Chapter II

“By the Force…not Coruscant.”

 

Chapter II

            “Have patience, the moment will come. Don’t rush it,” Jedi Knight Allic whispered to himself. He sat, cross-legged, in a serene park and stared at a nearby bench.

Allic tried to sharpen his concentration, but the bench didn’t budge. He exhaled sharply and closed his eyes again. The bench was there, the Force was there, but as he sat in a park just a few kilometers from the Jedi Temple his mind was besieged with distractions.

Allic knew the only reason he had been knighted was because of the rush of the war, but that was fine with him. He hadn’t yet been assigned to any particular unit so there was time to hone his skills and prove himself worthy of the title: Knight of the Republic.

His hand absently wrapped around his former master’s lightsaber. Master Tarien had shown infinite patience and a great deal of faith in Allic even during his last moments. Allic silently cursed the war for taking great Jedi like his master away. His eyes watered at the memory of the ceremony where the master’s lightsaber was passed on to the student.

Allic shook his head furiously. “I have the focus of a wookiee,” he muttered and resumed staring at the bench.

Long, tense moments came and went. It didn’t matter how long it took, all that mattered was that it happened. Sweat rolled down his back as the sun peeked out from behind one of Coruscant’s massive starscrapers.

One end of the bench finally twitched.

Or did it? He wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Relax, relax,” he whispered and closed his eyes for a moment.

When he opened them again, two people were sitting on the bench smiling at him.

“Blast,” he groaned. “Moving the bench itself wasn’t enough?”

Before he could blink, a laser blast obliterated the citizens, the bench, and left only a smoking crater behind.

The concussion knocked Allic over. While on his back, he looked at a squadron of upside-down starfighters soaring in-between the starscrapers. Additional laser blasts landed in the buildings nearby, along the streets, and struck anything that moved.

The never-ending stream of civilian traffic was easy pickings.

Allic looked around, astonished, as it began raining wreckage and debris. His lightsaber ignited and he was forced to dodge and hack through transports that came crashing down on him.

“By the Force…not Coruscant,” he breathed and another series of laser blasts rained down on the buildings around him.

Another Jedi Knight whom Allic had only seen once or twice previously was on the other side of the park and Allic raced to him. The dark-skinned knight was using the Force to slow the rain of debris around them.

“What is all this?” Allic shouted as three more starfighters flew past them.

“This looks like war!” he shouted back.

Allic whooped as several Republic starfighters shot past them and pursued the rebel ships. “How are they able to invade Coruscant? No, it must only be a raid, right? I mean, surely it’s just a raid, right?”

Two large, metal cone-shaped objects fired retro-rockets and landed in the middle of the park. Their doors shot off and landed several meters away. Over a dozen Jedi clones climbed out of each one and raced in every direction, attacking anyone they could find and causing as much mayhem as possible.

The knight looked at Allic in exasperation. “You are such a jinx,” he said and ignited his lightsaber.

Allic took a step backward as fear began to creep into him. “We should wait for help,” he said timidly.

“I don’t think they’ll agree to a truce,” the knight answered and raced to meet four clones that were already sprinting toward them with lightsabers flashing in the light.

Allic looked down at the lightsaber he held in his hands. His master had given his life so that he might make something of himself. Now was the time to prove his master’s faith was not wasted.

By the time he had reached the clones, the dark-skinned knight he had spoken with had already dispatched two of them. The other two furiously fought to bring him down. Allic yelled the fiercest battle-cry he could muster and leapt over both clones to attack them from behind.

Allic used his technique combined with the patience he had tried to exercise earlier to force his opponent back to back with the other clone.

His clone finally made an error and over-swung, missing Allic badly. The young Jedi Knight responded by cutting off the clone’s saber arm.

“Ha!” he cried out in victory.

The clone grabbed the lightsaber with his remaining limb and shoved it through Allic’s chest.

He had just enough life left in him to see the two clones slash at the knight that was fighting with him. The knight backed himself into the path of three other clones.

And together, they became one with the Force.

——————

Sweat was dripping from Anakin’s forehead, but he ignored it. His hands cramped from the effort, but he pushed the pain from his mind. Pain was for lesser beings. He had to push aside discomfort to be better than he was.

“Let it happen, don’t force the issue,” Obi-Wan encouraged and Master Ki-Adi-Mundi nodded approvingly.

Thanks to the parts that his master had brought with him, Anakin nearly completed a lightsaber that would be a part of his very essence for all time. The Diatium power cell had fit very snugly into the power field conductor and Anakin had to be very careful to screw it into the primary crystal mount. The energy modulation circuits were ready, the cycling field energizers were waiting for power, and the blade energy channel was waiting for a crystal to focus its awesome power into a tool, weapon, and symbol of a Knight of the Republic.

The power cell finally clicked into place and Anakin sat back and allowed himself to rest. His eyes closed and he meditated for a moment as Obi-Wan nodded approvingly at him.

“The blade is ready. You must select your blue or green crystal and infuse it with the power of the Force. Once that is complete, your lightsaber will be ready and your training on Illum will be complete.” Obi-Wan said.

Anakin looked around the tunnel. “The greatest organization in the galaxy and we get two colors to choose from?”

Obi-Wan let a sigh of frustration escape his lips. “You are not making a fashion statement, Anakin. Illum has only these two crystals for you to finish your lightsaber.”

“Gently,” Master Ki-Adi-Mundi commented from behind Obi-Wan.

“So I just pick one?” Anakin looked at the small formation growing almost within his arm’s reach.

“Not exactly, Anakin. You must let the Force guide you. Let go of your conscious self and travel throughout the cave. When you find your crystal, you will know.” Master Ki-Adi-Mundi instructed.

“Your lightsaber will be unique to you, even though it will share a color with many other Jedi Knights. Make it truly yours and it will never be separated from you,” he continued.

“Was it like this for you?” he asked Obi-Wan.

“Not even close. Master Yoda took me to Adega. Not nearly as cold as Illum, but the bugs were the size of a Z-95 Headhunter. I can remember…” His voice trailed off and Ki-Adi-Mundi cleared his throat.

“It was an enriching experience,” Obi-Wan finished.

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” Anakin asked.

“Anakin, the crystal is the heart of the blade. The heart is the crystal of a Jedi. The Jedi is the crystal of the Force. The Force is the blade of your heart. All are intertwined, the Jedi, the Force, the blade. You are all one,” Master Ki-Adi-Mundi said and Anakin nodded.

Anakin stared down the dark tunnel ahead and gathered his courage. He began to step toward a tunnel they had not yet been through, but hesitated. His instincts told him to go back down the way they had come and not toward the unknown tunnel ahead.

He backtracked for what seemed to be hours, until he was almost back at the Grand Crystal Chamber. He wasn’t particularly interested in where he was going, allowing the Force to guide his journey. He stopped just before the chamber and noticed a fissure that he hadn’t seen on their first time through the tunnel. The fissure was somewhat narrower than Anakin was and it was much shorter in length. There was a light coming from beneath it, but Anakin didn’t have much of an idea as to how he would get down into that particular chamber.

“Great, just when a lightsaber would come in handy.” Anakin said.

Anakin leaned against the cavern wall and rolled up the leg of his trousers until it was above his knee. He tapped a few keys on the digital readout on his artificial leg and, after a series of clamps opened, removed the leg from below his knee.

“Lightweight, yet durable.” Anakin muttered as he used the heel of his leg to enlarge the fissure. He stopped for a moment before considering what he was doing.

Anakin was in a hallowed Jedi temple on a sacred Jedi planet. How was he honoring the Jedi? He was using his durasteel leg to hammer away at a piece of the cave itself. His pause didn’t last long before the light called to him again. The room below begged him to drop down.

After a few more hits, pieces of the wall began to give way and the fissure widened to the point where Anakin could get through. He reattached his leg, tested his weight against it, and peered through the fissure.

Below, there was a large cavern where oddly shaped stalactites and stalagmites jutted out at odd angles and at different lengths. However, every single one of them pointed inwards to the center of the room, not straight up or straight down as they normally should grow. In the center of the chamber, there was a single golden crystal about the size of his thumb.

And next to it was another person dressed in brown robes.

“Who are you?” Anakin asked and the figure remained motionless and speechless.

“Did Master Ki-Adi-Mundi bring you?” he asked, but got no answer.

“Are you another Padawan?”  Again, he received silence.

Something seemed incredibly familiar about this person, but from this distance and angle, Anakin couldn’t decipher anymore details. He grabbed hold of the fissure and flipped down into the chamber.

He landed directly in front of the intruder and found himself face-to-face with himself.

——————

“How is it possible for our Armed Forces to be so depleted? This war should have been over inside of a week and instead our capital world has been struck in a cowardly raid,” the High Speaker of the Republic fumed. The hour long meeting between the Committee for Galactic Security and Supreme Chancellor Valorum had now entered its fourth hour.

The committee, which had started with three members, had been grown by Grand Centurion Palpatine to include Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan, Senator Theria Eddic of Corellia, Grand Admiral Aret Etherian, Oreana T’riek from the HoloNet News Network, and the CEO’s of INCOM, SubPro Starship Company, and the Loronar Defense Industry. Only recently, and with the insistence of Chancellor Valorum, was Jedi Master Yoda added. Palpatine selected a chair for the small Jedi and placed him at the far end of the table.

“It was a gradual drawdown over several decades after the Stark Conflict ended. I firmly believe that if we could address the underlying causes that would lead us to war, then there would be no war.” Supreme Chancellor Valorum said as he sat alone on his side of the conference table.

“It seems the rebels disagree with your belief,” Senator Eddic said as another massive repair vessel flew past their window.

“To the tune of thirteen thousand dead or injured including fifty-seven Jedi, eleven starscrapers unusable due to the raid, and over six hundred billion credits in overall damage. Of course, I can’t put a price on the sheer panic this has caused nor the damage it will do to our economy in the short-term after nearly five hundred Jedi clones rampaged through the streets,” Tarvis Incom said.

“Have all of the Jedi clones been accounted for?” Oreana spoke up while she took notes.

Several heads turned toward her, and then everyone looked at Master Yoda. Senator Eddic gripped the arms of his chair tightly.

Yoda had to stand on the chair to be seen over the top of the table. Even still, his chair height was hardly sufficient to be clearly seen by the other members of the committee.

“Not all,” Yoda said heavily. “Short natural life-span, they have. Genetic tampering comes at a high price.”

“And you…I mean no insult…but how do we know…” Oreana sputtered.

“She’s right of course,” Palpatine interjected. “No offense Master Yoda, but how can we trust the Jedi Order at this time? You might be a clone sending information back to the rebels.”

Senator Organa stood up quickly. “You can’t be serious!”

“I take the security of our Republic very seriously, senator,” Palpatine replied. “I’m afraid I have no choice but to order that all Jedi Knights and Master undergo medical testing every fourteen hours to verify they are not clones. I would think you of all people would support this necessary measure considering what happened to your son.”

“Not your decision to make, that is,” Yoda interjected as Bail Organa’s face turned very red. “From the Supreme Chancellor, that directive must come.”

All eyes turned to Chancellor Valorum, who cleared his throat loudly.

“I’ll certainly take that under advisement. I believe the topic at hand is the conduct of the war and state of our military?” he asked meekly.

Palpatine’s left eye twitched.

“I cannot believe that your naïve ramblings about peace and harmony actually got through to the Senate. Peace is a wonderful idea on paper and preaching it will get you elected, but if you don’t have the force to back up your words then you sound too much like a Jedi. No offense intended, of course,” Teal Loronar nodded toward Yoda at the end of the table.

“It’s shameful and almost criminal behavior to allow the Republic to become so defenseless. Countless billions of citizens depend on you for their very lives. I’m stunned that the damage was that limited and more people weren’t killed in the fighting,” the senior Senator from Corellia said with distaste.

“Thankfully INCOM and other corporations are posting record profits and production has exceeded expectations. Within twelve to eighteen months, we should have an army and navy worthy of the Galactic Republic.” Valorum smiled to himself.

“It wouldn’t have taken nearly this long if you would stop tying the hands of our Grand Centurion. How can you charge him with the conduct of the war, then not give him the tools necessary to do the job?” the High Speaker said as more of the committee members began shouting at once.

Palpatine, the Grand Centurion and Lord Defender of the Republic stood and the room grew quiet. “Gentlemen, we all have our concerns over how the war is being run. Rest assured, clone production is increasing every day. New shipyards in twenty-three systems are coming online this month and I am confident that, with the proper support, the Republic shall be victorious.” Applause broke out from the committee.

“Are the clones even necessary? There are still many questions about them we can’t answer. Is it right to breed people simply for war? What happens to them when the war is over?” Senator Organa asked.

“If you would prefer to wait a year for a properly trained military, Coruscant would be in ashes,” Grand Admiral Etherian said. “We need troops now to counter the rebel threat. The rebels are using them, why not us?”

“I don’t see those production reports,” Valorum tapped a few keys on his digital tablet. “The few reports I’ve been receiving have been rather sketchy.”

“Finis, I assure you, I am sending you the exact same reports that I see. The war will improve, but it would be going better if we had more cooperation from our Jedi leaders in the field,” Palpatine looked at Master Yoda.

“Told you, I did. Answer to politicians, we do not. Pawns for the military, we are not. Many of our Jedi spread across the galaxy, leading your forces. Too few, I fear, available for such a task. Too few to respond to the Coruscant raid,” Yoda said.

“You have so many Padawans now that are anxious to lead our clones and soldiers I wonder why they are being held back? And what of our latest hero, young Skywalker? I haven’t heard from him since his injury.” Palpatine said with interest.

“Continues, his training does. Ready to command, he is not,” Yoda replied.

“Oh I think someone so gifted should not be kept on the sidelines. Master Yoda, I would consider it a personal favor if you would let me know immediately when he returns from his training. I want to welcome him back, personally.”

“Consider your request, I will, but much training young Skywalker requires,” Yoda insisted.

“I think he demonstrated on Cerea that he can skip Lightsaber 101.” Palpatine and the committee members chuckled.  “Now Finis, about these shipyards, I think a few more in the Sluis Van system will make that system more strategic. What is the delay in completing their construction?”

“Well Palpatine, these things take time.” Chancellor Valorum said as he began shuffling through a pile of papers on the table. “We simply can’t wish them into existence.”

There was a murmur of dissent from the committee members. Yoda did not join in and Palpatine raised an eyebrow at the small Jedi.

For less than an instant, they locked eyes, even though Yoda could barely see over the top of the table. Palpatine quickly looked away and scanned the faces of the other members.

“Now now gentlemen, I’m sure that the Supreme Chancellor is doing all that he is capable of. If there is no other business before this meeting, I would like to get some lunch. Care to join me, Tarvis?” Palpatine rose from the table.

“I’d be honored, of course,” Tarvis Incom blushed.

“One concern, I have,” Yoda spoke up.

“Yes, Master Jedi?” Palpatine answered with an air of annoyance.

“Many troops there are, on Republic and Outer Rim worlds being used to enforce the peace. Much violence there is when the soldiers attempt to stop the protests against the war.”

“Those who dare to protest against the Republic deserve to be punished. Our methods are in place to ensure that those who are loyal remain loyal.” Palpatine bristled.

“If loyal they are, then why punish them?” Yoda asked.

Palpatine took a deep breath. “Master Jedi, I will not see my beloved Republic ripped apart. I will crush all opposition no matter the form it may take. Opposition begins with a whisper in dark corners, but if you don’t obliterate it immediately, it will fester like a disease. I will cure the galaxy one traitor at a time, if need be.”

The entire committee broke into thunderous applause. Many stood and cheered.

“Cured, diseases are, to make the body whole again. Rarely enjoyed obliteration is, in medical bays,” Yoda countered and the room grew quiet again.

“Master Jedi, disloyalty must be dealt with. I will not put up with dissention in the Republic. Either we stand united or we shall fall. Which would you prefer?” Palpatine was staring at Yoda now.

“Many voices exist within us all. Tell us to fight, some do. Tell us to talk, others do. Listen to all voices, we must, to be a true and honorable republic,” Yoda matched the intensity of the stare.

“I will ensure that no one rips apart my beloved Republic and I will take any and all steps needed to deal with anyone who will try,” Palpatine’s glance scanned the faces around the table, including Valorum and Grand Admiral Etherian, for a brief moment.

Yoda’s long ears twitched.

Is there any other business? I believe I mentioned something about lunch,” Palpatine said as he walked away from the table.

The committee members were jostling to be in position to walk next to the Grand Centurion as they exited until only Yoda and Chancellor Valorum remained seated at the table.

“Meeting adjourned.” the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic said softly as the doors slammed shut.

Yoda remained at the table and eyed the Chancellor carefully.

“I said I would take it under advisement, I didn’t say I would support genetic testing of all Jedi,” the Chancellor said.

“Easily seen, your thoughts are,” Yoda replied.

Valorum stood and stared out the large window at the nearly empty sky devoid of civilian traffic. Where once millions of transports flew above and below the building, now only essential traffic was allowed near the Republic Executive Building following the raid.

“These are perilous times and they bring up a good point. How can we be sure which Jedi is a real Jedi?” he asked.

“Poor speech, they have. Poorer copies, they are,” Yoda replied.

“This is true,” Valorum rubbed his chin in thought. “Very well. I shall hold Palpatine at bay for a little while about the medical tests. However, if they come up with a way to overcome the speech problem, I must give the order to have all Jedi tested. It turns out we may not need to worry about this much longer…” his voice trailed off.

Yoda nodded approvingly, but his gaze held firm on the Chancellor.

Valorum chuckled slightly. “You know me too well, old friend.”

“Know you have something to propose, yet fearful you are to propose it, I do,” Yoda said.

“This is something I have told no one, until now. I have reason to believe the war may come to a peaceful end after all,” Valorum replied.

Yoda smiled and waited patiently while the man he had come to know as a close political ally gathered his courage.

“I have begun a dialogue with several leaders of the rebellion. With any luck, I will be able to broker a peace treaty and welcome them back into the Republic,” he said proudly.

“Not news our Grand Centurion would enjoy hearing,” Yoda said. “Search for political allies to aid you, I will. Save our Republic from without and from within, we can.”

They both smiled.

——————

Some people became obsessed over money, others over power. He had seen obsession drive some people insane, others allowed the obsession to become their entire lives.

Khian had always dismissed obsession as something that “lesser” people succumbed to. Toiling into the late night hours for the past several weeks helped him see the other side of obsession. Its grip was powerful and, he hoped, obsession would serve a powerful purpose.

It hadn’t been easy to get the recording of Anakin’s duel with Darth Maul on Cerea. Now that he had it, he watched the recording over and over again. That fight had served as a catalyst between him and Padme, but so many things puzzled him.

First and foremost, why did Darth Maul allow Anakin to live?

As a trained killer, Khian could see that the Sith Lord was toying with Anakin. Although his gifted friend was throwing everything he had at Darth Maul, it was clear that he didn’t stand a chance.

In fact, there were more than a few opportunities when Darth Maul could have killed Anakin with incredible ease. Once, he even had the padawan on his back, lightsaber out of reach, and his own red blade ready to strike, yet he held back.

Khian took a moment to tear his eyes away from the recording to answer another of Padme’s transmissions. This work was incredibly mundane and tedious, but he took on the job with passion. He was grateful for another chance to prove himself to Padme as someone who is capable and always there to help her.

Khian turned back to the video and scowled. Anakin and Darth Maul actually carried on a conversation during the duel. More disturbing, Anakin seemed to be enjoying himself.

Although the camera’s microphone was destroyed after Obi-Wan was thrown through a building, the lens continued recording images. Khian opened a unique image recognition program that he had used on prior occasions with great success.

Something about this duel just wasn’t right. It was his job to investigate any and all threats to Senator Padme Amidala. Investigating his friend and comrade-in-arms made the bile rise in his throat. He had to know for sure if Anakin was now a threat to her.

Khian smiled to himself and began to finger the trigger to Alanna. The program began scanning each frame of the video and processing their lip movements. Sooner or later, he would know just what in the stars they were talking about.

2 comments on “Chapter II

  1. i love how you harp on politics so ironclad-ly. would have liked a bit more detail in the park. it was good, though

  2. Fierra Zann says:

    Wow. can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m hooked.

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