Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
“RUN!” Klaos shouted, and then the impact of the creature took the wind out of his lungs and the lightsaber out of his hands. Now that it was atop him, even in the dim light he could see it in full detail–the strands of thin silver hair over its body, the gleaming and jagged teeth in its jaws. He didn’t know what sort of creature the Republic’s engineers had been inspired by when they’d designed the AT-TEs but he imagined it must have been similar to the thing roaring above him now.
It pushed its full weight onto him and Klaos desperately attempted to push back with the Force. The creature was keeping him at bay with its own wild, dark energy and he felt what little air was still in him slowly squeezing out. In moments he would be unconscious and it would be over; he’d bought the younglings mere seconds to escape and with the speed and fury of this creature that would be no time at all. He summoned the last shreds of his will and made one final, stabbing jab with the Force.
Abruptly and with a pained yelp, the beast fell sideways off of him. He fought past the agony in his body and sat up, his hand reaching out in the direction he expected his lightsaber to have flown. He had no time to be surprised at the success of his last effort, and that was when he realized that he hadn’t been.
The beast was picking itself up and shaking with pain. The rock that had crashed into it lay at its feet. It looked past Klaos at Janara, who had flung the rock into its side with a blast of the Force. To her side, Robrus was similarly concentrating on another nearby rock, slowly lifting it from the dirt.
I told you to run, Klaos wanted to shout, but he had no air to spare on the admonishment. Robrus flung the rock towards the beast, which dodged it with a mighty leap to the side. The sounds in its throat changed to something beyond the capacity of vocal cords and Klaos felt a sudden rise of panic. He pulled in the direction of his lightsaber and felt it dart to his hand, and ignited it just as the crackling barrage of lightning erupted from the beast’s mouth towards Janara and Robrus. The blade attracted and absorbed the burst and he rolled onto his feet, standing between the beast and the younglings. The beast’s eyes, pulsing and scarlet, followed the blade even as its jaws continued to flash with a growing surge of lightning. Klaos felt both his strength and focus returning, but had no sense of how to anticipate the beast’s next move.
He attempted to reach out to the beast’s mind with the Force, to communicate and perhaps soothe its rage. The wall of darkness that met him felt impenetrable and threatened to pull his own consciousness inside it. He withdrew. The beast, perhaps angered further by the perceived intrusion, tensed for another charge.
“Here!” Myell’s voice called from their left. She ducked halfway behind a rock and waved her arms at the beast. “Over here!”
“Myell!” Klaos and Janara shouted at once. The beast turned its attention to her and spat a stream of lightning in her direction, but she had sped away. She called to the beast again and dodged another blast of lightning.
“Stop!” Janara called to Myell. Klaos, however, understood what the child was doing. She continued to zip around the beast’s periphery, drawing its gaze and its attacks, gradually making it turn itself fully away from Klaos and the others. The beast’s throat continued to rumble, its anger coursing outside of its body. It had stopped aiming small bursts, Klaos understood; the next would attempt to cover the entire field in which Myell was running about. He waited until he could no longer see even a sliver of its eyes, then charged forward and struck.
The beast turned impossibly fast, but Klaos’ blade swung faster. Two of the creature’s legs fell away from its body, the wounds burning shut, and it toppled onto its side, screaming. The hate in its being was washed over by pain and confusion. Klaos extinguished his blade, reached out yet again with the Force and found an opening through the cloud of that confusion. He rested a gentle warmth upon its mind. The beast calmed and eased into acceptance of its wounds. Klaos read into the beast’s brain, grew to understand what it was they had defeated.
“Come closer,” Klaos said to the younglings. Janara, Robrus, and Myell gathered behind him and watched as he quietly stroked the hair of the beast before them. “Why did it attack us?”
“Because…” Janara ventured, “It fell to the Dark Side.”
“Yes,” Klaos said. “But why did it fall to the Dark Side?” Robrus knelt down next to Klaos and tentatively placed his hand on the beast. Klaos reached out to Robrus and guided him into the beast’s thoughts.
“It…he…is the last of them,” Robrus said. “There were others, long ago, and all had his powers, but he is the last.” Klaos guided Robrus out of the beast’s mind, and then withdrew himself.
“There are few ways for one to achieve the mastery of the Light Side that embody the Jedi,” said Klaos, “but many, many ways to fall to the Dark. Fear, anger, greed. But also loneliness. As with this poor beast.” He moved his hand over the beast and located its heart, stopping briefly to hear it beat. He placed the hilt of his lightsaber where his hand had been and ignited it. The beast shuddered once and stilled, and whatever loose grip it still had on the Dark Side relaxed completely. Klaos could feel the air in the cavern clear. He stood up and looked at the younglings.
“The Jedi way is to respect all life. Know that sometimes respect for life is knowing when it is time for that life to end. I’m deeply disappointed in all three of you.” The younglings looked taken aback. “I told you to run. You stayed.”
“We were trying to save you!” Janara protested.
“And you did save me,” Klaos said, “but my life was not the one worth saving in that moment. Yours–the future of the Order–were. I was trying to give you the time you three needed to return to the surface and the ship, to return to the Order and one day be its Knights. You would have made my sacrifice meaningless.”
Janara opened her mouth to protest once more, and then changed her mind.
“When I say I am teaching you to survive,” Klaos said, “I am talking not only about your physical being. I am talking about the principles that make you Jedi, and that protect you from falling to the Dark Side. I am talking about the survival of the Order, and of the Republic, which was here before us all and will be here, if we are strong, after our lives have ended. Do you understand?” The younglings nodded. “No more lessons today,” he said. “Let’s get to the ship before it leaves.”
They walked through the tunnel, slowly climbing upwards, in a contemplative silence. The moons had risen over the horizon, and the ship was visible on its plateau mere clicks from where they had surfaced. The group walked back onto the ship, weary and starving, too hungry to sleep but too tired to eat. Klaos took the ship up and away from 979-D and charted a course back for Republic space.
“Vosenn,” he called. “I need you to create a report of all that occurred on our excursion.”
“Is this for the Order or for the Chancellor?” she asked.
“You say that as if these wouldn’t be one and the same,” Klaos said.
“I didn’t mean…”
“No, you’re right to ask. These have become peculiar times. I know that the Council and Chancellor are at odds; I didn’t know that even the younglings were aware of it.”
“You forget my family,” Janara said. “I’ve always understood how to see these things.”
“It’s a skill that the Jedi won’t teach you. Don’t lose it.”
The Recluse exited hyperspace over the planet Herdessa, near Geonosis. In the near distance, Klaos could see a Republic star destroyer and its fighter escort patrolling the sector–the scanners identified it as the Republic ship Tol Cressa, which Klaos knew was under the command of a clone captain named Ferrus.
“If nobody has an objection,” Klaos called to the younglings, “We’ll hitch a ride back to Coruscant from here. Dahn, do me a favor. The communications outfit on this ship is several generations old. You need to switch on the signal enhancement array using that green button right next to you.” Klaos saw the light indicating the enhancer was on illuminate on the control panel. “This is the Jedi ship Recluse hailing Republic star destroyer Tol Cressa. I repeat, Jedi ship Recluse hailing Tol Cressa. Captain Ferrus, this is Jedi Master Niclo Klaos requesting permission to board.”
There was no response. Klaos repeated the hail. No response. He checked the array; the comm was set to receive on the dedicated frequency for this destroyer class. He called back to the main cabin.
“Dahn, are you sure the enhancer is on? Dahn!”
Myell rushed into the cockpit, her face stricken. Janara followed, holding Robrus up under his arm.
“Robrus fell over,” Myell said.
“What happened?” Klaos asked him.
“Set…” Robrus said raspily, “…set the communications array to receive all frequencies. I felt something. Saw it. Something is wrong. Something has gone wrong.”
Klaos turned back to the control panel and reconfigured the comm to receive all frequencies at once.
“REPEAT THIS IS JEDI MASTER”
“UNDER ATTACK REPEAT UNDER”
“CLONES HAVE OPENED FIRE”
“MASTER SECURA KILLED BY”
“REPEAT THE CLONES HAVE”
“REPEAT THE CLONES ARE”
Amidst the sounds of screaming and explosions Klaos could hear the growing static of communications abruptly dying, and the sounds of his fellow Jedi in a state of disarray. The clones had betrayed them and caught the Order by surprise, somehow, and their ranks were being decimated in mere seconds.
And he had been hailing a star destroyer with a clone for a captain.
“Hold on!” Klaos shouted, grabbing the steering column and preparing to take evasive action. The destroyer and fighters in front of them accelerated, closing the gap between them, and began to fire.
END OF PART VI