’ve had my fill for a while. If I get the hankering to do some flying, I can always pick up the supplies myself!”
The blue jedi had an astonished look to his face, “But what about your dad’s moisture farm on Tatooine?
Owen shook his head and held up his hands, “Tatooine? Oh, no, I’m never going back to that dustball again! Damn sand gets everywhere!
The other Jedi, the shorter one, had dirty blond hair, almost dark brown in the firelight, but his eyes were a brilliant blue. A full beard offset him from his clean-shaven fellow Jedi, and he spoke with a rich Coruscanti accent, “What about you, Padme? Without your skilled pilot what are you planning?”
D’Jrem took note of her name, and the fact that the Jedi’s question caused her to throw a look not him, but to his younger compatriot, “I’m sure I’ll be able to scrounge up someone to get from planet to planet.” She dropped her gaze and smiled, then looked to the older Jedi, “I’m actually going to be on Coruscant far more often, however. I’m looking at learning more of Senatorial procedures.”
The bearded Jedi looked genuinely surprised, “The Senate?”
Padme continued, nodding, “There’s far too much discrepancy between the Noble practices of the member worlds of the Republic and the Senate. It’s what enable the Separatists to gain such power – they exploited the misunderstandings between planetary politics and Senatorial procedure. If we can close that gap, then we can stop it from being exploited in the future and strengthen the Republic overall.”
Nodding, the bearded Jedi smiled, “A noble goal.”
The woman smiled brightly, “What about you Obi-Wan?” So he finally had a name, D’Jrem looked to the bearded Jedi while the woman, Padme, continued, “Now that you’ve declared Anakin a Knight and no longer your Padawan, and without a war to fight as an excuse for taking another, what will you do?” So the other Jedi was named Anakin. D’jrem reasoned that this must be Anakin Skywalker, before his appointment as the last Defense Councilor of the Republic.
Obi-Wan raised his hands and smile, “Guilty as charged, I suppose. I suppose I will take a new Padawan,” he chuckled, “No, I’m actually quite excited about teaching the next generation of Padawan. With so many Jedi lost in the fighting we number less than two hundred Knights and Masters now.”
Anakin nodded and continued, “With so few of us left, many Padawan have become Knights long before they would traditionally do so. Myself included. I feel as though the Council wouldn’t have let me be knighted without the need for it.”
Obi-Wan shook his head, “Don’t be ridiculous, Anakin, you’re every bit the Knight I was when I was your age. What will you do, Anakin?”
“I’m going to be sitting next to you, Master. To your left, you’ll have Master Windu, to your right will be me. With all the studying I’ve done, this time I know I’ll pass their tests.”
Padme looked confused at Anakin, “’This time’? What do you mean, Anakin?”
Obi-Wan appeared overcome with a sadness, “Anakin has appealed to the Council for a place before. He hasn’t yet passed their tests for nomination. Though I don’t understand why not.”
Anakin spoke with a deep conviction that D’Jrem noted typically came from naivety, “I’ll make it this time, Master. I’ve studied the rarest lore in the archives, and I’ve focused on the subtle nuances of my force skills. I’ve mastered all of the disciplines now.”
Obi-Wan chuckled through his beard, “To distraction, I’ve noticed. Why is it so vital though that you sit on the Council. It’s terribly boring.”
A darkness seemed to swallow Anakin before he replied, “Because I was born a slave.”
Obi-Wan seemed to have been caught off guard, and for his part, D’Jrem couldn’t quite follow the logic either, which Obi-Wan seemed to voice for him, “I don’t follow – you aren’t a slave anymore.”
Anakin looked up at Obi-Wan, and though he wasn’t sure the others saw it, D’Jrem saw a haunted, hollow look in his eyes, “But I’m not free, either.”
Obi-Wan seemed totally flat-footed to the response, “You aren’t?”
A deep pain seemed to build in Anakin at this, an inner turmoil that had its root somewhere in his core, “Well, I am, but yet I’m not. You see, being a Jedi Knight I’m still doing the bidding of the Jedi Council. Yes, I can go where I want and sort things out how I choose, but I’m beholden to uphold the decisions of the Council. If I were on the Council, then I could participate in deciding the future of that criteria – I would be totally free to make choices that matter. That make the galaxy a better place. Until then, I’m still a servant.
Obi-Wan looked to his friend and former student, “Well then, I suspect you won’t have long to wait – liberating Utapau was a major accomplishment, and you were pivotal in its strategic planning. This victory is largely yours, Anakin. The Council will certainly see that.” Obi-Wan’s blue eyes then fell on D’Jrem, and suddenly he felt very out of place, “What about you, Master D’Jrem, what are your plans with the war behind us?”
D’Jrem thought about the possible answers, and merely shrugged, “I suppose I haven’t thought about it before. I’ll probably head back out to the Rim, do more exploring and recover lost lore.”
Obi-Wan nodded, “I really hadn’t entertained the thought either before today, the end of the War always seemed so far away. Truthfully“ Master Obi-Wan was cut off as a huge explosion up-ended the crate he was sitting on. A plume of fire erupted from the floor as a second shell landed in the camp. The sounds outside of clones screaming under the bombardment filled the night.
D’Jrem had never encountered shelling like this before. He looked around the campsite, walls of the fab shelters lay broken, revealing the carnage outside. Clones, or pieces of them, lay about the large platform the campsite rested upon as fires burned out of control from the incendiary shelling. A deep fear rooted itself in his gut, and as the Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, and Owen lay unconscious in the rubble of the fire, D’Jrem felt the icy cold of fear in his blood, but he resisted it, knowing that he was the only one who protect them now.
Scrambling free of the fab shelter’s walls, D’Jrem saw a clone sergeant firing into the distance. Making his way towards the trooper, he noted the Jaig eyes on the forehead. If he remembered correctly, those were a marking only given to clones who showed unmatched courage under fire and perform acts of valor in defense of his comrades. If anyone, that was clone that could help D’Jrem ensure they all survived this madness.
As he got closer, he saw numerous tick marks on the clone’s forearm pieces. The most recent of which looked to have been done just this eve, clean and without wear. It occurred to D’Jrem that if each of those were representative of a separate battle, this clone must have been in the fighting from the beginning. He paused to wonder at how many of his brothers he saw die, how many Jedi fell in battle around him while he endured. As D’Jrem watched, this valiant warrior fired round after round into the night, smoke rising about his from the gas discharge of his blaster. D’Jrem looked out into the night to see what it was he was firing at, but was met with only blackness and smoke.
He looked back to the clone, and found the Jaig eyes on the trooper’s helmet staring right back as the clone regarded him, still firing into the night. Time slowed for a moment, and the trooper spoke, the heavy Man’doa accent rolling out of the speakers of his helmet, “Find me.” D’Jrem had barely an instant to ponder the statement when a brilliant blade of purple light flashed from the smoke and took the helmet from the soldier’s shoulders.
D’Jrem staggered back, unsure of what to make of this new turn of events. He pulled the lightsaber off of his belt, hoping beyond hope that the beginner lessons in lightsaber combat he had been taking at the Temple would pay off when he needed it now. As the smoke cleared, he saw a woman in a black bodysuit step from her obfuscation. A utility belt hung around her waist, complete with light blaster pistol, and her gloved hands held the amethyst blade menacingly before her. A tan head wrap, the same color as the walls of stone around them, concealed her face, but her locks of red hair, the same crackling red as the fire pit behind him, clearly hung in loose curls down her chest and back.
D’Jrem with a strange glee he hadn’t expected, and that was completely inappropriate to the situation, looked excitedly at the color of his lightsaber blade as he turned it on. He was met with the green brilliance of an emerald beam, and while he was slightly saddened it wasn’t as unique as the purple blade he faced, it seemed in his mind to be fitting. He brought the Jedi’s weapon up and took a guard stance.
His opponent dashed forward with all the speed and agility of a cat. He was hard-pressed to knock the blade aside, but managed to do so at the last moment. He countered her strike with a novice strike, one that she ducked with little effort. He did, at least, manage to catch the trailing edge of the cowl she wore, stripping it from her head. With a flip of her hair as she came up, she threw the fiery locks from her face to reveal … Lil!
D’Jrem’s blade dropped as he saw the face of his friend staring back at him. Taking the opportunity, Lil lunged and drove her amethyst blade deep into D’Jrem’s stomach. Pain overwhelmed him, cutting through the shock but only adding to the confusion. He reached out towards Lil, keenly aware that he had dropped his lightsaber. He couldn’t decide if he was reaching to her in an effort to elicit a plea for her to help him, or if he reached out to her to choke the life from her as she had taken it from him.
In either case, darkness consumed him as his vision went to black.
The doors opened and Valan looked out into the hallway that met him. Running off to both his left and right, dull grey walls lined a floor that had both gunmetal and light grey panels. The wall accents were a dark blue, almost navy blue in color. Valan went over the coloring in his mind, definitely not the flat grey of the Empire, and certainly not Republic crimson. That left the colors of the Trade Federation, and later, the Separatist Regime.
“Okay,” Valan said to himself inside the helmet, “So I’m on a Separatist ship. That’s the where, but it leads to a question of when?”
He looked to the HUD inside his helmet, and pulled up the chronometer. It read GR1958:5:20. As it was 18:2:15 when he woke up this morning, and the epoch dating system of GR ended with the birth of the Empire, it was safe to say he was having a vision of the past. He tried to recall the important dates of the Galactic Republic era; “the Empire was founded in the same year, GR1958, on Kata 25, shortly after the battle of Mustafar in the closing moments of the Clone Wars. That puts this date 5 days prior,” he whispered to himself.
It struck him then like a flash. Just days before the Battle of Mustafar was the Battle of Coruscant! It was a huge space battle above the planet – Separatist forces had stormed the planet led by General Grievous and kidnapped the Chancellor and a large contingent of the Senate. Jedi Generals Kenobi and Skywalker stormed their flagship, the Invisible Hand along with some Advanced Reconnaissance Clones from the 501st and rescued the Chancellor. They killed Count Dooku in the process, but Grievous escaped with the Senators to Mustafar.
It was after this battle that Skywalker left the Jedi Order and became the Defense Councilor of the Republic, the first since Palpatine himself. Grievous’ escape directly led to the Battle of Mustafar and the betrayal of the Jedi. This was the precipice after which everything changed. Looking through his HUD’s data files, he found the basic deck plans for a Providence-class destroyer. The Invisible Hand would have differences to the baseline model, but it wouldn’t have many structural changes so the deck plans should get him pretty far. From the readout, it looks like the bridge was to the left.
Valan cautiously moved to the edge of the turbolift and looked out. He could hear the metallic sounds of boots in the distance, but they were down the right hallway, and heading away from him. Exhaling with relief, he cautiously moved down the left hallway, his blaster at the ready. He followed his HUD as he maneuvered the corridors, evading droids as they clanked around, and made his way to the central turbolift shaft. He pressed the call switch and waited for the lift to arrive.
After only a few seconds, the lift descended and stopped with a ding. The doors opened and Valan was greeted with the snap-hiss of a lightsaber. Pulling his blaster up to fire, he was shocked to see a bearded, dirty blond Jedi with eyes of brilliant blue. He spoke with a rich Coruscanti accent, “Commander Valan, nice to see you could join us!”
Shock set in as Valan realized who he was speaking to. General Kenobi was a hero to every kid who was ever told a story about the Clone Wars. ‘Kenobi and Skywalker’ stories were the stuff of legends. His father used to say that there were nothing a platoon welcomed hearing more than Kenobi and Skywalker were on route. The duo’s actions were near miraculous, and eclipsed even the feats of General Windu in their grandiosity.
Gathering his wits, he nodded and stepped into the lift, “Glad to be here, General.” As he moved to take place next to Obi-Wan, he noticed a hole cut into the ceiling above him. Upon his noticing, Obi-Wan chuckled.
“Anakin,” the Jedi explained. The lift started moving up at that point, to which Obi-Wan and Valan both had to brace themselves with a steadying hand. “Now, that’s better…”
At precisely that moment, a figure shot down through the hole in the ceiling and landed between Obi-Wan and Valan. Caught flat footed, Valan looked around in surprise while Obi-Wan, preternatural in his alacrity, drew and ignited his lightsaber before realizing the figure was Anakin.
“Oh, it’s you … “he said sheepishly.
“What was that all about?” Anakin replied.
“Well, Artoo has been …” Obi-Wan began.
Anakin cut him off, “No loose wire jokes. He’s doing the best he can.”
Obi-Wan adopted a look of mock insult, “Did I say anything?”
Anakin looked away, irritated, “He’s trying.”
Obi-Wan threw his hands up, “I didn’t say anything!” Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and stood quietly in the turbolift. Anakin on the other hand, looked to Valan.
“Hello, Valan. I was hoping some the ARC troopers got on board.”
Valan fished around for a reasonable explanation, and realized quickly there wasn’t going to be any. “I’m glad I could support, Sir.” He nodded and stared ahead, hoping that he wouldn’t get asked too many more questions.
Thankfully, the lift ride went forward in silence from there. While he was thankful for the lack of questioning, it wasn’t quite what he expected from the pair. His father had the pleasure of serving with them on a few occasions, and from what he described, the banter between the two Jedi was constant. To see them standing in awkward silence was unsettling, and he wondered if his father hadn’t embellished the stories to make them more epic.
Before he consider it for too long, the elevator doors opened and the three of them made their way into a large main room. They walked out onto a mezzanine made of the same gunmetal and light gray panels that rest of the hallways possessed, an open railing made of the same metal in front of them. Down each side of the mezzanine was an open staircase, leading to the floor below where two large control consoles framed a central throne looking out the forward observation bay. The front wall of the observation bay was entirely transparasteel, allowing a breathtaking view of the space battle outside. In the center of this grand view, the throne spun around from the outside, revealing the Supreme Chancellor, bound to the throne and helplessly watching the Republic Navy engage the Separatists.
The three of them moved to the Supreme Chancellor and as they neared him, the Chancellor’s gaze went from smiling to distress. Obi-Wan bowed and smiled, trying to comfort him, “Chancellor.”
Anakin on the other hand looked concerned, “Are you all right?”
Palpatine tried his best not to stare at something over their shoulders, but he failed, quietly warning them, “Count Dooku.”
Valan turned with the others to see the turbolift doors again open and close. There, on the mezzanine that they themselves entered from, appeared Count Dooku and his bodyguard of B-2 super battle droids. With a flap of his cape, Dooku leapt over the railing and flipped down to the main floor, landing with the enhanced grace of the Force. “Get help! He’s a Sith Lord,” Palpatine warned.
Obi-Wan smiled and turned to the Chancellor, drawing his lightsaber from his belt, “Chancellor Palpatine, Sith Lords are our speciality.” He and Anakin removed their cloaks and ignited their lightsabers.
“Your swords, please, Master Jedi. We don’t want to make a mess of things in front of the Chancellor.” Dooku’s baritone voice, confident and honeyed, belied a menace that struck Valan to the core. As the Sith Lord drew his own blade, Valan raised his blaster to take aim at the battle droids, who themselves were moving to fire on the Jedi.
Obi-Wan and Anakin charged the count as a great sword fight began, and Valan opened fire on the droids, drawing their blasters away from the Jedi. The flashes and clash of lightsabers battled to outdo the explosions of blaster bolts, and in the large room, the echoes of the battle would surely have taken Valan’s hearing had it not been for his helmet’s sound suppressors.
Though he couldn’t devote too much attention away from the droids, it struck Valan that Obi-Wan and Anakin weren’t fighting as a unit. As he tried to keep his awareness omnipresent, he saw Anakin pressing the assault alone to kill Dooku while it appeared Obi-Wan was fighting to capture Dooku. The end result caused Obi-Wan to get in the way of Anakin’s killing strikes.
Seeming to notice and looking to capitalize on it, Dooku sneered. “Even now Kenobi considers you the novice, Skywalker, he seeks to claim your prize and maintain his superiority.” He struck confidently between the two, as his words seemed to drive the intended wedge.
Anakin threw a frustrated look to Obi-Wan as the Jedi interrupted another of Anakin’s strikes. In response, Obi-Wan merely averted his gaze, avoiding eye contact. Valan saw Anakin look to Dooku in realization his eyes going wide, though Valan didn’t follow what he suspected.
“Your moves are clumsy, Kenobi,” Dooku continued, “too predictable. You’ll have to do better.” With this, Dooku pressed the attack, lunging at the Jedi, and forcing them to fall back. Valan for his part dropped one the battle droids, and focused his fire on the other.
Dooku sneered at Skywalker, “I sense great fear in you, Skywalker. You have hate, you have anger, but you don’t use them.” At this, Valan noticed Skywalker adopt a severe look, and seemed to act even more recklessly. He struck heavier, faster, seeming to feed on the words that Dooku was spitting at him. It appeared to Valan that Dooku had awoken a raging bearsloth, and it forced the Sith to split his opponents to keep up. With an elegant parry and the press of an outstretched palm, Dooku lifting Obi-wan skyward with the force.
Anakin, believing to have Dooku distracted, charged anew at his opponent, a tactic that revealed Dooku’s trap. Now free to expose his flank to Obi-Wan, who was choking helplessly in the air, Dooku spun and delivered a devastating kick to Anakin, sending him into the control module to the side of the room. With a disgusted laugh, Dooku moved his other arm and sent Obi-Wan flying through the air to crash into Anakin’s crumpled form.
“You’re fools to believe that even were my arm to shorn from my shoulder I would ever be taken prisoner by the likes of you. I could beat you both one handed!” The sneer of the Count seemed somehow off to Valan, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. It wasn’t until he looked to Obi-Wan that he noted a shared sentiment between he and the Sith, as if a code of some form was passed. It struck him then that Obi-Wan and Dooku had some connection, perhaps a plan that they were about to enact.
Obi-Wan stood, even as Anakin had regained his composure and looks to him. Obi-Wan placed a calming hand on Skywalker’s shoulder and they shared an unspoken word and nod to each other. With frightening coordination and speed, they leapt in unison and attacked Dooku. Simultaneously, Valan distraction cost him, and the battle droid opened fire with complete abandon, pinning Valan behind the console he was using as cover.
“Trifle not with the affairs of Jedi,” he scolded to himself. His father warned him how distracting it can be, and how quickly it got undisciplined clones killed. Focusing on the immediate danger, and his part in this battle, targeting what he remembered his father saying the weak points on the old droids were. Shot after shot hit the mark, but true to his father’s words, the beastly droid refused to go down. He lost track of what the Jedi were doing, instead taking aim as best he could on the battle droid.
Without cover, and under Valan’s trained fire, the super battle droid faltered. Pressing his advantage, Valan aimed for the base of the head, hoping to get the neck. It was a tough shot, as the super battle droid typically tucked its head into the chest cavity during fights, but the purpose of the strikes his father taught his was to get the droid to falter and raise so it could look to the side. It was doing so now, and that was the opportunity he needed. He squeezed the trigger lightly, and the bolt struck true, launching the head into the air as the body stumbled and dropped to the ground.
With a whoop he stood triumphant, feeling pride and wishing his father could have seen it. Reality struck fast however, as he heard the hiss of a lightsaber and the pained cry of Dooku behind him. Spinning, he found Dooku dropping to his knees, holding the stump of his main hand. Kenobi stood defiantly over the severed digit, still holding Dooku’s lightsaber, as Anakin lowered his blade to Dooku’s throat.
Palpatine smiled from his bondage, “Good, Anakin, good. I knew you could do it.” His gaze lowered to the Sith, “Kill him. Kill him now!”
Obi-Wan shook his head and looked to Palpatine, “Chancellor, Jedi are not executioners.”
Mouth agape, Palpatine looked shocked at Obi-Wan’s refusal of his order. Looking to Skywalker, he again gave the order. “Anakin, you must … kill … him,” he emphasized.
Valan could see the conflict in the General. It appeared the young Jedi was fighting with the decision, and it appeared as if it was killing him. “I … can’t …”
Obi-Wan as well appeared to notice the conflict in his friend, and tried to defuse the situation. “He must stand trial for his actions, and he will reveal the identity of the other Sith Lord.”
Shaking his head, the Chancellor made his decision, “He’s too dangerous to be kept alive. The Chancellor’s guard isn’t prepared or capable of handling a Sith. The bureaucracy of the Courts are corrupt and far too slow in processes before he would inevitably escape.” He turned his gaze from Kenobi to Skywalker, “Imagine the danger he would present if he were to escape! The damage one like he could do on Coruscant! The deaths of countless innocents amongst the populace and the Senators. Anakin, consider the danger he would pose to your wife, Padme.”
Valan joined Obi-Wan in a moment of shock. His father had always told him Jedi were forbidden from having relationships, much less marrying, and the stories never talked about Skywalker having a wife. Obi-Wan looked to Anakin, and Valan followed his gaze. Anakin, looking hard at Dooku, appeared to have steeled himself, swayed by Palpatine’s words. Valan knew the look of a man determined, and Skywalker wore it in spades.
Obi-Wan reached a hand to his friend, and it was obvious that he was more pleading than asking, “Anakin, I feel the conflict within you, but Jedi do not kill the defenseless. Does that sound like the actions of the Jedi Master you wish to be?”
Whatever the two had in the past, the words must have struck a deep resonation within Anakin, but Valan suspected not in the way that Kenobi wanted. Anakin’s head lowered in sadness, eyes closed, and a moment passed while all the General’s emotion slowly drained from his face. After a moment, his eyes opened and he raised his head to stare cruelly into Dooku’s eyes, “But I’ll never be a Jedi Master, will I Obi-Wan?”
Valan knew what was going to happen next, and he saw Obi-Wan’s eyes widen as he too realized what Anakin intended. It felt wrong to Valan, but the Chancellor’s orders were clear, and he felt more an observer than someone who should be violently disobeying an order from the Commander in Chief. Make no mistake either, he thought, violence will be the only thing that stops this. In a flash, Obi-Wan made up his mind and his outstretched hand used the Force to yank Anakin’s lightsaber from his grip.
Rage filled Anakin’s face. Betrayed by his friend, and to save a grave threat to the Republic on top of it, Valan could see that reason had left Anakin for the moment. Using the Force, Anakin flung Obi-Wan against the wall, knocking him out, and angry and weaponless, reached out with his other hand to Dooku. With the Force, he lifted the Count into the air, Dooku’s eyes growing wider the higher he was lifted, choking and staring in betrayal at Palpatine.
To this, the Supreme Chancellor only laughed, and Valan felt the unmistakable call to move to him and free him as the events played out. Unbinding him, Valan’s vision blurred as the sound of Palpatine’s laughter, Dooku’s gasping, and the crunch of Dooku’s throat became a deafening roar in his ears. As he lost consciousness, Valan had the feeling of falling before he became keenly aware of pain lancing through him, as if a thousand needles had pierced his flesh.
Tomo looked around her, trying to align the voice on the comlink with what she knew to be the world. She noticed that she was no longer in the armor of the Lady Mandalore, but instead wore no helmet, and Jedi battle armor. The coloring on the armor white, but bands of purple covered her shoulders and elbows. Attached to her back, a jetpack hung heavy above a cloak of brown.
Behind her stood what appeared to be 10 stormtroopers, though they wore odd skirts that Tomo was unfamiliar with, and their helmets were different than a stormtroopers would be. Their coloring was the same as hers, and instinctively she knew she was their commander, though she couldn’t rationalize why she knew it.
“General,” the trooper to her right spoke with the same clicking at the start and end as she heard from stormtroopers. “I believe we have a straight shot at that Command Droid.” He motioned over her shoulder at the fortress, and the huge droid tank that stood before it. “If we can get there and cripple it, the entire army shuts down and we win the day.”
“Don’t listen to Sevens, General,” the trooper on her left said. “General Windu ordered us to the front to defend him. He needs us down there,” he pointed to a crashed transport towards the front lines. The glow of lightsabers surrounded it, defending the crash site from the endless tide of droids that assaulted them.
Tomo looked from one to the other. If she could end this now, and save all the Jedi down there, she should do it. After all, she knew she was in charge of these troops, what good was being in charge if she couldn’t make decisions and had to follow the orders of others? She looked again to the droid tank thing, it was enormous, but she held a lightsaber. She knew they could cut through almost anything, and there were the troops behind her. The ridge was clear, and they had jump pack units that would let them fly from the ridge to the droid without having to fight any of the others.
Tomo knew she could do it. It was alone and exposed. She was more than capable with the others of taking it out and ending this. Turning to the troopers behind her, she ignited her lightsaber and nodded to the one called Sevens. “We fight. Follow me.”
With a burst of speed that required the others to use their jump packs to keep up, Tomo rushed along the ridgeline above the battlefield. Tomo felt the Force leap to her side, cold, calculating and exact, filling her muscles with energy and her mind with lethal precision. As she approached the ridgeline that was nearest to the Command Droid, she adjusted her wrist so that the jet pack activator was depressed and vaulted off the edge of the ridge. With a belch of fire, the jump pack jets ignited, launching her into the sky and controlling her descent towards the Command Droid.
The sounds of her jet pack were met with the replies of the troopers own. From the battlefield below, General’s Windu and Kenobi saw eleven shooting stars hurtle from the ridgeline down towards the Command Droid.
Tomo landed with a downward strike of her blade to what appeared to be the Command Droids shield generator. She felt the Force flow into her arms and legs, adrenaline fueled strength coursing through her limbs. Her strike landed true, and in a shower of sparks and rampant ion energy the unit exploded. The energy field that had provided it protection from the stray shots of the battle before it burst like a soap bubble, and Tomo’s ARC troopers let loose a torrent of fire as Tomo back-flipped from the droid and landed amongst her squad, deflecting any shots the droid launched their way.
“Press the attack!” she shouted to her troops, her head swimming from the battle stimulus and the Force’s razor-sharp focus, and moved a step forward to better protect them with her lightsaber. The ARC troopers dug in, blasting the Droid while she deflected its return fire, striking with her blade when there was a lull in the giant blaster cannons fire. The Force surged in her, allowing her limbs to flash with blurring speed, moving her from place to place in a blink and counter the Droid’s every move.
Little by little, the droid retreated towards the doors of the fortress, armored pieces falling from its torso as the withering hail of fire from the ARCs took its toll. Aided by strikes from her lightsaber, the droid began to falter, after repeated hits from the ARCs weapons, a giant gaping hole opened in its chest. Tomo heard one of the ARCs shout for a launcher, and within seconds a rocket struck the newly opened wound with a thunderous explosion.
The Command Droid, hopelessly crippled by the blast, ground to a halt, its weapon arms dropping limply at its sides. All around them the sounds of blaster fire began to slowly cease, first from the battle droids on the field, then from the troopers in the canyon that no longer needed to return fire. As the droids fell silent, the troops and Jedi alike cheered. She had done it!
As the realization dawned on her and lifted her spirits in triumph, she heard the doors to the fortress open. She smiled, her victory led them here, and now the gates opened to accept the victorious army. As she watched, the fortress slowly opened to Tomo’s army, but on the interior was not victory. Instead, waiting on the other side of the doors were two of the behemoth Command Droids! As she watched in horror, the droids on the battlefields snapped back to life, resuming their fire on the troopers.
Summoning the Force to her side, she felt a sickness take her as the mystical energy slip away, abandoning her. The ice cold energy that had made her such a weapon before evaporated as she reached for it, replaced by a dark, malevolent emptiness. She finally understood that the power she had summoned was not the life-giving wellspring of the Light, but instead the violent chaos of the Dark. Looking in defiance at the towering droids, she summoned her courage, something that she knew would never abandon her, and ignited her lightsaber to once again face her foes.
The hail of blaster fire was all-encompassing. Around her, despite her best efforts, Seven and the other troopers fell in a torrent of explosions and super-heated plasma. Desperately trying to deflect the shots and save her troopers, Tomo felt the burning pain of the heavy blaster fire tearing at her flesh. As realization of her overconfidence and arrogance overtook her, she saw the last of her troopers fall, and with a final cry of rage, the world exploded into a ball of light and then all went black.
“Query; Were it not me, who would I be, Master?” The photo receptors on the droid flickered, clearly blinking in confusion.
Lil shook her head, “Hell, if I’m having a vision, why not bring an imaginary murder-bot with me?”
“Excuse me,” one of the dignitaries behind the energy field asked, “but exactly who are you, why are you dressed as a Jedi, and what is your droid doing guarding our prison cell?”
Lil raised a finger and was about to shoot a flippant remark about not being a Jedi when it suddenly occurred to her that she was wearing what looked to be a tan cloth tunic. The problem with this is that Lil hated tan, didn’t wear common cloth (it itched terribly) and preferred blouses and corsets to tunics. With a horrid, sinking feeling, she looked down at herself, and true to her pessimism, she was donned in Jedi armor. “Motherf-“ she stopped herself, realizing that she was stuck.
“Val Isa, is this your trick?” She looked around the room, ignoring the looks of insanity she was receiving from both the prisoners and HK. When the dead Jedi Master failed to respond, she looked at the young dignitary, “See? That’s why Jedi suck, they’re always messing with you and then going AWOL.”
“Can you get us out of here or not?” The dignitary asked again.
She looked to HK, “Can you deactivate this energy shield, HK?”
The droid looked around the hallway, and spotted a control bank before moving over to it. He had just begun to work at the controls when the sounds of boots on the hallway caused him to spin and raise his blaster towards the approaching figure. To Lil’s surprise, she recognized the approaching Jedi – sort of. Dressed in white plastoid and brown robes common to Jedi battle armor, Kryze descended the stairs at the end of the hall. At least, it looked like Kryze. She had only seen him without his helmet on once or twice, in downtime moments around the Temple. The man in front of her had the same neatly trimmed beard, and the same face. He also had the same brilliant blue eyes, though his hair was darker, more a sandy blond than a light gold like Kryze. It was also much shorter than Kryze’s, being neatly trimmed where Kryze wore his hair down to his shoulders and parted in the middle.
As he neared the group, the subtle differences in their nose and cheeks became clearer, and though the man was nearly identical, there was enough differences to prove to Lil that this couldn’t have been Kryze. This was confirmed as he finished his approach, and it became telling that he was too old to be the bounty hunter being closer to thirty than he was a teenager. Kryze had barely left his teens, so there was no way he could be the man before her now. “Hello, there,” he said in a rich Corsucanti accent eerily similar to Kryze’s.
“Obi-Wan, thank goodness you’re here!” the young dignitary shouted.
“Huh,” Lil replied. The new arrival looked confused.
“Commander Lillandria,” he remarked, “I’m glad another Jedi made it through the droids outside.
“I’m not a Je-“ Lil started, then remembered her robes and the fact she was in some stupid vision, “-pudu.” Putting her hands on her temples she closed her eyes and tried very hard to remain composed. Lil liked things her way. She did things her way. She knew though, that doing things her way didn’t always work to her benefit, and if she became too focused on herself things would only get worse. Resigning herself to riding this out as the Force intended, she looked to HK, “HK, can you get that force field down?”
“Affirmation; Of course, Master.” With a few button presses, the orange energy field flickered and dropped.
Nodding, Obi-Wan looked to Lil and the others, “We have very little time, they are going to bombard the fortress from orbit. The hangar is that way,” he pointed off in the direction that he came from. “Take the first shuttle you find and get out of here.”
The young dignitary looked at him with concern, “Where are you going?”
Obi-Wan smiled briefly, but then his look turned serious, “I’m going to make sure Grievous pays for this day.” He nodded and turned to go.
“Wait,” Lil shouted, “if we’re going to get shelled from orbit, then Grievous is going to get hit harder than anyone. You going off to settle some debt won’t help anyone but yourself. We need to get these people to safety.”
Obi-Wan turned, “I have to do this, Lil. I’ll be alright.”
Lil nodded, “Damn stubborn Jedi. You’re being arrogant, finishing a war that isn’t serving anyone. No wonder the Jedi die out.”
Obi-Wan stopped, turning, her words seemed to have hit a chord within the Jedi that she hadn’t expected. “You’re right. Let’s get to the shuttle. This way,” he smiled as he turned to leave.
Lil looked back to HK to make sure he was with them, but a cold wind on the back of her neck sent shivers down her spine. Dreading turning around, Lil slowly turned to face front again only to find a bleak corridor in front of her. Densely packed snow formed the floor, walls and ceiling of the corridor, the occasional irregularly placed white rubber mat breaking the snowy ground. White power coils ran the length of the walls at irregular heights, seemingly haphazardly placed on the walls.
The cold was noticeable, and she wrapped her arms around her to warm herself. To not much surprise, she was no longer in the armor and robes of a Jedi, but instead wore a strange a beige thermal bodysuit with a tan cold weather vest over it. Crème colored gloves completed the outfit, and to her relief a blaster pistol again hung in her gunslinger’s holster at her side. Behind her, HK stood staring at his surroundings.
“Query; Master, I believe the illness that has caused your delusions has found a way to replicate the effects in code.”
Lil laughed softly, “It’ll be okay, HK. We just need to figure out what the trick to this vision is and it’ll stop.” She started down the hallway, figuring the way she facing was as good as the way back. As she went, an explosion rocked the hallway, causing puffs of snow to cover her as chunks of the packed material fell from the ceiling, shattering nearby on the floor.
A male voice came over the loudspeakers, “Imperial troops have entered the base! Imperial troops have entered …” blaster fire, followed by static ended the transmission with an ominous finality.
Lil looked to HK, “We’d better move.” She began running through the corridors, hoping that the choice she was making would lead her in the direction of escape, or at least a hangar where she could get a ship. As she turned the corner, she nearly careened into a soldier, clad in similar colored cold weather gear.
“Have you seen Commander Skywalker?” He asked. “His snowspeeder crashed, but he should be here by now!”
Lil shook her head, confused, “You’re the first person I’ve seen.”
Panicked the soldier shook his head, “Vader’s here. Luke is the only chance we have of getting out of here alive.” Terrified, the soldier took off down the corridor.
Behind her, a strange sound caught Lil’s attention. A rasping sound, deep, ominous, and mechanical, echoed though the corridor. A coldness came over Lil, worse than anything the snowy corridor could produce, chilling not just her bones but her very soul. Without a doubt, she knew she was in the presence of the Dark side.
Turning, she saw a figure looming behind HK. It was a tall humanoid thing, clad from head to toe in pitch black armor. Black robes, not unlike those the Jedi used to wear hung from the armor and a black cloak clasped with silver chain draped the figures shoulders. A control box of some type was affixed to the armor’s chest and two smaller control boxes sat on each side of its belt.
“Points for the ominous wardrobe,” she muttered. As she watched, the snap-hiss of a lightsaber heralded the appearance of a crimson blade that extended from the black and silver lightsaber in the figure’s hand.
“Okay, I got nothin’. HK, run!” Lil turned without a second thought and rushed around the corner in front of her.
Bail smiled at the sight of the powerful figure. “Sheev, my good friend, of course you may. How can I help you?” Bail moved to take the Chancellor’s hand in a friendly handshake, as Palpatine placed his other hand on Bail’s shoulder.
“I’m afraid it’s Defense Councillor Skywalker,” the Chancellor began. “I have a great many duties to attend to, but I also need to speak with the Defense Councilor about going planet side. I was wondering, while I attend to the other matter, can you speak with Skywalker for me?”
Bail nodded with excitement, to be the personal assistant of the future Emperor of the galaxy? Hell yes, he could! He imagined the wealth and power that would come along with the position. There were definitely worse fates! “Of course, Sheev! What do you need me to tell him?”
The friendly smile of the elderly politician seemed at once to both brighten the room and lengthen its shadows, “Excellent! With the Separatists in retreat, I just was thinking that were he to go planet side, he could be there to personally free his wife, Padme from her incarceration. It would be heartwarming to have the couple there together at the end of the War.”
It seemed reasonable – the publicity opportunity was undeniable, who wouldn’t love to have a vidshow of the hero of the Republic saving his beloved from the evil clutches of the Separatist stronghold and ending the Clone Wars? Such a fairy tale ending would make the Republic seem as though it were divine in origin, and that would enable the government to make whatever policy it desired. Bail smiled, “I’ll go tell him right now!”
“Excellent!” The Supreme Chancellor of the Republic turned to leave, as did Bail. When he was almost out of the room, he stopped, turning and raising a finger as if he suddenly remembered something. “Oh, and Bail,” he started.
The smiling old man suddenly took on a much more sinister disposition, “I need you to impress upon Anakin the need to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi. He abandoned his troops planet side, and cannot be allowed to survive. Moreover, I believe he has feelings towards Padme, and may be seeking to keep her from Anakin.”
Still high on his future as a rich and powerful socialite, Bail merely smiled, “Of course, Sheev, anything for a friend.”
As Palpatine retreated to a side corridor, Bail turned and looked to the crew again. Standing around a large holographic display of a space battle, which Bail presumed was the one raging outside the viewports, was a trio of men. Two wore the sharp uniforms that Bail recognized as Republic navy. It looked very similar to the ones worn by Imperial naval officers, save for the coloring. It took a brief moment, but with shock came the realization that one of the two men was none other than Wilhuff Tarkin!
The third man must have been Anakin Skywalker as he was wearing the garb of the Defense Councilor, and Bail walked confidently to him. As he approached, a coordinator looked up to them from the control pit, “Separatist fleet in full retreat, Defense Councilor.”
Anakin nodded as the other officers smiled and congratulated their crews. “Excellent, I’ll go and inform the Supreme Chancellor.”
Bail held up a cautionary hand to the young man, “No need, Defense Councilor.” Anakin looked confused, but stood his ground, “I have spoken with the Chancellor and he wished me to extend his wishes.”
Nodding Anakin replied, “Of course, Minister Whill.”
“The Supreme Chancellor believes it would be a great opportunity for you to go down to the planet and be there when Padme and the Senators are freed. He offered you his shuttle to do so.”
Anakin looked conflicted, “I really shouldn’t, we’re not done with the fighting here, and I’m needed at my post.”
Bail chuckled, releasing his pheromones subtly into the air to make Skywalker more amicable. “You’re needed with the woman you love, Anakin. Besides, my good friend Wilhuff here can handle the stragglers here. You have the opportunity to be there when your wife is freed. Don’t pass that up.”
Anakin smiled, “You’re right of course, Minister. Captain Tarkin, you have the ship.”
Tarkin and the other man quickly stood to attention as Tarkin replied, “Yes, Defense Councilor.” Almost immediately, the strategist began organizing the fleet. Anakin moved towards the hangars, and Bail quickly fell in step.
“My boy, there’s something else that the Supreme Chancellor related to me,” he started, “a problem of sorts.”
Skywalker’s expression grew concerned, “What is it, Minister?”
Bail again let his pheromones waft towards Skywalker, and took a worried expression that he hoped would sell what he had to say next. “There’s a rogue Jedi planet side. He left his comrades to die and took off alone, I think he may be trying to get to the Senators and your wife.”
Skywalker stopped, “What?”
Bail nodded gravely, “the Supreme Chancellor said he believed he was dangerous. He wanted you to kill him, his name was Kenobi.”
The Defense Councilor lowered his head, and for a moment, a chill came over Bail. Moments later, Skywalker raised his head again, emotion drained from his face and a grave expression in its place. “I understand.” He turned to go.
Bail watched him recede down the hallway, and, despite having accomplished all he needed to, he felt cold and empty. He turned and went to his quarters, the chill in his bones and the solitude he felt pressing in on him like a great weight. As he opened the door to his room, the opulence of the place overcame him. Rare fruits sat in a basket on the serving table, Corusca Ice Wine on a plate, uncorked with a chalice waiting. Plush chairs covered in fine fabrics littered the room, and a grand canopied bed dominated the center of the room. Rare fabrics covered it, and draped it in finery. Bail moved to it immediately, and slid under the heavy covers, keenly aware of the chill in his bones. The touch of many fine fabrics and gentle plush pillows consumed him, but despite the heavy comforter and many layers of sheet, the cold still reached him.
As he pulled the covers higher, and drifted into a sleep, he couldn’t stop shivering, as if a draft was omnipresent and pressing. As he the darkness took him, he pulled the covers over his head, hoping beyond hope that warmth would reach him soon.
Lil rounded the corner and came to a stop. No snow met her gaze, no irregular floormats or power cables, no track lighting or omnious Sith monsters either. Ahead of her was only a small cavern lit by hundreds of faintly glowing crystal formations. As she looked around, she found herself in the center of a chamber full of what could only be Rubat crystals. Amazingly, she traced her steps back and found that somehow she had maneuvered around hundreds of sharp points of crystal to this spot.
She also saw that not everyone was so lucky. D’Jrem stood impaled on a large outcropping, having somehow walked right into one. Valan lay on the floor of the chamber, blood rushing from dozens of tiny cuts caused by small points on the ground. Tomo had walked into a walk of the razor like crystals, and Bail had somehow worked his way into a cage of the crystals, unable to move without cutting an artery.
HK was nowhere to be seen, which probably was for the best, but she still wondered why he was in her visions. She hoped it wasn’t because he had grown attached to him, even though she knew she had. Over her comm, she heard a familiar voice. “I don’t know if you can hear me in there, but you need to move!”
It was Kryze! Making sure her subvocal was still active, she replied quickly, “Kryze! What are you doing here?”
“HK and I spotted Imperial activity shortly after you headed out, we figured you might need back up. I’m with Thrace and Kara – we’re engaging the Imperial forces on the way to the caves, but we won’t be able to hold them long. Get the crystals and get out of there!”
Lil quickly gathered the others and freed them from their respective predicaments. After seeing to his own wounds, D’Jrem used the healing techniques he learned from Rav to start healing the others. Soon, they were all healthy enough to start moving, though none save Bail and Lil were happy about having to do it. Each had taken the crystals near them when they came out of their visions, as well as a few more for Kryze, Tam and V’brel.
Rushing through the chambers, they came across the remains of the Rubat Spinners, apparently they had killed each other in their conflict. Rappelling down into the canyon again, they boarded the ship and rushed the startup. The imperial troop carriers were just coming in as they lifted off, and though the Gem was an older ship, it was still faster than a troop transport. Breaking the gravity well under the cover provided by the Containment Group, it wasn’t hard to make it to hyperspace.
Lil dropped the crystal in place using the Force and clicked the housing cover shut. With baited breath, she held her finished lightsaber in front of her and thumbed on the activator switch. With a snap-hiss, the lightsaber sprung to life, its emerald blade casting the room in a strange green glow.
“Well done, Lillandria,” the Warden said, her stern expression softening into a smile. “The last of your skills are now complete.”
Lil looked up at the golden hologram, “I’m not a damned Jedi.”
The Warden smiled, “No, for that you must pass the Trials. But ask yourself this, how different from the Jedi do you believe yourself to be?”
Lil hit her saturation point, “The Jedi turned their back on the galaxy. When the chips needed to hit the table, they came up short. They forgot what they were and failed the whole damn galaxy.”
The Warden nodded, “Then perhaps it falls to you to fix their errors and remind the galaxy what a Jedi is supposed to be.” The glow faded before Lil could reply, which in the end, was both more frustrating, and totally expected.
She stood up and left her chamber. The others had made a deal that when they were done with their lightsabers they would meet in the main hall and show them off to each other. She walked to the main chamber, and found herself next to last. Bail, the last member to arrive followed her in and she stood in the circle with the others. To her left was Tomo, followed clockwise by Valan, D’rem ending with Bail to her right.
“Ready?” Valan asked. The others all nodded. He flipped the activator on his blade and a brilliant yellow light sprang from the hilt.
“Nice!” D’Jrem admired before igniting his own. Like Lil’s his blade was a brilliant emerald. Bail was next, igniting a citrine blade the same as Valan, bringing it to Lil. She noticed D’Jrem looking at her, almost as if he was specifically interested in what her lightsaber would look like, and it made her nervous.
“Okay, here we go,” she said, hitting the activation button. As her own green blade added it’s illumination to the others, D’Jrem almost as if he was relieved, but the look of comfort evaporated slightly as Tomo produced her lightsaber.
“Check this out!” she said, igniting a blade of purple, unique among the group. D’Jrem looked from Tomo to Lil, and for a moment she thought he was going to say something, but instead he just quietly nodded.
As the hum of the lightsabers filled the hall, Kryze arrived, as the lightsaber he had at his side, it turned out, he had built many years ago.
“Nice everyone,” he said, “So what’s next?”